Flying guillotine

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Flying guillotine
Traditional Chinese 血滴子
Simplified Chinese 血滴子
Literal meaning blood dripper[citation needed]

The flying guillotine is a legendary Chinese ranged weapon used during the reign of the Yongzheng Emperor in the Qing dynasty.

Etymology, history and description[edit]

The weapon supposedly comes from the time of the Yongzheng Emperor during the Qing Dynasty. There are stories and crude drawings detailing the appearance, but no clear instructions on the use or method of production are known to exist. The consensus is that it resembled a hat or flattened dome with a bladed rim and a long chain or cord attached to the weapon's top.

According to legend, the flying guillotine could be held by the top of the dome, allowing it to be used as a melee weapon or thrown like a flying buzzsaw. However, its deadliest application was its alleged ability to be thrown onto a victim's head, whereby a tug of the chain would release the rim from the main body and envelop the head in a silken trap before a second tug triggered a set of blades hidden in the interior of the rim to close shut and decapitate the target, hence its anglicized name. However, there is evidence that the weapon may have been used by being soaked with poison powerful enough to kill another person "at the sight of a drip of blood", thus giving it its Chinese name.

In media[edit]

Various forms of media often associate the weapon with Tibetan assassins sent to China to kill legendary fighters.

The 1976 Hong Kong film Master of the Flying Guillotine serves as an unofficial sequel to another film Flying Guillotine (1974), produced by the Shaw Brothers Studio and directed by Ho Meng-hwa. In 1978, the Shaw Brothers Studio produced two more movies, The Flying Guillotine 2 and Vengeful Beauty. Other films in which flying guillotines are shown include The Fatal Flying Guillotine (1977), Octopussy (1983), The Heroic Trio (1992), Iron Monkey 2 (1996), Seven Swords (2005), The Machine Girl (2008) and The Guillotines (2012).

The flying guillotine is featured in television programmes such as Hung Hei-Gun: Decisive Battle With Praying Mantis Fists (1994), the National Geographic Channel Asia documentary Kung-Fu Killers,[1] and a 2011 episode of Mythbusters.


The below-listed four Shaw Brothers films are considered "official Flying Guillotine" films:

  • Flying Guillotine ("Xuedizi"), directed by Ho Meng-Hwa in 1974.
  • Master of the Flying Guillotine (1976. Although the film is a direct sequel to Jimmy Wang Yu's One Armed Boxer, it serves as an unofficial sequel to Flying Guillotine. For Wang's independently produced film, the weapon was "borrowed" and improved upon. For instance, in Master, the flying guillotine can fold up like an umbrella for easy concealment.)
  • The Flying Guillotine 2 ("Can ku da ci sha"; 1978; also known as Palace Carnage)[2]
  • The Vengeful Beauty ("Xue fu rong"; 1978)

In Johnnie To's The Heroic Trio (1993), the character of Kau (played by Anthony Wong Chau-Sang) uses a flying guillotine.

Seven Swords (2005). Upon the founding of the Qing Dynasty, an imperial decree outlaws the practice of martial arts and offers a cash reward for the decapitated heads of offending practitioners. A death squad travels China using specialized weapons to claim the heads of martial artists. One such member of the group wields an umbrella affixed to a long pole-arm. When he pulls it shut, it quickly severs the head from the shoulders.

The Machine Girl (2008). During their battle against Ryūgi Kimura's henchmen, Ami Hyūga and Miki Sugihara are attacked by Kimura, who uses a steel variation of the flying guillotine. Ami narrowly misses the weapon, which decapitates a nearby henchman. Miki attempts to execute a flying kick on Kimura, but suddenly finds her right foot trapped and severed by the weapon.


Hung Hei-Gun: Decisive Battle with Praying Mantis Fists (洪熙官: 决战螳螂拳, a.k.a. The Kung Fu Master; 1994). The opening scene of the miniseries involves a large scale battle in the rain between five Lama boxers hired by the Qing government and the anti-Manchu rebel leader "Red Dragon". The Red Dragon, who is really Hung Ting-nam, father of Hung Gar founder Hung Hei-Gun (Donnie Yen), uses his double Chinese broadswords to fend off the Lamas' spear and flying guillotine attacks. When four of the Lamas simultaneously attack, Red Dragon leaps in the sky, causing the chains to entangle. He then redirects the guillotines back at their users and takes their heads. After a hand-to-hand confrontation with the most powerful Lama, Red Dragon wrestles the guillotine away from him and decapitates him with his own weapon. He finally takes the five guillotines (with heads still inside) and hangs them from a signboard for all to see.

The flying guillotine is also featured in the National Geographic Channel Asia documentary Kung-Fu Killers, which describes the top ten most deadly weapons in the martial art; the flying guillotine was listed at number one.[3] According to research, the technology, principle, and training for the weapon did exist during that era. However, no actual weapon was discovered.

The weapon was tested for feasibility in the US television show MythBusters. One of the presenters created a spinning ring with sawtooth inner edge topped with a salad bowl that satisfied the description of the flying guillotine and successfully decapitated a test dummy. Thus the weapon was deemed to be plausible, with the caveat that it was effective as an assassination weapon, but not a combat weapon.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "National Geographic Channel Asia 'Kung Fu Killers'". Retrieved 2011-12-18. 
  2. ^ "Can ku da ci sha (1978) - IMDb". Retrieved 2016-11-24. 
  3. ^ "National Geographic Channel Asia 'Kung Fu Killers'". Retrieved 2016-11-24. 

External links[edit]