Legend has it that the Green Destiny was originally from the underworld and that it was a bad omen responsible for great bloodshed in the human realm.
In Ang Lee’s “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” the protagonist Li Mubai wielded the sword, causing great grievances among the world of wandering warriors. The brilliant and fine-edged Green Destiny of that film, however, was the work of contemporary swordsmith Kuo Chang-hsi.
Located at the northernmost tip of Kaohsiung, Qieding District is home to the area’s second biggest port, Xingda Port. Near the port is a store called Xingda Swords, the walls of which are covered with the various weapons of the Song Jiang Battle Array.
Lee, who lives in Tainan, once happened to be on a trip to Xingda Port with his family and visited the store, asking Kuo, “If I had something I wanted to be made, could you make it from a picture?” At the time, Kuo had no idea he was talking to an internationally renowned director, but said yes.
A month later, Lee brought in a sketch and asked Kuo to make what was depicted in it, and thus the Green Destiny featured in “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” came into being.
From farm tools to weaponry
In the agricultural Taiwan of the 1950s, every area had its own blacksmith to make tools like hoes and sickles. Kuo, a third-generation smith, started his career helping out when he was a child, formally joining the business at age 13. Despite his young age, he had to wield a heavy hammer and learn to master the art of iron smelting along with how to beat and grind tools to perfection.
It was hot, hard work, slaving away in front of a hot smelter and using the heavy hammers to repeatedly pound away at red-hot iron before quenching it and pounding it again, hence the common blacksmith’s refrain, “hammer in hand, sweating away, wondering when it will finally be my day.”
By the 70s, agriculture was slowly falling by the wayside, and Kuo changed his own business to move along with the times. He began to focus less on farming tools and more on forging weapons for the Song Jiang Battle Array, along with making cutlery and blades for heavy machinery.
When Typhone Inc. began producing canned pineapples, the blades used on their production line were made by him. Such blades, says Kuo, need to be made from stainless steel and meet certain quality requirements, for which he traveled to Japan and bought a grinder.
He also visited Japan again to learn how to make sashimi knives. His success in his transition from his traditional line of work can be attributed to a strength of will on par with the strength of the iron and steel he works with.
In addition, Kuo has amassed a formidable collection of ancient weapons. After the Cultural Revolution in China campaigned to “destroy the four olds” (old customs, old habits, old culture, and old ideas), Chinese cultural relics began to be bought up in large numbers by Taiwanese collectors like him.
Kuo, who had already amassed a collection of several samurai swords from the Japanese rule of Taiwan, has now collected over 5,000 pieces of ancient Chinese weapons, many of which have been lent to the Taichung City Dadun Cultural Center for display.
Today, Kuo has started his own weapons museum in the hopes of passing on an understanding of this part of Chinese culture to later generations, and for displaying his own works.
For after finishing the movie sword for Lee, Kuo made a Green Destiny of his own. The 115cm-long sword is equipped with a blade 90cm long and 3.5cm wide, engraved with dragons down the length, and paired with an antique sandalwood hilt and a tassel of traditional Chinese knotwork. It is one fine sword.