Tie Bian (鐵鞭) and Tie Jian (鐵鐧)

Tie Bian (鐵鞭, lit. 'iron whip')
Chinese bar mace
Drawing of a Tie Bian (highlighted), from 'Wu Bei Zhi (《武備志》)'.
Tie Bian, often shortened as simply Bian (鞭, whip), is a type of Chinese blunt weapon. It is a segmented solid metal rod with multiple prominent nodes, similar to bamboo, mounted on a sword hilt. The metal rod of Tie Bian usually has round cross section.

Tie Jian (鐵鐧 or 鐵簡, lit. 'Iron slip')
Chinese truncheon
Drawing of a Tie Jian, from 'Wu Bei Zhi (《武備志》)'.
Tie Jian, also known simply as Jian (鐧), is a subtype of Tie Bian. Like Tie Bian, it is a solid metal rod mounted on a sword hilt. Unlike Tie Bian, it doesn't have nodes, and has concave rectangular cross section. Tie Jian resembles Okinawan Sai (釵, lit. 'Hairpin') and Japanese Jitte (十手, lit. 'Ten hands') superficially, but is much longer.

Tie Jian is occasionally used as a throwing weapon, which gives rise to the idiom "Sa Shou Jian (撒手鐧, lit. 'Cast away Jian')" that later corrupted into "Sha Shou Jian (殺手鐧, lit. 'Killing hand Jian', also translated as 'Assassin's mace')".

Northern Song Dynasty Sword Breaker
Tie Jian allegedly made by famous Northern Song general Li Gang (李綱), currently kept at Fujian Museum. This specimen has a length of 38", and weighs 8 lbs.
While Tie Bian and Tie Jian are often compared to law enforcement weapon such as (police) baton, they are in fact deadly battlefield weapons designed to kill. They fulfil the same role as mace and war hammer — to bypass heavy armour with blunt trauma.

Tie Bian and Tie Jian have several advantages over typical mace and war hammer. They have more reach and better balance than their top-heavy counterparts, and thus can deliver faster blows more rapidly. They are also compatible with most forms of sword techniques, including parrying. A blow from these weapons is very hard to parry, and body armour and helmet offer little protection against the blunt trauma inflicted by this devastating weapon.

Two-handed version
Two-handed Iron Whip
Two-handed Tie Jian (left) and Tie Bian (right), from 'Wu Bei Yao Lue (《武備要略》)'.
An extremely rare two-handed Jian. Private collection.
Two-handed version of Tie Bian and Tie Jian also exist. Comparable in size to Chang Dao (長刀), two-handed Tie Bian and Tie Jian are significantly heavier than their smaller counterparts. They also draw some parallels to European estoc.


  1. Its always puzzled me why this weapon is rendered in English as "whip". Is that a literal translation?

    1. Yes, "Bian" means whip in Chinese.

      Chinese 'bian' can refer to both the flexible 'Indiana Jones' whip, or stiffer whip such as riding crop, sjambok, rattan cane used in caning punishment, etc.

  2. Any surviving artifact of two handed version variant?

  3. Any idea if thrusting techniques were used with it? Some examples I've seen have pointy tips.

    1. Yes, it is thrustable even without pointy tips.

  4. Do you think these weapon was very common battlefiled equipments?

    or more like a ceremonial and law enforcement thing?

    1. Like mace and war hammer and axe, they are not the most common battlefield weapon, but "common enough".

      Law enforcement version is substantially lighter and less powerful than the military version.

    2. what about a two handed variant?

    3. I suppose two-handed variant was much rarer.

    4. They were very common in Song dynasty when armour was the heaviest on this side of the pond, then the use of them decline.

      I have some doubt about the two-handed one being a practical battlefield weapon. Pole-arms are a plenty and they are much more practical. It would be very good as a training weapon though.

      Furthermore, I don't think it is very good in law enforcement. Unlike, Jutte and Sai (the equivalent in Chinese weaponry would be 鐵尺), it wasn't designed to trap the opponent's weapon (lacking the hook), so I doubt they would use it as a law enforcement equipment.

    5. @山中

      Good day and welcome to my blog!

      The two handed iron jian in the photo I posted does seem like a practical weapon used for battle. Overweight training weapon also tend to be massively oversized.

      Iron ruler without the sai-like hook are quite common actually. The hook is a useful addition, but isn’t a strict requirement.

    6. @春秋戰國。

      Thanks for your blog. Lots of info. and making my research easier.

  5. what's in the picture between thoes two handed variant

    1. hmm I wonder why thoes bar mace need a scabbard

    2. Scabbard is there to make carrying the weapon easier.

      Also, although blunt weapons are less affected by rust, it is still good to keep them rust-free. Rust stain on clothing is pretty hard to wash off after all.

  6. How flexible were the Tie Bian and Tie Jian? I've been wondering that for awhile now.
    If it's made of iron or steel, and designed for bashing people through armor, probably not much, right?

    1. It is stiff. Completely non-flexible.

    2. A non-flexible whip. That's ironic. But then the truth often is that way. Thanks for the info.

  7. I want know weight and length of two-handed version

    1. Recorded weight is 10~20 catties (5.9kg to 11.8kg), length is 4 chi 9 cun (156.8cm).

      Extremely heavy even by two-handed weapon standard (it is heaver than some so-called "ceremonial" two-handed sword), but that's to be expected for a blunt crushing weapon. Also it's not top-heavy unlike a halberd or pollaxe, so it is more agile than you think.

      I don't have the measurement of the actual example, although judging by the steel ruler beside it, it isn't that far off the mark.

    2. It's seems very unpratical

      Possibly two handed version is for training purpose

    3. @s ss
      What makes you think so? Seems like a wonderful weapon to me.

    4. Too heavy

      Most mace are actually about 1~2 kilo and pratical zweihander are not heavier than 3 kilo

      definetly 5.9 kg metal chunk not very suitable to swing

    5. though I love the concept of this weapon.

      It's really facinating, It's sad there is not much of information about two handed variant

    6. Musketeers swung around unwieldy 10-15 pound muskets in close combat all the time, before and after the invention of bayonet, so 6kg isn't totalky impractical.

    7. Despite its shape a Tie Bian is an anti-armour weapon, not a sword. Of course it will be slower than any true sword.

      Well since its user tend to be heavily armoured and expects to face similarly armoured opponents, any speed advantage offered by the sword will be offset by heavy armour anyway.

      OTOH, against the typical 1-2kg mace, Tie Bian will have the advantage of speed, reach, and really powerful thrust instead, despite being heavier.

    8. Mustket never meant for swung and for cqb situation they equib sword

      Even ming dynasty give them a sword

      And about weight. Even eroupean army dont have super duper heavy weight mace in full plate armor age

    9. Huh? Musket butt is super deadly. At times musketeers even preferred it over BOTH sword and bayonet.

      Americans even build a statue of a musketeer using his musket to baseball swing his enemy to death at Mississippi.

      A mace/hammer concentrates most of its weight in its head, while Tie Bian’s weight is more spread out, so it needs the extra weight to achieve same level of destructive force.

    10. Musket's butt is super deadly but inefficient, there is a reason why early musketeer use military pork to support gun while shooting. and becide rifleman in napolean age give them a very large bayonet to protect themselve

      and Extra weight = slow speed and require much energy to swing it. You will understand if you swing polearm or sword

    11. http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/04/Landsknecht_with_Kriegsmesser_1500's.jpg

    12. Musket butt is not the most optimised tool for close combat, but it is still usable, widely used, and in fact used to deadly effect.

      A two-handed Tie Bian weighs about the same as a musket, but it is better balanced and much more sturdy. If a musketeer can swing a badly balanced weapon in close combat with any effectiveness, there's no reason he can't do the same with a Tie Bian given enough training.

      Weapon balance and length influence weapon speed as much as its weight, if not more so. A heavier but well balanced and longer weapon can be faster than a light but badly balanced weapon. The rapier is one such example.

    13. and most musketeer wield a short sword or protected by melee infantry

      and wide adoption of bayonet also prove that deadly butt is not very effective

      and of course weapon balance (weight distribution) infulence the fluidity however that doesnt mean it can bring exceeding performance from the heavy weight you cant break pyshics

      for example even ming dynasty saids guan dao is too heavy for actual combat

    14. That has nothing to do with Tie Bian, which is optimised for other purpose (anti armour).

      Bayonet was needed to fend off cavalry, something that musket butt can't do. In foot vs foot combat both and swords are used alongside each others.

      Percisely. That's why Tie Bian is slower than a similar length sword yet faster than a top-heavy mace. Longer reach = faster speed in a swing.

      That refers to 100kgs stuffs that most people can't even lift. Tie Bian is only 3 - 6kg.

    15. I'm not the one who first metion about musket

      again bayonet are used against foot soldier. Even republic era chinese army adopt dan dao faxian to use dadao against bayonet attack (not katana)

      and weapon balance doesnt make your weapon particulary fast if you watch mace (AKA Top-haevy weapon)demonstration video you can see they are not particulary slow because of their short length. so techincally only benefit of over weighted two handed- tie jian against typical mace is a weapon's length and that adavantage even can be overshadowed by heavy weight (dificult to holding)

      3kg is managable (either one haned or two handed) but over than that might be a problem

    16. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FOgw3Xr8rnE&t=83s

      his sword is 3.5kg and he saids sword is too heavy

    17. No, musketeers need support of pikemen and cavalry and artillery because of the battlefield condition they're facing, which doesn't at all mean musket butt wasn't effective at the things it is supposed to do. No matter how effective musket butt/Tie Bian is, you still need the pikes to defend against cavalry.

      Yes, and swords and normal maces are used alongside Tie Bian. Also, a musket with a bayonet is still an overweight and ill-balanced spear, but it is effective enough to work.

      Short weapon will be slower during a swing (limited by arm speed of course), while badly balanced weapon will be slower during recovery. You can actually swing a golf club faster than a mace, but you can't swing as rapidly even though it is only about half the weight of a mace.

      @Scholagladiatoria Video
      He is not wrong, but Tie Bian is not a sword. Consider it a hybrid of sword and a mace.

    18. Point is bayonet also could use against footman soldier as well as typical side arm sword
      It's not neccesarily just for defending calvary charge. I dont understand why do you mentioned about pike man and atilary.

      again they use bayonet because close combat is no very important in battlefield as before. adding another side arm to typical foot soldier for close combat situation is not very wise choice

      short or long is nothing add on speed. major factor is a weight becide if the weapon is longer but has same weight as short vairant, deffinetly not good for a balance wise
      there is a reason that some long sword variant (not heavy but very long) have a long grip. You will be suprise if you know chinese dadao is quite agile weapon when compare with similar weight but much longer sword

      and about his video

      the pont is heavy weapon make you very exausted

    19. @s ss
      It can, but bayonet being an effective weapon has nothing to do with musket butt being ineffective. Both weapons have their own perks and shortcomings.

      This video, from the same person, explains pretty well why a longer weapon is quicker, from 2:00 onward.

      And this video explains why mace is slower than a sword (despite similar weight)

      That's why a Tie Bian, despite being heavier, can still be quicker than a mace. Obviously, a Tie Bian is slower than a sword due to being heavier, and that's to be expected from an anti-armour weapon.

      Indeed this is one of the weaknesses of Tie Bian, but that's what you will get from combining the reach and speed of a sword with the hitting power of a mace.

      In fact, if you scale back the weight of a two-handed Tie Bian to be the same of a zweihander, it will presumably behave like an unsharpened sword, i.e. not very effective. In that case, why bother with a blunt sword?

      And this lead me back to my original point: People could and did use very heavy weapon in close combat (i.e. clubbed musket).

    20. your video explain nothing about length and speed

      actually it's saying katana is not speedy enough because of their heavy weight

      obviously tie bian (jian) have same issue.

      longsword is much faster than katana because they have a lightier blade (and counter blanace of pommel)

      two handed tie jian is significantly heavier than usual mace therefore there is no benefit in speed of weapon

    21. 5.9kg is just beyond of managable weight

    22. @s ss
      I am pretty sure Matt Easton mentioned the tip of longsword moves faster than the tip of katana due to being longer...katana is about the same weight as a longsword after all, only much shorter.

      Okay, if that video isn't clear enough, I hope this will do:

      Plus Tie Bian actually has counterbalanced pommel like a longsword, as well as tapered "blade", which most maces lack.

      #5.9kg unmanagable weight
      I honestly don't understand where does this conceus come from. If the weight is unmanagable, how did a musketeer fight with musket butt?

      On a side note, how much weight do you think a 156cm two-handed Tie Bian should have to be practical?

    23. He is saying longer weapon is 'fast' because if weapon is a long, they will have a advantage to touching enemy (no need to move furthure than shorter one)

      and that doesnt mean longer length add on swinging speed

      I dont understand why you keep insist weapon length is related to swinging speed

    24. @s ss
      Hmm, yes, that's the point.

      For "swinging speed", what I was trying to say is, if you swing a weapon with the same power from your arm, the tip of the longer weapon will achieve higher velocity than the tip of shorter weapon.

      To quote stackexchange:

      "Tip: As the sword is moving in an arc, the tip has a faster linear speed compared to the base. P = MV, and so the tip of the sword has more momentum, and thus will be able to exert more of a force on the zombie's head, cutting it."

    25. again you are wrong

      if you compare longsword and katana than you will understand

      p.s 'short' katana deliver more power and can make better cutting performance than long sowrd

      becasue katana is more heavy

    26. @s ss
      No, the tip speed (since "swing speed" seems to cause misunderstanding) is just simple physics.

    27. are you talking about Centrifugal force? or leverage?

      I dont understand

    28. @s ss
      Sorry I fall sick yesterday, wasn't able to reply to you.

      For centrifugal force, top-heavy weapons like mace utilise it much better than top-light weapons like swords or Tie Bian. Due to inertia, top-heavy wepaon tend to be less maneuverable.

      On leverage, weapons like poleaxe and halberd actually give very good leverage. It is one of the best ways for a top-heavy weapon to remains nimble.

      In both cases, threat range/reach is sacrificed. You can lunge or slip-thrust a poleaxe to let it reach maximum range, or doing baseball swing with it, but only momentarily and often with great risk.

    29. A Tie Bian tries to retain both the reach and maneuverity of a sword, as well as the hitting power of a mace. By doing so, it becomes heavier, so it is actually slower and less maneuverable than a sword and hit slightly less hard than a mace.

      But let's think about it this way: It hit MUCH harder than a sword and is still more maneuverable than a mace.

      Plus it has longer reach, and unlike a mace which relies on weighted head to do damage, getting hit by any part of Tie Bian on any part of the body is potentially crippling/fatal regarless of armour.

      So the downside of being very heavy is more than compensated by multiple advantages conferred by its reach and maneuverity.

  8. are these infantry weapon or calvary weapon?

    1. They were used by both infantry and cavalry. Two-handed version seems to be infantry-only though.

  9. Two handed version , were they called in different name?

    1. In the treatise, they are called Dan Bian (單鞭) and Dan Jian (單鐧) in a similar fashion to two-handed sabre, Dan Dao (單刀).

  10. https://www.google.co.kr/search?q=ming+dynasty+brigandine&client=ms-android-skt-kr&source=android-browser&prmd=ivn&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjv0J_G7vvTAhWImpQKHQdyCVkQ_AUICSgB&biw=360&bih=512#imgrc=zuf_ZyQ-Ckke9M:

    In this picture. Iron whip has a different name. Could you tell me why that is?

    1. The text reads "九節鞭" or "nine section whip", referring to nine sections on the whip.

      That name usually refers to a flexible metal whip though.

  11. Could you translate the description about these weapon in 武備要略?

    1. I can, but it wil takes some time.

    2. @s ss
      As promised, here's the translation.

      ===Regarding the manufacture of bian===

      As the old saying goes, “Fast horse and light sabre” is very handy, so why make use of bian? (Because) sabre is only useful against unarmoured troop, if met with iron cavalry with heavy armour, then bian is simply better. It is said that all bian user must be strong, but the bian should be made according to the user's strength. And its length should be adjusted according to the user's height.

      The Bian should be approximately 3 chi 5 cun (~112 cm), the hilt 1 chi 4 cun (~44.8 cm), for a total of 4 chi 9 cun (~156.8 cm), divided into twenty-eight sections, and weight around a dozen catties (~5.9 kg) to twenty catties (~11.8 kg) should be enough. It should be gradually tapered from bottom to top so that it feels balanced in the hands, and paired with a scabbard to prevent rust. The iron should be smelted well. The sections should not be too deep lest it become susceptible to damage. Bian that are polished to be like mirror are better. Alternatively it can be made into Single Jian, (which is) similar in dimensions to Bian, but with spines and grooves on four sides and is less susceptible to damage.

  12. this jian mace and so called iron ruler (least in english translation) are smillar weapon?

    1. Yes, they are similar. Iron ruler is the Qing period weapon mostly for law-enforcement or self defense (i.e. it is less lethal).

    2. does edge (not really a edge but you know what i mean) of iron ruler make it still lethal since force of energy concentrate on narrower erea than flat jian mace?

    3. Yes, although later iron rulers and jian/bian tend to be lighter, thus less effective.

    4. is there any painting of this type of weapons with just ordinary soldier?

      i can find a lot of depiction of this
      weapon being held by historic figure or religious deity in very fashionable way but not humble soldier

    5. Not painting, but I do have this: