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Swords, Cutting and Military History

Human Bones Burned to Make “Spirit”-Filled Swords

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via National Geographic

Note:  The video clip in the NG article is no longer functional.  A Youtube version of the same clip follows the quoted material:


Skull in forge


“When forged over burning human bones, swords become filled with “spirit,” says the Taiwanese swordmaker behind the Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon sword and other masterpieces.

This skull is not just for decoration.

In a moment, it will be thrown into the fire and burned to make a sword.

Kuo Chang-hsi inserts a slab of metal into his kiln, adding a human femur to the fire.

This 65-year-old craftsman from Taiwan practices the intricate art of Chinese sword making.

As Taiwan’s last known practitioner of the craft, he has produced countless replicas of the fighting tools that Chinese and Japanese warriors have used since ancient times…

…Kuo Chang-hsi, Blacksmith: “Before the human bone is burnt, it contains phosphorus. If it is burnt, the phosphorus will be mixed into the metal. After burning a while, the metal will contain phosphorus and the fire will give a turquoise glow.”

Kuo gets his bones from collector friends during cemetery relocation, or from relatives of the recently deceased, who commission swords to remember their loved ones.

According to legend, human bones remove impurities from the iron and steel and bestow the swords with spirit.”


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