Science!: Black Holes, Night Vision and Garbage

Lauren Admire | 14 Sep 2009 21:00

Make "Spirit-Filled" Swords with Human Bones

Sword recipe: Two parts steel, two parts iron, two parts...human bones?

Meet Kuo Chang-hsi. Chang-hsi is your typical 65 year old Taiwanese blacksmith. His hobbies include shuffleboard, long walks on the beach, and fashioning swords out of the dessicated human bones of his clients' deceased loved ones.

According to lore, "In Ancient China, a good sword was made by 'throwing a man into a furnace.'...If one wants to make a good sword, one needs human bones." Not being able to find human bones at the local grocery store, Kuo did not originally use them when he made his first swords. Apparently, this did not appease the belligerent Sword Gods, and his creation did not come out resembling the Kanjiang sword he had been trying to make.

Remembering the old adage, Kuo contacted a friend who happened to be collecting bones and used them during the creation of his next sword. It is believed that when placed into the kiln, the spirit is released from human bones, and then fuses with the iron and steel as it melts. When a sword is forged over the bones, it becomes imbued with "spirit."

Kuo states that "Before the human bone is burnt, it contains phosphorus. If it is burnt, the phosphorus will be mixed into the metal... It helps to melt the metal and creates the pure iron that we can further hammer." Lore also claims that this process removes impurities from the iron and steel mixture. The scientific explanation ends there - whether there's something in the phosphorus that causes the sword to be more viable or stronger, we don't know. What we do know, however, is that those swords are haunted by the spirits of dead people.

Kuo receives bones from cemetery relocations or from relatives who wish to have their recently deceased loved ones commemorated in sword-form. Urns are just so last year. Kuo relays the story of one commissioned sword he wished he hadn't parted with: The sword was an elaborate replica of an ancient Japanese weapon made for a collector. He exchanged it for a new Mercedes-Benz, only to find that the sword was later sold for $200,000; five times the cost of the Benz.

Kuo is one of the last known practitioners of his craft. He creates replicas of ancient Chinese and Japanese swords. He's also responsible for the creation of the yard long Green Destiny Sword from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. I wonder whether he can make a Frostmourne?

Source: National Geographic


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