Beijing Military Museum - Imperial Peidao

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Peter Dekker
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Beijing Military Museum - Imperial Peidao

Post by Peter Dekker » Tue Feb 27, 2007 1:10 am

I recently visited the Beijing Military Museum again, and made some pictures.

Although you'd expect more from a military museum in the capital of China, there aren't too many really nice swords in there. Most weapons are in very bad condition too.

A few sabers stand out, all appear to be 18th century. Here some pictures of the first, a Qianlong era Imperial saber.

Philip Tom has described a very similar saber with later fittings in his article "Art of the Chinese Sword" that features on the Seven Stars Trading site under "articles". Unfortunately I can't seem to open this site now from China so readers should look for it themselves on www.sevenstarstrading.com

Image
Whole saber in the middle. The one left to it looks much like the saber in Larocca's Warriors of the Himalayas, pages 172 and 173.

Image
Coiling dragon ridge.. scales are all inlaid gold. This first appeared on a zhibeidao, also commissioned by Qianlong, which is now in the Musee d'Armee in Paris.

Image
The tip, note the gracious lines of the fullers and the openwork in the dragon head. Unfortunately the tip has been damaged.

Image
Detail of the hilt and forte. Finely chiseled openwork, the fittings are decorated with coral and turquoise. The wooden handle looks a bit too plain for the rest of the saber, perhaps it is a replacement or has been covered in ray-skin with or without Imperial yellow grip wrap.

-Peter
Last edited by Peter Dekker on Tue Feb 27, 2007 7:14 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Post by josh stout » Tue Feb 27, 2007 11:15 am

Nice saber. As you say, there is another one with a very similar dragon on the back but a different blade shape that I have seen pictures of. I think the original is in France.

The sabers on either side are Tibetan, the one on the right is in the classical Tibetan style, but the one on the left seems to be an Indian design but with Tibetan openwork. It is quite interesting.

The swords to the left of that also seem to be Tibetan. If you get a chance I would love to see more pictures. The jian on the far left has an unusual design that I would like to see more of.
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Post by Peter Dekker » Tue Feb 27, 2007 7:31 pm

As you say, there is another one with a very similar dragon on the back but a different blade shape that I have seen pictures of. I think the original is in France.
Yes that one is in Paris and is featured on Thomas Chen's website. It was taken during the sack of the Summer Palace. Considering it's pristine condition and the bad condition of most weaponry that stayed in China, I'd say the stealing of cultural heritage has been a good thing in this case.
the one on the left seems to be an Indian design but with Tibetan openwork. It is quite interesting.
Yes, compare it to the one featured in Larocca's Warriors of the Himalayas, pages 172 and 173, and you'll find them nearly identical in both blade shape and fittings. The piece was described as puzzling, but having two in existence is even more odd considering it was thought to be a later matched composite piece.
The jian on the far left has an unusual design that I would like to see more of.
I don't have a good picture of it yet but it was indeed of a strange design. The handle seemed to consist of some metal alloy that had a slightly different color than brass. The features didn't seem very Chinese, the blade shape was leaf-shaped, similar to Frodo's "Sting" in Lord of the Rings. If it's Chinese, it's probably from the Republican Era where all traditional aestetics were thrown overboard, never to return again. It's too bad none of these weapons have any describtion, I wouldn't be surprised if no one in the museum knew what they were.

The museum shop is to cry about, too. You can buy hideous low quality modern reproduction jian and dao for 2600 - 9000 RMB, which is about 335 - 1160 USD, but not a single good book about any part of the collection.

-Peter
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Willing is not enough, we must do.


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Re:

Post by alfanator » Fri Apr 24, 2009 3:20 am

Peter Dekker wrote:
The jian on the far left has an unusual design that I would like to see more of.
I don't have a good picture of it yet but it was indeed of a strange design. The handle seemed to consist of some metal alloy that had a slightly different color than brass. The features didn't seem very Chinese, the blade shape was leaf-shaped, similar to Frodo's "Sting" in Lord of the Rings. If it's Chinese, it's probably from the Republican Era where all traditional aestetics were thrown overboard, never to return again. It's too bad none of these weapons have any describtion, I wouldn't be surprised if no one in the museum knew what they were.

The museum shop is to cry about, too. You can buy hideous low quality modern reproduction jian and dao for 2600 - 9000 RMB, which is about 335 - 1160 USD, but not a single good book about any part of the collection.

-Peter
The "Jian" on the left is a M1833 Pattern US Civil War Foot Artillery Sword, not sure how it found its way to that display as a Bao Jian. I did appreciate that i was able to get a bottle of tea at the museum store for 4RMB which i was able to drink and browse through the exhibits.

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Re: Beijing Military Museum - Imperial Peidao

Post by Peter Dekker » Fri Apr 24, 2009 4:46 am

Ha! So that's it...
I had also found a French sword that was a lot like it, but not entirely.
It was perhaps left in Beijing after the Eight Powers attack ending the Boxer uprising.

I wonder what Western saber brought the inspiration for the hudiedao into China. The 1840 pattern artillery saber looks quite like it.

-Peter
Knowing is not enough, we must apply.
Willing is not enough, we must do.


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Re: Beijing Military Museum - Imperial Peidao

Post by cs_strike » Fri Sep 16, 2011 12:14 am

Peter Dekker wrote:I wonder what Western saber brought the inspiration for the hudiedao into China.
Basically hudiedao are been referred to as river pirate swords by many and although unknown to me as factual, it is very plausible that they were used in this way.
I say this because of the images I have are from Taipei in the hands of militia, the photos date to the 1850/60s with providence and Taiwan being water locked, it presents itself as possible though not limited too being used aboard boats/ships.
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Re: Beijing Military Museum - Imperial Peidao

Post by Scott M. Rodell » Mon Sep 19, 2011 8:49 am

cs_strike wrote:...hudiedao are been referred to as river pirate swords by many and although unknown to me as factual, it is very plausible that they were used in this way.
I say this because of the images I have are from Taipei in the hands of militia, the photos date to the 1850/60s with providence and Taiwan being water locked, it presents itself as possible though not limited too being used aboard boats/ships.
I have also heard these knives refereed to as "river pirate swords," but have never seen any reference to river pirates in any book of Qing history I have ever read. I think that description came from a antique arms dealer who likes to write fanciful (& often spurious) descriptions of arms. The hudiedao most likely evolved from knives used by peasants from tasked other than combat. It is also essentially the same as single versions of the same blade form, referred to as paidao (shield knives) that were used in conjunction with tengpai (rattan shields).

For more information about tengpai do a search in this Forum, there are several threads related to their construction & use. I even preformed a test cutting on one, see: viewtopic.php?f=9&t=997

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