Jessica Rawson. China and the Steppe: Arms, Armour and Ornaments
Two dissimilar, highly decorated weapons from early dynastic China belonging to completely different periods and styles of warfare provide a starting point for a discussion of elite concepts of personal combat. A broad flat axe excavated from the tomb of the royal consort, Fu Hao, at the Shang capital at Anyang, is the earlier of the two, dating to 1200 BCE, in the late Shang dynasty. A sword found in Hubei province, with a pattern of diamonds along its length and an elegant, gold-inlaid inscription, naming Gou Jian, is among the very finest weapons of the Eastern Zhou dynasty (770–221 BCE), c. 5th century BCE. Such weapons are exhibited in museums in China for their aesthetic qualities. Both can also be identified as personal possessions of the elite from their inscriptions and distinctive decoration. But were either of these weapons used in personal combat in the style admired by such Western poets as Homer in his descriptions in the Iliad?