Thursday, April 14, 2011

Blades: Butterfly Swords


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by Jeannie Lin
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Ai Li owns a pair of butterfly swords given to her by her grandmother which she took into her wedding sedan as a reminder of home: "the way another girl might find comfort in her childhood doll."

Butterfly swords come from the Shaolin martial arts tradition where weapons were designed for defense rather than to kill. The two short swords are meant to be wielded one in each hand, with each arm trained to be equally skilled. The name "butterfly swords" is actually an anachronism as Chinese practitioners refer to the blades as "bat cham dao" or eight chop swords, which refers to the clean, simple techniques of the form.

The very same swords appear in the short story, "The Taming of Mei Lin", which features Ai Li's grandmother as the title character. The symbolic act of passing on swords from one owner to another is used in several instances in both the novel and short story.

I took license in referring to Ai Li's weapons by their westernized name because the poetic nature of it is undeniable: hard and soft, feminine and masculine. Oh, and where's the other sword on the cover? I assume it's hidden in her boot -- which is how butterfly swords were commonly concealed whenever the imperial government didn't allow citizens to carry weapons for fear of rebellion.

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Blades post created for Women Wielding Blades event by Jeannie Lin author of Butterfly Swords
© 2011. All rights reserved.

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by Jeannie Lin
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* image source Romance Trading Card of Butterfly Swords book cover

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6 comments:

  1. Interesting post!
    I think their westernized name is beautiful and elegant!

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  2. I could see this book in film. Picture her swinging those butterfly blades! Cool visual right?!

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  3. Her boot would be a logical and common choice, only maybe it'd take more time to reach for the sword in times of emergency? Though hiding it literally up her sleeve might be a bit inconvenient.
    -Eve

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  4. @Eve - Sleeves were indeed used as pockets back in the Tang Dynasty, but I think for small items such as letters and money. :)

    Now there were sleeve swords, typically used by assassins and other men of ill repute.

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  5. Great post! I love the story of Butterfly swords.

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  6. Hmm I wonder where its hiding? :)

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