Fei Biao 飛鏢 (lit: flying darts) were the most important weapon/s carried by any covert operative in ancient China. We still practice with them today but only at the higher levels of training for obvious ethical reasons.
There were/are various types of Biao used in various circumstances. The main ones are; shaft projectiles, plate projectiles, long distance projectiles and assisted projectiles. In the past, the projectiles were often poison tipped for added effect. The threat of poison was also a form of psychological warfare.
Shaft type projectiles have been around for at least 3000 years. They were/are the most utilized of all the hand thrown projectiles. They are powerful, deadly weapons that work well with the correct training. The tips could be poisoned and the weapon handled without much risk of poisoning the user. The same throwing technique is used for the Chinese ring dagger and all shaft type Fei Biao.
Plate type projectiles have also been around for at least 3000 years! New evidence suggests the origin of these Biao may go as far back as 5000 years to North Eastern China!. We await new information on these findings. Plate Biao work well and are easy to use. The ease of use is also a problem as anyone can pick up a plate Biao and use it to return fire, so to speak. Ideally, the Midnight Thief uses weapons that only he has the skill to use – so his enemy cannot use such weapons against him.
In the adjacent photo we can see a four pointed plate Biao from Northern China (called Senban Shuriken in Japan) compared with a Ming Dynasty ceramic stand. Note the same pattern! When searching Northern China during the Communist era, we did find ancient plate Biao, and interestingly, all were of the 4 pointed style. These iron/steel plate Biao have been around at least 400 years while bronze star shaped Biao have been around for millennia.
For the Midnight Thief, Fei Biao of any type, should not be thrown great distances. Fei Biao should only be used when an almost sure strike presents itself. The careful penetrator cannot risk using up precious weapons for no reason.
“Assisted Biao” are those that use a bamboo stick or similar method to generate more power than a human can produce in a normal throw. For example, huge javelin type weapons were thrown using bamboo poles to spring the projectile into flight. These were prevalent during the Ming dynasty.