Wednesday, November 04, 2009

The Knife of Legends

The Kinmen knife was the star of my uncle's knife block. Made from used artillery shell1, its very hard blade was able to hold a sharper edge compared to softer metals. The blade is made of metal folded and pounded many times like puff pastry, giving wavy lines on the side of the blade where the layer boundaries show through.

The knife is alive; it calls out to be used. It wants, desires, to cut and dice things into neat regular sized pieces2. It can plant strange ideas in one's mind.

"That juicy melon probably needs to be cubed."

I heave the large juice laden melon onto the chopping board and quickly slide the pointed end of the blade into the fruit. The hard steel meets no resistance and spreads the fruit's flesh easily, sliding against the soft moist interior tissue as easily as a well lubricated shaft in a jackhammer. The fruit was of exceptional quality, and a thick sweet liquid began to ooze onto the chopping board.


Kinmen is a Taiwanese island located between The People's Republic of China (often simply referred to as China) and the Republic of China (also known as Taiwan). It is a widely known fact that Taiwan, unlike China, is not a republic of the people.

The location of Kinmen makes it a location of military importance, thus drawing it much attention over the course of the two Chinas' colourful history. In the late 50s, China made a move attempting to take Taiwanese islands Kinmen and Matsu into its loving arms. After a 6-week bout of intense artillery shelling on the island, the campaign came to a stalemate as the United States and Soviet Union intervened. This intervention did not stop the fiasco in its entirety- the whole thing turned into a 20-year propaganda campaign.

The propaganda campaign in question consists of each China stuffing artillery shells with propaganda leaflets (instead of explosives) and lovingly delivering said shells to the other China. Conveniently, the game settled into a quasi-happy equilibrium where each bombards the other on alternate days. This mind numbing process lasted for 20 years.

When all this ended in 1979, some 450,000 artillery shells have accumulated on the island of Kinmen. This made the island a fairytale mine from which processed high quality steel can be picked from the ground. Artisans and craftsmen collect the material and fashion them into various tools and objects, with kitchen knives being the most notable.

1 Intact artillery shell, only used once with no explosives, lady owner. Good condition, must see to believe. Makes 50 knives. RM 200 neg.
2 This supposed phenomenon of a knife having wants may be the result of the author projecting his/her desires onto an inanimate object.

Labels: ,