namban fittings?

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josh stout
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namban fittings?

Post by josh stout » Tue Jun 08, 2010 10:19 am

What are namban style fittings? I ran into the term in Stone’s Glossary referring to pierced and gilded iron fittings. What is the term a reference to? Does namban mean pierced iron?
Josh
Last edited by josh stout on Tue Jun 08, 2010 11:34 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Nik
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Re: namban fittings?

Post by Nik » Tue Jun 08, 2010 11:10 am

I don't know if he means a namban trade period style. That kind of namban or nanban means southern barbarian, and refers either to the southeathasian nations outside of Japan and China, or to western foreigners who travelled to Japan from these countries. Namban art is just stuff from that period, 1500-1600: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Namban_art

No idea what that could really mean. Ming style decoration is very elaborated, and not so much different from the Japanese style of that time. However, if you look at the pictures of village daos and jian, you understand how someone would come to the conclusion that this is crude stuff inferior to virtually any make of civilized weaponry, of any nation. Sometimes looking like children made that, or it was a find off some stone age grave before the invention of tools. Maybe, Stone did not have this vast collection of each and every master piece from high ranking officials and the emperors personal collection, but merely just stuff he accidentally ran by. If you have a preference for certain cultures goods, like Japanese swords, chances are you are looking intensely for that kind of goods, while you get other stuff just if it is beaten over your head.

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Re: namban fittings?

Post by josh stout » Tue Jun 08, 2010 11:34 am

Your reasoning is good, but the sword referenced as having namban fittings looks like a high end, regulation zhanmadao, with no obvious Western influence and probably dating from the 18th or 19th c.

The only possible Western influence would be mercury gilding on the fittings, but this does not seem to be related to the term namban.

It is interesting that the term may relate to items in the coastal trade with Japan. While the zhanmadao referenced would have had no relationship to that trade, I have noticed that the few terms for Chinese things that Stone does use seem to have a Southern Chinese origin. I bet he would have called a jian a gim.

Oh well, I was hoping for a new and useful word relating to a particular kind of fitting on regulation swords. There is likely little use speculating on the origin of a word used incorrectly.

The speculation that Stone only saw the bad stuff is contradicted by the quality of the items he depicts. There is not a village made weapon in the lot.

I think I will have to go with Jon’s idea that Stone was simply deranged when it came to Chinese weapons.
Josh
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Re: namban fittings?

Post by Nik » Tue Jun 08, 2010 12:03 pm

That sounds plain weird, depicting a top end qiangang weapon and calling it "inferior" or something like that. Do you have a picture of which weapon he referenced like that ?

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Re: namban fittings?

Post by Nik » Tue Jun 08, 2010 12:17 pm

BTW, nam or nan can only really mean southern.

Ban in cantonese can mean
- rebel, rebellion (could make sense, "southern rebellion" era)
- personality, character or article, product (then it simply means "southern style")
- clumsy, awkward
- dress up as, disguise, play
- intelligent, refined (I'm sure he meant that ;))
- visitor
- beach, coast (again it would be just "southern coast style")
- adorn, ornamental

You can look up the rest here: http://www.chineselanguage.org/dictiona ... tonese=ban

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Re: namban fittings?

Post by josh stout » Tue Jun 08, 2010 12:44 pm

The top one in the photo is either from Stone or exactly like it.
Josh

http://i77.photobucket.com/albums/j65/p ... nmadao.jpg
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Re: namban fittings?

Post by bond_fan » Tue Jun 08, 2010 7:03 pm

"Namban fittings" I think are an actual reference to Nanban fittings, usually associated with open-work tsubas (Japanese sword guards.). In the very detailed tsuba book, Nihon to Koza Volume VI Kodogu Part 1, translated by Harry Afu Watson, they refer to fittings that were mainly imported from Qing China. Later, Chinese artisans from Qing China were brought to Nagasaki, Japan, to make these style works.

According to Watson's translation, "In the book authored by Dr. Wada, "Soken Kinko Ryakunin" or "Brief Treatise on Kinko Sword Fittings," the Nanban are divided into three classifications"

1. Nanban Tsuba

2. Hanto Tsuba - Eastern Han of Eastern China.

3. Hannan Tsuba - Hannan means Southern Han or Southern China. These types of fittings are more generally associated with the Nanban style, which consists of round open work tsuba with raised edges. Further characteristics of this style include having facing dragons on the top, sometimes with pearls, iron or stones fitted in between them, so they make a jiggling sound or arabesques. In reference to the Chinese made ones from China, the guards are known as Canton Guards, because most originated from this area of China.

Image

Please note that there is a difference between Nanban tsubas made for Japanese swords as opposed to those made for Chinese. Japanese ones will have the blade side on the top of the guard while Chinese have it on the bottom. Also, Japanese ones usually have one to two opening on either side of the central slit for the blade to accommodate the opening for the kogai.

Image

I hope this helps?

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Re: namban fittings?

Post by josh stout » Wed Jun 09, 2010 9:57 am

That is exactly what I was looking for. So "nanban" is a term from Japanese collectors using Southern Chinese dialect? I love that kind of stuff. I have noticed that often southern dialects are much closer than Mandarin to words used in adjacent countries. For example "dadao" becomes taito in southern dialects, and daito in Japan.

Anyway, Chinese pierced ironwork is by no means limited to Southern China or the Ming period, but I do have the idea that openwork can be a hint that something might be Ming. I would be interested in how true this is.

Previously, I would have associated pierced iron fittings with Tibetan influence, but these southern fittings look quite different. I wish I could find a good picture of the zhanmadao from Stone's to see if they actually resemble nanban fittings, resemble Tibetan work, or if they are of another style, perhaps indicative of Imperial workshops near Beijing.

Thanks :D
Josh
Last edited by josh stout on Wed Jun 09, 2010 12:43 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: namban fittings?

Post by Nik » Wed Jun 09, 2010 11:29 am

According to Scotts website, this style was depicted on Ming period guards pictures:

Image

Perhaps it's this style that is referred to ? However, to call this "crude" or "inferior" to anything is not just a stretch, it's nuts. The blades on such masterpieces are as good as it gets.

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Re: namban fittings?

Post by bond_fan » Wed Jun 09, 2010 5:59 pm

These style fittings are shown in two books, the Alex Huang book, Iron and Steel Swords of China in the Qing dynasty section and the Palace Museum Collection, swords from Qianlong's collection. What open-work daos in ISSC in the Ming dynasty section do not look like the ones I posted.

It is true that to carve these would not be quick work and the ones I've seen for the most part are intricately done.

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Re: namban fittings?

Post by Peter Dekker » Tue Jun 15, 2010 10:23 am

josh stout wrote:Anyway, Chinese pierced ironwork is by no means limited to Southern China or the Ming period, but I do have the idea that openwork can be a hint that something might be Ming. I would be interested in how true this is.
The nanban style as we know it seems to have originated during the Ming period, and very similar work is seen to the end of the Qianlong period. Pierced work endured into the 19th century but then quite crudely done, usually the piercings consisted of simple holes, often even round, and not nearly as intricate as the earlier work. The themes of lotus petals, archaic dragons and foliage has remained the same from the Ming to the 19th century though.

From what I've seen (which by no means is enough to base a sound theory on) the early Ming work can be rather intricate. Late Ming / early Qing work appears to be somewhat less fine but often executed with considerable artistic merit and the pieces are often substantial. Progressing into the Qianlong reign the fittings became less substantial, and in a way less complex, but often finer in terms of execution.

josh stout wrote:Previously, I would have associated pierced iron fittings with Tibetan influence, but these southern fittings look quite different..
Most of the motiffs are indeed quite Tibetan in appearance. Much of the Ming stuff I am familiar with is from the Yongle period. Yongle, like many Manchu emperors long after him, was a patron of Tibetan Bhuddism. Under his reign there was lively trade with Tibet and items were made both in Tibet and China for both markets. It is hard to tell what was made where, as at some point both China and Tibet probably produced items in eachother's styles.

josh stout wrote:I wish I could find a good picture of the zhanmadao from Stone's to see if they actually resemble nanban fittings, resemble Tibetan work, or if they are of another style, perhaps indicative of Imperial workshops near Beijing.
I enjoyed some time with this saber on my visit to NY in 2008. It is too bad that its blade is broken but it is still quite something. It is definitely in the "nanban" style, very nicely ececuted in robust fittings. Chape in the same style but more superficial execution and with more gold left appears of later manufacture.

Despite the name, I wonder whether the style was all made in Southern China. Surely they were traded there, because that was where the harbors and trade was situated. Like with "damascus" swords, the style may have gotten the name from the place they were encountered. The imperial workshops in Beijing also did this style but we don't know where those craftsmen were traditionally from. Perhaps they were local, but they could have been moved to Beijing from anywhere for all we know.

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josh stout
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Re: namban fittings?

Post by josh stout » Wed Jun 16, 2010 10:10 am

Thanks Peter,

That was a very good summary of dating pierced fittings and openwork. Like you, I have seen examples of the crude 19th c. drilled holes, and in other peoples' collections some of the more refined pieces. It is difficult to see enough examples for me to assign dates based on style, but I am beginning to see some of the broad outlines. On the Ethnographic Weapons Forum, Rand has done some work dating pierced ironwork on Tibetan saddles that is quite interesting and, it appears, fairly accurate, dating back from the Yuan period through the 19th c..

My thanks go out to all the people out there who are working to place the appreciation of Chinese swords on a firm foundation. I truly appreciate the feeling of shared endeavor and scholarship that I get from the online community.
Josh
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