Visited the Military Museum in Beijng today

Sword typology and Edge Weapons forms of the Chinese Empire and related cultures with an emphasis on their relationship to Swordsmanship.

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Visited the Military Museum in Beijng today

Post by alfanator » Thu Apr 16, 2009 6:13 am

and they had a lot of swords. Sadly, most of them were in poor condition and their depth of knowledge on them seem rather shallow, misclassifyling quite a few things. Instead of selling books at the museum store they sell cheap trinkets, toy soliders and lighters with pictures of Saddam on it.

Nevertheless, I enjoyed the 2 hours I spent there. Next time I will have to alot more time and bring a better camera.

This is the sword i liked the most, (top of picture) tucked away in an unlit dark corner on the third floor...

Image

Rest of pictures here...
http://picasaweb.google.com/JapaneseSwo ... directlink
First 6 pics are swords i found at an antique store in Shanghai. Dealer says they were dug up from a tomb...tell me what you think.

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Re: Visited the Military Museum in Beijng today

Post by Nik » Thu Apr 16, 2009 8:50 am

To me it appears like they're from quite different time periods, so it's unlikely they are from the same tomb. And it's absolutely unlikely you can officially buy and export real antiques unearthed from meaningful tombs, which would be a prerequisite that the tomb could carry weapons of some significance. Although, others here definelty have a better insight into the availability of historic weapons unearthed from Ming, Sui or Tang tombs.

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Re: Visited the Military Museum in Beijng today

Post by bond_fan » Sat Apr 18, 2009 1:13 pm

The best way to avoid having the flash bounce of the glass of the display case is to put the camera lens right up to and touching the glass I'm told. Try it and see if that eliminates the glare off the glass.

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Re: Visited the Military Museum in Beijng today

Post by bond_fan » Sat Apr 18, 2009 1:14 pm

If you can take photos of any hudiedao and perhaps note what time period they are from and their dimensions I'd really appreciate that!

Thanks!

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Re: Visited the Military Museum in Beijng today

Post by Michael » Sat Apr 18, 2009 11:26 pm

That's interesting. I'm also in Beijing right now and would be interested in going. Where exactly is it?
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Re: Visited the Military Museum in Beijng today

Post by Peter Dekker » Sun Apr 19, 2009 5:19 am

Hi!

Nice pictures, I made almost the exact same pictures of that same saber which is also my personal favorite of the collection. Although I also like the baolidao with golden dragon spine.

Regarding the excavated swords, in theory Nik is right but remember, this is China. When riding a horse on the northern Chinese steppe grasslands I encountered pits with human skulls. The local guide told me they were grave robberies, illegal but they happened regularly there and only the bones are left.

I am no expert on these early weapons though so I could not comment on their authenticity, especially not without handling them. There is a huge Chinese fake market and I've seen them make pretty good replicas of stuff this old before.

Tim, on hudiedao, there are some in that museum but the captions shouldn't be taken very seriously. The curators (if any, because the stuff is lying in the exact same position for years) are not too well-informed and misplaced a lot of items. And the stars of the show, some very good sabers, lack any kind of description apart from "bao dao" or "treasured saber". Even the Forbidden City arms section, which has some absolutely fantastic stuff on display, makes huge errors like presenting a high-class saber as Qianlong's "Heaven Series Nr.1" (while the real one looks considerably different) and they have a Crimean Tatar bow presented as Qianlong's Grand Review Bow. Philip also pointed out that one of the muskets there is Japanese, while there is no mention of that either. So it is a nice trip when you know what to look for, but would be a pitfall to take any of the descriptions for granted in any kind of research.

Here's a link to a thread I wrote about the Beijing military museum on my last visit:
viewtopic.php?t=424

And a link to some archery equipment that will probably make most of you guys yawn:
viewtopic.php?t=425&highlight=beijing

-Peter
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Antique Chinese Arms & Functional reproductions

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Re: Visited the Military Museum in Beijng today

Post by alfanator » Sun Apr 19, 2009 7:51 am

Michael. Take the subway to the Military Museum stop on the line that runs through WangFuJing, go up, look right and there it is, big monolithic building. RMB 10 gets you in. Plan to spend 3+ hrs there, lots of swords everywhere, most in poor condition and misclassified. Most of the folks go there to look at the modern stuff on the first floor.

Bond, I will try to find some butterflies next time but like Peter said do not count on the descriptions. I saw them displayed in boxer rebellion, j-resistence to mailtia sections. It boarders on funny how things are misclassified, i think that in the picture of the Qian Long saber in the album you will find what looks like a US Civil War Artillery sword listed as a bao jian for example. After a while i just enjoyed the items for what they were and did not bother with the descriptions too much. Sad, someone should really go in there and help them out...so much potential for scholarship there.

Next time i will bring my SLR and bounce flash, should be able to get much better pictures to share. I wonder if this place is run by the Military...

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Re: Visited the Military Museum in Beijng today

Post by Michael » Sun Apr 19, 2009 7:57 am

alfanator wrote:Michael. Take the subway to the Military Museum stop on the line that runs through WangFuJing, go up, look right and there it is, big monolithic building. RMB 10 gets you in. Plan to spend 3+ hrs there, lots of swords everywhere, most in poor condition and misclassified. Most of the folks go there to look at the modern stuff on the first floor.
Thanks.

It's too bad that their captions are inaccurate. I hope their Chinese captions are of higher quality. Translation quality control in China is of ridiculously poor quality, even in famous places.

Unfortunately I don't quite have the experience to identify many types of Chinese weapons by sight. I'm about at the level where I tend to confuse liuyedao and yanmaodao. If anyone could provide a good resource to refer to brush up on this sort of recognization, I would appreciate it.
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Re: Visited the Military Museum in Beijng today

Post by Peter Dekker » Sun Apr 19, 2009 8:24 am

Michael wrote:It's too bad that their captions are inaccurate. I hope their Chinese captions are of higher quality. Translation quality control in China is of ridiculously poor quality, even in famous places.
It is not a lack of translation skills in this case, it is just a lack of common understanding of their own weapons in general. Check out any random book on Qing weapons in the Chinese language and you'll be presented with a classic example of bad scholarship: Conclusions float on loose sand, bibliographies are often non-existant, attributions are made by comparing general looks of weapons, and dating is often way over the top: late Qing curio pieces are typically presented as Qianlong era, and early Qing pieces are often described as Ming.

Michael wrote:Unfortunately I don't quite have the experience to identify many types of Chinese weapons by sight. I'm about at the level where I tend to confuse liuyedao and yanmaodao. If anyone could provide a good resource to refer to brush up on this sort of recognization, I would appreciate it.
You will find exactly what you're looking for in Philip Tom's thread "of geese and willows":
viewtopic.php?t=423

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


-Bruce Lee

http://www.mandarinmansion.com
Antique Chinese Arms & Functional reproductions

http://www.manchuarchery.org
Fe Doro - Manchu Archery

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Re: Visited the Military Museum in Beijng today

Post by alfanator » Sun Apr 19, 2009 8:50 am

Peter Dekker wrote:Hi!

Nice pictures, I made almost the exact same pictures of that same saber which is also my personal favorite of the collection. Although I also like the baolidao with golden dragon spine.

Regarding the excavated swords, in theory Nik is right but remember, this is China. When riding a horse on the northern Chinese steppe grasslands I encountered pits with human skulls. The local guide told me they were grave robberies, illegal but they happened regularly there and only the bones are left.

I am no expert on these early weapons though so I could not comment on their authenticity, especially not without handling them. There is a huge Chinese fake market and I've seen them make pretty good replicas of stuff this old before.
Peter, just saw your post on the saber. Looks like we have similar tastes :) I really like that saber, would love to see it polished and maybe the scabbard too. I will have to swing by the store next week to pick up that old tomb sword, I will buy it as a replica and keep my expectations there.

Michael, have fun at the museum. The qianlong dragon ridge back sword is on the second floor, right on top of the Mig fighters on the first floor among a bunch of guns and modern stuff, took me a while to find it. The bulk of the other swords are on the third floor. Rest are scattered all over the place. There are some nice Kyu-Gunto J-sword mounts there as well if you are into those. I would like to see their archives...

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Re: Visited the Military Museum in Beijng today

Post by Scott M. Rodell » Sun Apr 19, 2009 10:16 am

[quote="Peter Dekker]
... not a lack of translation skills.... just a lack of common understanding of their own weapons in general... any random book on Qing weapons in the Chinese language and you'll be presented with... bad scholarship: Conclusions float on loose sand, bibliographies are often non-existant, attributions are made by comparing general looks of weapons, and dating is often way over the top: late Qing curio pieces are typically presented as Qianlong era, and early Qing pieces are often described as Ming...[/quote]

I´m afraid I have to agree with Peter here 100 percent... can you even imagine a history book published in America or Europe that totally lacked a bibliography?

BTW, speaking of Peter´s love of sabers, we had our usual test cutting practice day between the intro & advanced Swordplay seminars, here in Holland, & you should see him cut with a dao, he´s coming along nicely...

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Re: Visited the Military Museum in Beijng today

Post by Michael » Sun Apr 19, 2009 11:08 pm

Scott M. Rodell wrote:
Peter Dekker wrote: ... not a lack of translation skills.... just a lack of common understanding of their own weapons in general... any random book on Qing weapons in the Chinese language and you'll be presented with... bad scholarship: Conclusions float on loose sand, bibliographies are often non-existant, attributions are made by comparing general looks of weapons, and dating is often way over the top: late Qing curio pieces are typically presented as Qianlong era, and early Qing pieces are often described as Ming...
I´m afraid I have to agree with Peter here 100 percent... can you even imagine a history book published in America or Europe that totally lacked a bibliography?
That's absolutely ridiculous. Is this just a feature of scholarship of Chinese weapons, or a larger problem?

The West certainly has plenty of scholars who, having never practiced a martial art, emphasize very silly aspects when describing the use of weapons. But I suppose that's a different problem altogether.
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Re: Visited the Military Museum in Beijng today

Post by taiwandeutscher » Mon Apr 20, 2009 1:00 am

Yes, Chinese science can be very un-scientific, in all araes of sinology a daily, but bitter experience.

Also, quoting numerous sources is not seen as being well-read, but lacking of own knowledge, so they tend to plunder foreign thoughts, without footnotes. There has been a reserch on Chinese research, which stated that up to 60% of scientific publications contain stolen ideas, plagiarism is wide spread.

And when there is a quote, it is mostly without exact location. So once I was looking through all of Kongzi as the saying in question was not to be found in any concordance. Finally, by chance I found out, that it was never from Kongzi but his student Cengzi.

Of course there are also some quite good scholars, up to western standards, but a year ago or so, I met the Longquan museum head here in Taiwan, the weapons he showed were low qulity, his knowledge of swords in all not better than mine.

So we better stick to Scott and Peter and the other experts around here!
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Re: Visited the Military Museum in Beijng today

Post by Peter Dekker » Tue Apr 21, 2009 4:28 am

Scott M. Rodell wrote:BTW, speaking of Peter´s love of sabers, we had our usual test cutting practice day between the intro & advanced Swordplay seminars, here in Holland, & you should see him cut with a dao, he´s coming along nicely...
Thanks! I had great fun that day.. Funny how some with their own swords and sabers were thought by the audience to have sharper edges because we seemed to cut easier than others.

Michael wrote:The West certainly has plenty of scholars who, having never practiced a martial art, emphasize very silly aspects when describing the use of weapons. But I suppose that's a different problem altogether.
True. That's a different problem indeed. Often Chinese "dojo lore" and oral traditions are taken seriously. Which is no real surprise because if I would tell someone something about windmills, cheese or wooden shoes that I've heard (I'm Dutch) most people would take my word on it as well.

Another cause is a total lack of practical experience with weapons of the author. I've learned in both the study of Chinese edged weapons as in studying the Manchurian archery tradition that there is no substitute for practical tests in which we attempt to keep true to historical situations. This would also exclude shooting arrows with very light bows, as well as training with improper weapons as both are more likely to give a wrong impression on the forces at play and the advantages and limitations of certain weapons.

alfanator wrote:Peter, just saw your post on the saber. Looks like we have similar tastes I really like that saber, would love to see it polished and maybe the scabbard too. I will have to swing by the store next week to pick up that old tomb sword, I will buy it as a replica and keep my expectations there.
I would also love to see what kind of pattern this saber has under that patination, and would love to see what the scabbard had looked like. Oddly, many of the fancy-bladed sabers had well-made but have relatively simple patterns while the majority of blades with more fancy patterns I have seen are frequently encountered on relatively simple blade shapes which are mounted in rather modest fittings.

Be sure to get rid of all loose scales on the surface, because active rust will be underneath them anyway and it needs to be stopped. If it was acid-treated to look older than it is, you will have a relatively uniform corroding partly due to the way the acid affects all places simultaneously and partly because the (modern) steel it was made from was very uniform in carbon and sulphur contents. On some real old swords and zhibeidao I've seen, you can see that some parts are hardly affected while others are all but eaten away. Steel should still have a good rigidity if still thick. Usually these had some good thickness to begin with. Some of the original ridge line will often still be visible. I'll be interested in hearing what you come up with.

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Re: Visited the Military Museum in Beijng today

Post by Peter Dekker » Tue Apr 21, 2009 4:46 pm

Hi,
taiwandeutscher wrote:Yes, Chinese science can be very un-scientific, in all araes of sinology a daily, but bitter experience.
I'm glad we're backed up on this by a Taiwan veteran! Those with less hands-on experience in China often question whether it is really that bad..

You bring up some interesting points on classical texts, it indeed seems ingrained in Chinese thought. On the whole it also appears to me that the Chinese weren't and aren't all that concerned on getting to know the absolute truth on many things. But you're right, there are some good scholars as well. But the "face" system doesn't make it easy for them, as many won't openly oppose ideas of others even though they would have enough proof to back their statements up.

taiwandeutscher wrote:but a year ago or so, I met the Longquan museum head here in Taiwan, the weapons he showed were low qulity, his knowledge of swords in all not better than mine.
Was this Mr. Zhou? I have also met people from a Taiwanese antique arms preservation association whose knowledge on antique arms was basic at best, and knowledge about the Qing dynasty social and military structures was near non-existant. I was amazed how some of them were considered prominent experts without even knowing the fundamentals.

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


-Bruce Lee

http://www.mandarinmansion.com
Antique Chinese Arms & Functional reproductions

http://www.manchuarchery.org
Fe Doro - Manchu Archery

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