Weaponry of Bronze Age

Entering the Bronze Age, people began to add lead and tin into copper to make the alloy Bronze and slowly, stone weapons declined. As early as the Warring States Period (476-221 BC), there are records on the casting of wares: different proportions of those three metals could make weapons of varying rigidity and temper. The different alloys making techniques are over 2,000 years old.


in that time was the essential and typical weapon of the soldier, and used throughout the whole age. It features the convenient hooked blade with the directly-fixed helve and is a similar shape to today's reaphook or sickle. It is the most standard weapon the same as the modern ones.

Bronze Spears
Bronze Spears


was used to stab straight forwards and consists of spearhead and helve. The spearhead is made of metal and the helve, of wood, bamboo, vine or metal. It is usually 1.8 - 2.7 meters long, though there are exceptions of even 4 meter long spears. One example is the bronze spear that was cast by the Emperor of Wu, Fu Chai during the Spring and Autumn Period (770 BC - 476BC). It was excavated in 1983 and now exhibited in the Hubei Provincial Museum. The left spearhead is bronzed with fine engravings of a black flower pattern, with a length of 29.5 cm (11.6 inches) and the breadth of 5.5 cm (2.2 inches).


is a complex of spear and dagger-axe and thus gradually replaced these two. With the Halberd blade made of metal and the handle of wood or bamboo, join together it could reach a length of 3 meters. It could function as both an infantry or cavalry weapon for thrusting, hooking, and cleaving. In historical texts, the synecdoche 'halberd' or 'holding halberd' was used as a term to indicate soldiers.

Bronze Swords
Bronze Swords


is a cold weapon for fighting in close combat with a long, sharp edged blade. The essences of it are length, flexibility and durability. The long length of the blade is designed for both attack and defense. It originally appeared in the Western Zhou Dynasty (11th century - 771 BC). Then from the Spring and Autumn Period, the length of the swords had been gradually extended and its durability improved. Thus in the Warring States Period, bronze swords with a length of 60 cm appeared, but by the Western Han Dynasty (206BC - 24), the length had been increased to 1.1 meters. Swords in the Spring and Autumn Period had reached the pinnacle of casting techniques and the artisanship and are unparalleled, especially the engraved mysterious patterns on the blade of swords which still shine as new, an enigma that remains unsolved. The most famous bronze sword was made by Gou Jian, who was the king of the state Yue in the Spring and Autumn Period and the opponent of Fu Chai, it is 55.6 cm (1.82 feet) long and 5 cm (1.97 inches) broad with black decorative patterns and the posy 'made by Gou Jian the king of Yue state'. The edge of two arcs is quite distinctive and beautiful. When found, it was still in its black lacquered wooden scabbard and without corrosion. It is said that when a researcher touch the swords keen edge, it cut his finger.

Defending apparels

then include helm, armour and shield. During the Bronze Age, most of the helms are made of leather. Composed of several thick pieces of leather stitched together it could withstand blows from bronze weapons. Shields were wooden with leather and cupreous decorations at the centre. Some were equipped with blades turning defensive armour into an offensive weapon during close order combat.

War Chariot
War Chariot

War chariot

were essential during battle since the Shang Dynasty (16th - 11th century BC). Chariots were the main form of offence and most of the weapons were manufactured to cater for it. On the chariot, there would be three crew, a driver in the centre, a soldier called 'Che You' or 'right of chariot', sitting on his right side and holding a long weapon such as a halberd to prepare for the fight with enemies, and on the left side the soldier holding a bow was called 'Che Zuo' or 'left of chariot'. When the two adversaries confronted each other, the two Che Yous would fight each other. If they on the chariots could not strike each other, the drivers would turn them back for another joust.


at the Bronze Age, had developed from a simple design composed of bent wood and a string, to a complex one. The whole bow has two arcs with a set fixed in their middle unlike western bows. The arrowhead also changed from two-edged to three-edged.

Bronze Crossbow
Bronze Crossbow


is a weapon that evolved from the bow. Its popular use began during the Warring States Period as did the decline of the war chariot. Because constant strength was often required when drawing a bow this caused fatigue in the archers. Crossbow by the means of wooden arm could position the bolt on it permanent firing passion until the enemy appeared, which changed the configuration and style of warfare. One example is in the story of the contest of wisdom between Pang Juan and Sun Bin. Being rival disciples of the same master, Pang Juan was associated with the Wei State and Sun Bin with the Qi State. When at night Pang Juan chased the troops of Sun Bin into a forest where Sun had set an ambush crossbow, he lit a fire and saw the characters carved on a tree - 'Pang Juan will die here'. Since Sun Bin had told his soldiers to shoot arrows on seeing the fire light, Pang Juan's whole army was routed.

Further Reading:
 Top 10 Weapons of Terracotta Army
 Qin Crossbow - King of Cold Weapons
- Last updated on Aug. 09, 2022 -
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