Huanuo's Qianlong Imperial Dao

This forum is for posting Chinese Swordsmanship product test results conducted by Center Director, Scott M. Rodell. Any manufacturer may submit a product for testing.

Moderators: Scott M. Rodell, Philip Tom

Post Reply
Scott M. Rodell
Site Admin
Site Admin
Posts: 1364
Joined: Wed Jan 28, 2004 4:50 pm
Location: Virginia
Contact:

Huanuo's Qianlong Imperial Dao

Post by Scott M. Rodell » Thu Oct 16, 2008 8:54 am

Huanuo's Qianlong Imperial Dao

List Price: $5429 (Available in US for $3495)
Company Website: http://www.huanuosword.com/

Image

Just a few years ago, it was difficult to find a decent jian or dao to do form training with & no cutting swords were available at all. Most Chinese swords on the market were very light & flimsy in comparison with historical examples. Even more annoying was that both the blade forms & particularly the decoration & overall design of the fittings had nothing in common with historical swords, indeed the design of these "Chinese" swords seemed to have more to do with some bazar fantasy drawn from kungfu movies than anything else.

Fortunately this state of affairs has been changing. Companies like Qing-Zhong & Hanwei are basing their new offerings on classical examples. And Huanuo in particular has a new line of swords based on Qianlong era examples. Happy with these changes, I am quite interested in bring them to the attention of the Chinese Swordsmanship community. I, however, I have a conflict of interest when if come to reviewing Huanuo swords, as my company, Seven Stars Trading (http://www.sevenstarstrading.com/) is their Sole-US Representative. (Earlier reviews of Huanuo Swords in this Forum were undertaken before we began selling their products).

When fellow Moderator Philip Tom acquired a Qianlong Imperial Dao, I asked him if he would consider writing a review. As a professional sword polisher & recognized expert in the field of Chinese Swords, we couldn't have a more qualified expert to review this saber. Please see his review below...

Note that as is an historically inspired ceremonial sword, no test cutting test was undertaken with this sword. In the case of such highly decorated ceremonial swords, such a test would be inappropriate. For cutting tests of other Huanuo swords, please see other reviews in this Forum.

Philip Tom
Rank: Chang San feng
Rank: Chang San feng
Posts: 153
Joined: Mon Jun 28, 2004 8:47 am
Location: Sunny Cailifornia

Post by Philip Tom » Thu Oct 16, 2008 12:32 pm

Image

HISTORICAL DESIGN AUTHENTICITY:
I would call this saber an interpretation of the original pattern as opposed to a reproduction, since it appears to be a composite of blade and fittings designs from different Qianlong court sabers. This is not meant as an unfavorable comment. It's a positive in that to knowledgeable eyes, it is what it is and there's no chance that a century from now, these things are going to be passed off to the unsuspecting as "the real McCoy".

Image

The blade design is the distinguishing mark of this saber, and it's based on a small number of originals, probably designed by Qianlong himself and produced in the Imperial workshops at an indeterminate date during his reign. I am aware of just a few examples:

1. Example with gilt openwork iron fittings with foliate and beaded borders, embellished with gemstones, without scabbard, in the Beijing military museum
2. An almost identical one, with scabbard, ex-Robert Hales Antiques Ltd., present whereabouts unknown
3. Same blade in gilt iron mounts of slightly different style, with scabbard, sold at Christies HK, 2002, present owner unknown
4. Same blade in associated, later mounts, without original scabbard, private collection, US.
5. One or two partially-complete specimens, utilizing same blade patterns, in private collections, PRC

Image

Huanuo's version has a blade based quite closely on all of these. The exceptions are in the most minor details:
1. The entire dorsal portion of the blade is gilt in the case of the Huanuo blade; the originals are selectively gilt with individual dots in each of the serrations. Each dot being an inlaid gold plug hammered into a minute blind hole. There are a gazillion of these plugs, and I can see why it would be economically prohibitive to reproduce this detail today in any production sword.
2. The entire dragon cartouche at the forte is likewise gilt, as opposed to just the raised dragon being gilded as on the originals.
3. The gilding is electroplate, as opposed to mechanical gilding (gold leaf applied to a finely crosshatched ground).

Image

The fittings on the Huanuo saber are fangshi (angular pattern), openwork, in the same motif seen on examples 1 and 2 cited among the originals above. However, the motifs are denser and the base metal is brass, not iron. The guard is somewhat smaller and thinner (though still robust by any standards), and the pommel is higher than on originals 1 through 3. The pommel, along with the scabbard chape, have dimensions which are no doubt taken from the Grand Review Shuangshoudao (two handed sabers) made for the Qianlong court. The aesthetics of the Huanuo reproductions are attractive, in the spirit of the era, and present a unitary appearance in terms of form and style.

The grip on the Huanuo saber is somewhat longer than that on all the known originals, by about an inch or two. On one of the originals (#3) the grip wrap survives and it is the imperial golden yellow. On #1 and 2 the cord has disappeared; on one, the underlay is black leather and the other, natural rayskin.

WHAT I FIND IMPRESSIVE.
First off, the blade is impeccable. It's of laminated construction, the pattern clearly visible, and the grinding and polish are as close to "faultless" as one can hope for in a production sword. Ditto for the detail work on spine and forte. This rivals custom work!

The rayskin on the scabbard of my example is extremely well matched. In fact it gives the appearance of being made of a single hide, which is remarkable considering the size of the scabbard. If it's composite, then exceptional care was taken to match the grain pattern, because whatever natural variation there is, the grains are graduated in a way that does not suggest being made of separate pieces joined under the fittings.

The gemstones used in the fittings appear to be real stones, not paste. The coloration and polish are quite good. On my example, they look far better (in terms of color) than the ones seen on the images posed here.

The fittings are gold plated and not painted as is the case with Huanuo's "Golden Peony" and other deluxe jian.

Overall fit and finish is quite good. The weapon is solid and parts are well-aligned. Oh, yes, it balances quite well; the longer grip no doubt helps.

WHAT I'D LIKE TO SEE:
In other reviews, the chief criticism of Huanuo's product line has been occasional lapses in finishing. This is the case here, although some the faults I find are easily correctible:
1. Some of the gemstones are not glued in very neatly. Excess glue appears around the base of the cabochons, spilling over the bezels!
2. The rayskin came as shiny as the varnish on the rail of a racing yacht, not at all like the muted ivory-like sheen of the antiques.
3. The cord wrap is done right over naked wood. No leather or rayskin underlayer as we know to be the case with 2 original examples. Furthermore, the cord should have been yellow.
4. Although the quality of the fittings casting and quality is generlly quite good, there are some tool marks on he undecorated portion of the tiliang (suspension bar)

I managed to fix faults 1 and 2. An exacto knife can trim the excess glue, with a bit of patience, although for a sword of this price, the customer shouldn't be the one to have to do it! The rayskin can be rubbed down with 0000 or 000 steel wool for a perfect surface texture. This takes only a few minutes.

RATING:
All in all, this saber is a pleasure to own, and this is coming from a guy who's an antiques snob and has tended to stay away from replicas. For those of us, snobs or not, who can never hope to own a complete original in this lifetime or next, this piece is more than merely adequate. Hmmm, maybe I need to shop around for an imperial throne with a tiger-skin rug under it, just like Q. had! And grow a pigtail while I'm at it...

Image
Phil

Scott M. Rodell
Site Admin
Site Admin
Posts: 1364
Joined: Wed Jan 28, 2004 4:50 pm
Location: Virginia
Contact:

Post by Scott M. Rodell » Thu Nov 20, 2008 11:38 am

For a related thread please see-

Beijing Military Museum - Imperial Peidao
viewtopic.php?t=422&highlight=beijing

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest