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Comparing the Different Types of Traditional Korean Spears

July 17, 2017

Comparing the Different Types of Traditional Korean Spears

Along with Japan, the Korean Peninsula was responsible for producing some of the world's finest quality swords. Historians believe the region's swordmaking craft peaked during the Joseon Dynasty (15th to 19th centuries). Korean swords are typically characterized by the use of a scabbard, collar, hand guard, ring pommel, and composition of carbon steel.

But the Korean Peninsula also produced spears, which are also regarded as being some of the highest quality specimens of its time. Today, we're going to explore some traditional Korean spears and their characteristics.


Primarily used as a throwing weapon, the jangchang was a medium-length spear used by Korean hunters and warriors. It typically measured roughly 10 feet in total, though the spearhead was just 4 inches. The jangchang was a popular choice because of its ease of construction and simple concept.


A variation of the aforementioned jangchang, the jukchang. With an average length of 20 feet, the jukjangchang was about twice as long as its jukchang counterpart. And instead of being made of hard wood materials, the jukjangchang was typically made of bamboo. Much like a pike, Korean soldiers used the jukjangchang in battle formations to keep their enemies at a safe distance.


The gichang differed from other common Korean spears, as it featured a flag on the end. The spear itself was about 7 feet long with a 9-inch spearhead. Towards the end of the spear, however, was a flag. Historians believe the gichang's flag served several purposes. First and foremost, it helped Korean generals guide their armies into formations. Secondly, the flag distracted enemies, giving warriors who wielded them an advantage.


The dangpa is a trident-like Korean spear with not one but three individual spearheads. It was originally described in a Korean martial arts manual published during the Joseon Dynasty. Historians believe the dangpa was used primarily as a defense weapon in close quarters, though it also proved to be an effective weapon when used against enemies on horseback.


Similar to the dangpa, the nangseaon is another traditional Korean spear with multiple spearheads. Rather than three spearheads, however, the nangseon often featured more than a dozen spearheads. These spearheads were designed in a branch-like pattern, with each branch of the nangseon containing a pair of spearheads. To improve its lethality, warriors would dip the spearheads in poison before going into battle.

These are just a few of the most common traditional Korean spears. Other Korean spears of this time include the galgorichang, topjang, neolbjakchang, dajichang, dabarichang and yangjimochang.

Photo credit: Kai Hendry

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