Going to Xian next week where to look for swords?

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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alfanator
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Going to Xian next week where to look for swords?

Post by alfanator » Wed Mar 17, 2010 4:38 am

Headed out to Xian with my sons for a boys week out. Any recommendations for places to look for and look at old swords and other cool stuff? Well, other than the terracotta warrior tomb of course :)

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Re: Going to Xian next week where to look for swords?

Post by Peter Dekker » Sat Mar 20, 2010 4:33 am

Hi,

I'm not familiar with Xian at all, I've spent 18 months in China but failed to go there, can you believe that? It's definitely on the list for a next trip.

As far as my knowledge goes, swords can be best found in Beijing, on occasion in Shanghai, and there are also Hong Kong shops that have the occasional military item. For most other cities weapons are often very scarce. I haven't found any in Hangzhou over the course of 6 months, while there was a large Qing garrison right in the city center some 100 years ago.

I did find a few dadao and some WW2 Japanese swords in Chengdu. I did see a number of fake Chinese niuweidao and fake Japanese gunto in nearly every city. As a Japanese sword enthusiast, I bet they will make you chuckle. Fittings on the Japanese swords vary from inaccurate crap to painstakingly reproduced, even the same and ito are very convincingly aged at times, but the blades are always utter crap, utilizing the most ingenious ways to try to fake a hamon and hada.

But as a tourist city, I wouldn't be surprised that you will be able to find some authentic stuff in Xian antique markets. Try to look up 古玩市场 ("antique markets") or show these characters to a taxi driver and I'm sure he can take you to one. I've always love to roam such markets, even though most they sell are reproductions there is always a chance to find something fun or interesting.

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Re: Going to Xian next week where to look for swords?

Post by alfanator » Tue Mar 23, 2010 8:25 pm

Wandered around the antique shops by the Muslim quarter yesterday and found some Republic era dadaos. I wonder if there was a large garrison of soliders in Xian during that time. Going to check out the sights and some other antique markets today.

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Re: Going to Xian next week where to look for swords?

Post by alfanator » Thu Mar 25, 2010 7:45 am

Picked up some swords today at the antique market. Quite a few DaDaos in various forms and numerous village swords. Dealers here were pretty candid on what was old and what was new, when pressed for high quality items, they simply said that they are pretty much dried up and difficult to come by these days.

Anyway, here they are.

From the Top:
Dadao with a nicely balanced blade, iron S guard with what looks like wrap from the republic era. Found this in the Muslim quarter hanging in the corner of a furniture dealer, he said he has had it hanging there for 10+ years and he has a layer of dust to prove it.

Dadao with a iron cup guard. Rewrapped hastily, heavy foward balance. Hidden away in the top corner of the shop and covered with a thick layer of dust. I get the feeling that they do not get many people looking for swords here.

Stick sword. This one is very interesting, thick forged iron mounts, blade looks like a Tang Dao with a thick back ridge, had a spring that held it in the scabbard that is now broken, laminar structure could be seen in the ridge back.

Small Dao. Thick ridge back nicely balanced small dao. Dealer said scabbard was restored but with old fittings. Could make out laminar structure in the ridge.

Guan Dao. Copper inlay on the blade with a date and copper inlay on the guard. Diamond shaped blade, sparpened turn back
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Re: Going to Xian next week where to look for swords?

Post by Fei Li » Fri Mar 26, 2010 6:44 am

Very nice! You had quite some luck…
The Guan dao looks unusual, very interesting!

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Re: Going to Xian next week where to look for swords?

Post by josh stout » Mon Mar 29, 2010 8:36 am

You found some nice things. These are still available because collectors have turned their noses up at them, but I see them examples of folded, differentially heat treated, functional art. My favorite thing is to find pieces with something that makes them stand out, like a particularly nice folding pattern, or characters on the blade. Often this doesn't change the price much, but makes them much more appealing.

I particularly like the gundao "stick knife". It is longer than most I have seen, and it looks like the blade was done well. How is the handling? Some are balanced a bit like a jian, and others are mainly choppers like Tibetan swords.

I think the halberd blade is recent, or perhaps a somewhat older training weapon. It looks too heavy for use, and the construction appears very crude.

All in all, I would say you did very well. Most people only find the junk.
Josh
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Re: Going to Xian next week where to look for swords?

Post by alfanator » Mon Mar 29, 2010 8:56 am

Yes, i suspect that the GuanDao is quite late and way too heavy. I ended up trading it for another that he had that conforms to Qing regulation shape and size. Getting them back from Xian to Shanghai was a little bit of an affair, had to find a truck freight company to bring them over. Train, Postal and Fedex will not ship weapons.

The stick sword is the most interesting to me, balance is very nice and it has a thick spine. Going to get this polished to see what is hiding under that rust. I suspect that it is the oldest of the lot.

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Re: Going to Xian next week where to look for swords?

Post by josh stout » Tue Mar 30, 2010 11:35 am

Chinese polishers can be quite good and inexpensive, but many do not know what they are doing and can ruin a blade.

Make sure you use someone reputable.

Josh
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Re: Going to Xian next week where to look for swords?

Post by alfanator » Tue Mar 30, 2010 6:12 pm

Josh, any recommendations for local polishers in China?

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Re: Going to Xian next week where to look for swords?

Post by josh stout » Wed Mar 31, 2010 9:48 am

Sorry, I have done it through others. Peter might have some suggestions.
Josh
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Re: Going to Xian next week where to look for swords?

Post by Scott M. Rodell » Sun Apr 25, 2010 9:47 pm

alfanator wrote:...recommendations for local polishers in China?
I'd be very, very careful using a polisher in China, you can't put back on any metal they grind off. Most of the polishes in China I've seen were simple sanding with no idea about bring up the edge or maintaining or restoring ridge lines etc. You'd be better giving them a prorper cleaning yourself to stablize them & then sending them to Philip Tom.

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