Bows and Arrows

The (Manchu) Bow

The Mandschu bow belongs to the family of the Composite-Recurve bows. It consists of composite materials like buffalo horn, bamboo and animal tendons, which were interconnected with fish or swine glue. A coating of birch bark, snake skin and fish skin served as protection. The bows were richly decorated with Buddhist symbols. The manufacture of this bow requires app. 200 job steps. Today there are replicates out of modern materials like glass fibre on the market. Today only one person in China is able to manufacture this bow in the traditional way. This craftsmanship is being forgotten.

The special features of the Mandschu bow are the stiff ears at the ends. The pulling of the bowstrings is prolonged by them and is made easier by the increased leverage. This allows greater draw weights and the precise shooting of heavier and longer arrows. Mandschu bows can be up to 190 cm in size. The average is 160-170 cm. The draw weight is 40-240 lb. The Mandschu bow is the most modern of all traditional bows, its history started more than 5000 years ago.

The Arrows

The arrows, the shaft mainly out of birch bark or bamboo, are up to 105 cm long and weigh more than 100 g. The extraordinary long treble feathering of app. 30 cm and more consisted mostly of eagle or crane feathers. This long feathering supported the fast stabilisation of the arrow flight after a few metres. Mainly turkey feathers are used for the feathering today, since eagle feathers are protected.

A distinction is made between two types of arrowheads, sometimes out of folded steel: the narrow hunting arrowheads and the wider war arrowheads of the Mandschu. There were also whistling arrowheads made out of bones. They were used for signal transmission or hunting (to irritate the wild game). There was also a combination of a whistling and a hunting arrowhead.