The Monk Spade (or Fangbian Chan) a Buddhist and Taoist Weapon

wudang monk shovel

The origin of the Monk Spade

A monk’s spade (Traditional Chinese: 月牙鏟; Simplified Chinese: 月牙铲; pinyin: yuèyáchǎn; literally “Crescent Moon Spade”; also, Traditional Chinese: 禪仗; Simplified Chinese: 禅仗; pinyin: chánzhàng; literally, “Zen Weapon”. Romanized Japanese: getsugasan, Hiragana: げつがさん), also called a Shaolin Spade, is a Chinese pole weapon consisting of a long pole with a flat spade-like blade on one end and a smaller crescent shaped blade on the other. In old China, Buddhist monks often carried spades (shovels) with them when travelling. This served two purposes: if they came upon a corpse on the road, they could properly bury it with Buddhist rites, and the large implement could serve as a weapon for defense against bandits. Over time, they were stylised into the monk’s spade weapon.

wudang fangbian oksana zabudska

The Monk Spade as Taoist weapon

The Fangbian Chan (or Monk Spade) is an unusual kind of weapon, which also Taoists possess and wandering Taoists bring with them in their travels. It is said that the Fangbian Chan is Laozi’s creation. In the field of Daoist studies, practicing the Fangbian Chan not only demands rigor, but it also builds rigor. The Fangbian Chan is divided into 3 parts.

First, the head of the shovel: its length of 1.8 feet represents the secret space between the 18 levels of Hades. The shovel face’s 2 curved edges each have a ring, which represents the 2 energies of Yin and Yang. The neck of the shovel head has 5 iron rings, representing the 5 elements (fire, wood, water, metal, earth). So the idea of the 5 elements is that practicing the Dao to keep Yin and Yang balanced in order to have the power to break away from the abyss of misery, and suppress the 18 levels of Hades with the shovel.

Second, the handle of the shovel: its length of 3.3 feet represents the middle 33 heavens. The idea is to manage cause and effect, good and bad oneself.

Third, the end of the shovel: its length of 8.6 inches represents the 8 directions and 6 sides because the 3 curves of the drill it forms brings about conformation and represent 3 Cai (Heaven/Earth/Humanity). In addition, each curve has a loop representing 3 treasures (Jjing/Qi/Shen). In this way, there is Heaven and Earth, and people have life from the 3 heavenly treasures. For this reason, people who go out into the world and experience life must follow the natural way of the existence in this world and universe. Laozi created the Fangbian Chan form with 81 movements; the original idea was to remind his disciples to always keep Yin and Yang, always practice with the heart, body, and mind, and help others along the way. Keep doing this again and again throughout your life and you can become immortal in the end. After this, you can suppress the force of Hades and rise to the Heavens.

The Fangbian Chan is a complete weapon. It can be used as a staff, spear, long broadsword, and trident. It can be used to hook, hitch, chop, block, thrust, shovel, sweep, smack, beat, twist, etc. These applications are used to understand the principles of defending and attacking, backwards and forwards, slow and fast, hard and soft, etc. Here is the path to the product list with Monk Spades

shaolin monk spade




Comment on this post (3 comments)

  • Greg Casey says...

    Thank you very much! That is very informative, and i look forward to seeing southern/daoist style for sale soon!

    I think i may get northern style for my birthday soon! Thanks!

    April 03, 2015

  • Wudang Store says...

    The one Master Yuan is holding is the southern variant of the Taoist Monk Spade. The bladed one you see below the blog post is the northern styled Shaolin Monk Spade

    There are not many Wudang Monk Spades around that we can actually put on sale. That is because the size is to big and it is hard to find a 2 sectional Monk Spade. The price for shipping a one-piece Wudang Monk Spade would be much more than the spade itself. But we keep our eye and connections open and hope to be able to supply soon with southern Wudang Monk Spades – But we think if this is going to happen than mostly in a higher quality and price range.

    Both Monk Spades are around 200-210cm – Very heavy and very big. We will make pictures in the next days and put them here!

    April 01, 2015

  • Greg Casey says...

    Any photos of someone actually holding / using this for size reference? Thanks!

    Also, It seems like there are two different Fang Bian Chan, each have a spade, but one has a crescent moon blade like item for sale on the bottom of page, and the other has 3 curves forming a drill like the one Master Yuan is holding. Can you talk about different of style and function? Thanks!

    April 01, 2015

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