Have a look at this short sword

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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Linda Heenan
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Have a look at this short sword

Post by Linda Heenan » Tue Mar 30, 2010 12:51 am

From time to time people send me photos of old swords and ask me what I know about them. The real answer to that is "not much, but I have contacts who might". Here are some pictures of the latest one. The owner knows it to be over 65 years old because of how long it has been in the family. Someone told him it might be Qing. I'm thinking it looks a bit crude for that - almost home made - but the brass plugs appear to be real.

The grip isn't properly wrapped but the cord looks about right. There is a lot of chunky decoration on the guard and characters on the top of the blade. What do they say?

The sword seems to have been broken and reshaped since the fuller runs off the end. The scabbard is also shortened.

What can be seen about the steels used, from the pictures? Could an older broken blade have been fashioned into another sword for personal use or for a tourist piece?

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Nik
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Re: Have a look at this short sword

Post by Nik » Tue Mar 30, 2010 6:52 am

My personal gut feeling is this:

I don't feel as if this is a fairly modern reproduction, as the fittings seem to be genuinely hand-made and hand-hammered, too much effort for todays off-the-mill zinc alloy die casting production.

What I don't enjoy is the way the dragon motif is carved onto the blade, and the writing is hammered into it. The blade also seems to be monosteel, and not exactly carefully polished.

I have not enough experience in how early tourist and folk stuff made around the 1900s looks like, so I couldn't claim with confidence if that is from that period, or from later 20th century but before the tourist run from the CTHD times. Perhaps they took older fittings and remounted it with a 20th century blade, if the claim is right in the 1950s.

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Re: Have a look at this short sword

Post by josh stout » Tue Mar 30, 2010 11:45 am

The original scabbard and blade were already later than most antiques, probably early 20th c.. They were shortened later still.

A closer look at the steel would help tell the quality. Either way, the blade has certainly lost its hardened tip.
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Linda Heenan
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Re: Have a look at this short sword

Post by Linda Heenan » Tue Mar 30, 2010 4:51 pm

Can anyone translate the characters?
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Peter Dekker
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Re: Have a look at this short sword

Post by Peter Dekker » Wed Apr 07, 2010 11:20 am

I would go with both Josh and Nik's statements as well.

These were made in pretty large numbers at around the turn of the century so it is at best late 19th and more probably early 20th century. These are almost always full-length jian and looking at the fuller running off the tip and the awkward way the tip is shaped we can assume that it must have lost quite some length. Most have markings that say "longquan" and often words such as "dragon" "phoenix" or "double edged sword" engraved in them along with a depiction of a dragon on the other side.

They often come with either a brownish-red lacquered scabbard or one of these black ones with wire wrapping. Steel is pretty soft in all cases, and the blades often rather thin and wobbly. They were definitely not made for the fight. Perhaps this one was nevertheless used as such, leading to its current shortened state. The blades I've had were all forge folded, with inserted hardened edges that could be made visible with some acid, but lacked hardening so they looked the deal but weren't. Blade and fitting configuration is generally the same for all of them, with a single fuller running along the center and inscriptions on the forte which are done with small, circular stamps. Most have brass stars inlaid in the blade, a few have not.

From the stars you can re-calculate its original length, if you have at least two on the blade. It goes as follows:
There were once seven brass stars.
They are usually evenly spaced from one another.
The space between guard and first star is always the same as that between the last star and tip.

As for translating, they use archaic script which isn't my forte. But usually they are some standard words found commonly, so we might give it a try. Could you perhaps make a drawing of the characters so I can better read them? I think I do see "longquan" in the less common, cursive script but I'n not entirely sure.

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Re: Have a look at this short sword

Post by Glenn Swann » Wed Apr 07, 2010 5:53 pm

the characters are an interesting mish-mash of styles.
the 1st seems to be chi(4) "imperial order" in straight kaishu (looked up online)
the 2nd, long one wrapped in "gate" i have no idea.
the 3rd and 4th are pretty surely "lung chuan" "dragon spring" the sword- making place. lung is in grass style, chuan a sort of seal-style inspired thing... only thing about the last one "chuan" that bothers me is the bottom part is more "tree" than "water" which is what the modern character is...
長亭外古道邊芳草碧連天。晩風拂柳笛聲殘夕陽山外山。

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Re: Have a look at this short sword

Post by Glenn Swann » Sun Apr 11, 2010 4:12 pm

i just showed the pics to a coworker from taiwan (who is taoist) and she said the last 2 is indeed longquan, the 2nd is a very special character that is really 3 together- the upshot is she claims the characters point to it being a jian used by taoist priests, along with a bell, for exorcism of malignant spirits.....
i also sent it to my shufa (chinese calligraphy) teacher to see what he makes of it.
anyone think that is a reasonable explanation?
長亭外古道邊芳草碧連天。晩風拂柳笛聲殘夕陽山外山。

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Re: Have a look at this short sword

Post by Freebooter » Mon Apr 12, 2010 8:09 pm

Glenn Swann wrote:i just showed the pics to a coworker from taiwan (who is taoist) and she said the last 2 is indeed longquan, the 2nd is a very special character that is really 3 together- the upshot is she claims the characters point to it being a jian used by taoist priests, along with a bell, for exorcism of malignant spirits.....
i also sent it to my shufa (chinese calligraphy) teacher to see what he makes of it.
anyone think that is a reasonable explanation?
This is indeed as quoted above. The blade, scabbard and the hilt all appear to have been shortened and the hilt rewrapped loose with the origian bindings. I would say 1910-1930s
Where it once was a long Jian, I would guess its original purpose of exorcism was forgotten and sword was most likely a victim of war, whether shortened due to damage or shortened out on necessity to have a concealed blade I could not say.
the style of stamping and markings is typical of these swords, they are somewhat plentiful with these markings.

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