Bian Jian (鞭箭)

Bian Jian (鞭箭, lit. 'Whip arrow')
Bian Jian (highlighted), from 'Wu Bei Zhi (《武備志》)'.
Bian Jian is a unique spear-thrower in used during Song period. It is best described as a very long staff sling that throws a spear-sized dart instead of bullet. Unlike atlatl and other spear-throwers, a Bian Jian requires two operators. It should not be confused with another Bian Jian (邊箭).

Ming Chinese Spear-thrower Sling
How a Bian Jian is presumably used. The rope should be shorter though. This image is cropped, edited and pieced together from the training manuals of 'Ji Xiao Xin Shu (《紀效新書》)'.
Sinologist Joseph Needham and his collaborators once tried to determine the method of launching a Bian Jian, but with inconclusive result. The picture above is my own take on the launch method, based on the instructions found in Wu Jing Zong Yao (《武經總要》).

Huo Yao Bian Jian (火藥鞭箭, lit. 'Gunpowder whip arrow')
Early Chinese Rocket
Drawing of a Huo Yao Bian Jian (highlighted), from 'Wu Bei Zhi (《武備志》)'.
Sometimes shortened to Huo Yao Jian (火藥箭, lit. 'Gunpowder arrow'), Huo Yao Bian Jian is an early form of rocket arrow in use during Song period. Unlike its sling-launched counterpart, Huo Yap Bian Jian does not require a hook as it is propelled by rocket instead of sling. On the other hand, it is installed with several vanes made of birch bark for better aerodynamic stability.

It is similar to Ming Dynasty Da Tong Huo Jian (大筩火箭).


  1. I wonder if this is the weapon mentioned by a French author about the weapon among the Riou-koulé-miao (Miao à neuf queues) = nine-tailed miao. He states that they were very agitated and used "javelin that could only be thrown by two people ". It wouldn't really surprise me if it was the case, minorities in South China often used century old weapons

    1. That's interesting. I'd definitely want to know more about the Miao two-people javelin.
      That aside I actually want to see people to test my proposed Bian Jian out to see if it actually works, since I am unable to do it myself.

  2. Well I think it wouldn't be very difficult to do indeed. Maori actually used a similar weapon but small using a stick and a rope to throw a javelin.

    1. I Googled a bit. Do you mean the Kataha spear thrower? They really do look alike.

  3. Yep they were used in sport contest long after guns had took over. I think they can give some insight I do think they are still a different mechanics, as the kataha as the rope fixed on the spear thrower and not on the javelin. It's cool to see so many convergent development in different cultures.

    1. Bian Jian also has the rope fixed on the spear thrower, actually.