Tibetan sword: The art of iron and fire

Photo taken on April 2, 2016 shows Shilok (L), one of the inheritors of the Yiong sword-making skills, with his apprentice. (Xinhua)

Yiong, an area in the enchanting Nyingchi Prefecture in SW China's Tibet Autonomous Region, has a long history of sword-making. The Yiong sword can date back to almost 400 years ago and is well-known for its unique materials and skills.

The making of the sword is not easy. The blade of the Yiong sword is forged from three types of iron ore in the local mountains. The hilt and sheath are made from timber from the Yiong primeval forests, wrapped with fishskin.

A sample of the local iron ore used to make the sword. (Xinhua)

Details of the some unfinished Yiong swords. (Xinhua)


The lengths of Yiong swords are varied, but they all have long and narrow blades and are light, sharp and not easy to get rusty.

A Yiong sword in the making. (Xinhua)

Shilok is one of the inheritors of Yiong' s sword-making. (Xinhua)

Nowadays, a Yiong sword is still a rare thing to obtain. One swordsmith can only make a couple of swords in a month.

Photo taken on April 2, 2016 shows Shilok introduces the Yiong swords to some customers. (Xinhua)

In Yiong, the swordsmiths are led by the inheritors and work collectively to make swords.

A bird' s eye view of the swordsmiths' village in Yiong. (Xinhua)


In this way, the art of iron and fire is passed on to the later generations.

Shilok at work. (Xinhua)

All photos by Purbu Zhaxi, a Tibetan photographer with Xinhua News Agency' s Lhasa office. He has traveled to almost every corner of Tibet over the past 10 years.