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-   -   A beautiful Burmese dha dated 1798 (http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showthread.php?t=69)

Mark 12th December 2004 07:48 PM

A beautiful Burmese dha dated 1798
 
3 Attachment(s)
Here is a little something that I just picked up, with some help from our man on the ground in Thailand. It is a Burmese story dha, with a stag horn handle and pommel, equisitely carved. The scabbard is chased silver, with eight panels on each side depicting different figures which I think are either characters in the story shown on the blade, or are nat (spirits). There are eight on each side, all different, but some similar which might be different depictions of the same person, and there is a deer on each side in the last panel. The scabbard has an engraved dedication: "This sword belongs to Tha Toe Thi Yi General Min Hla Ye Khaung 1160." The Burmese date corresponds to 1798 in the Julian calender. The blade needs some cleaning, but other than that (and a sloppy repair with epoxy that I am slowly removing), it is in perfect condition). Enjoy.

cylord21 13th December 2004 12:40 AM

Dha treasure
 
Speechless, pictures tells it all. This is the second old dha for real i have seen in this style, quality and age, the real thing. Both have seven panels of highest quality deep chased silver depicting figures and characters on blade. On the other one i saw (and missed as it was for sale) the scabbard was not dedicated but signed by a famous silver smiths from that time. The hilt has in the middle a plain ivory with nice old patina, not carved, and smaller chased silver panels with figures like in the scabbard at both ends. The pommel is ball shaped silver chased all over in floral motif. Congratulation. By the way, help from the man in Thailand to find a similar piece is more than welcome. :rolleyes:

Spunjer 13th December 2004 01:03 AM

W :) W!!!

Andrew 13th December 2004 01:15 AM

Outstanding, Mark! That is absolutely beautiful. Congratulations! :)

Have you been able to turn up anything about that general?

ksbhati 13th December 2004 06:58 AM

What a beautifull Sword. I know next to nothing about Burmese edged weapons...but when I see this, It makes me want to learn :) .

Outstanding...thanks for posting.

Regards

Karni

wilked aka Khun Deng 13th December 2004 12:00 PM

Gorgeous!
 
It gets better looking every time I see it. I have yet to see it's equal in a story dha. What I'm sure Mark is too humble to tell you is that a professor in Chiang Mai had specifically requested this sword from the dealer to use in an upcoming book he will publish on the swords of the North. He at least thought it was historically significant.

This is the fourth time I've seen a similiar face on the pommel of a asian sword. Two were on the pommel caps of japanese style thai swords of high ranking individuals and another on a dha. Anybody have any ideas where it comes from?

Cylord email sent.

Mark 13th December 2004 01:13 PM

Thanks for the complements
 
Thanks, all. It is very exciting to have such a nice, provenanced sword. Andrew, I haven't tried looking for info on the general, but I certainly intend to. It's hard to know where to start, but perhaps an internet search is the first step.

As for where it came from, aside from somewhere in Burma apparently, I need to check some sources to see who was in charge at that time. It was a very volotile period in Burmese history, with domestic control passing between Burmah and Mon kings, the capital shifting all over the place, and periodic invasions by the Thai and Arrakanese. It is a very distincitve style, and since I have not seen any bona fide "court" swords from Burma, I am going to venture a guess that it is such a sword, which means it is either from Ava, or Prome ... or Thaton ... or Pegu ... or Tuongoo ... <sigh>

The work on the scabbard looks almost Lao, actually. They work in this deeply chased style with illustrative panels. Perhaps a Lao craftsman in Burma, since Burma controlled that part of the area for some time in this era. I little perusal of my limited sources might shed some light.

CharlesS 13th December 2004 01:35 PM

Absolutely Gorgeeeeez!
 
I think this is the finest dha I have seen; what a splendid acquisition!

RhysMichael 13th December 2004 04:24 PM

Mark
To repeat what I posted on another site about this one, what a great dha. The blade inlay looks well done and the blade much better made than some of the story dha. But when you add in the well worked and unusual furniture this is a true rare find. Congratulations

Ian 13th December 2004 08:29 PM

Congrats Mark ...
 
Excellent example, and provenanced as well. Look forward to seeing more pics of the blade.

Hope you can nail down the likely area of Burma from which it came. The year predates substantial British involvement in the area, but you may find something helpful in the chronicles of early travelers to Burma. I have read of Portuguese mercenaries in Burma around this time.

Let's hear what you find.

Ian.

Mark 13th December 2004 08:32 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ian
Excellent example, and provenanced as well. Look forward to seeing more pics of the blade.

Hope you can nail down the likely area of Burma from which it came. The year predates substantial British involvement in the area, but you may find something helpful in the chronicles of early travelers to Burma. I have read of Portuguese mercenaries in Burma around this time.

Let's hear what you find.

Ian.


Yes, there was a Portuguese adventurer who actually captured and set himself up as lord of a port in the river delta. I hadn't thought to check Portuguese sources -- that is a good idea. Nothing useful cam up on the internet (in English at any rate).

Battara 13th December 2004 09:54 PM

Wonderful carving and silver work (envy, envy, grumble, grumble...).

RSWORD 14th December 2004 02:10 AM

A beautiful sword! Thank you for sharing and best of luck on your research. I hope it turns out some interesting info.

BluErf 14th December 2004 02:49 PM

What a wonderful dha! Btw, what is the head on the pommel supposed to represent?

Also, there are figures on the scabbard. Do those mean anything?

Mark 14th December 2004 04:01 PM

The face is a demon of some sort -- the boar-like tusks are usually supposed to indicate a demon in Asian art. Demons are not necessarity "demonic" as we understand it. Perhaps a better work would be "ogre." They turn up in a very of the Burmese myths and legends.



The figures, as you can see from this one close-up, are very detailed and each is different. There are six humans, male and female, two demons/orgres, one male one female, and two stags. There are no clear "attributes," such as you might see in depections of Hindu gods and heroes to tell you if they are supposed to someone particular. But I suspect that they represent either specific characters in a story, or possibly spirits (called nat in Burmese), of which there are over a hundred. The investigation continues ...

BluErf 15th December 2004 02:23 PM

Thanks Mark. I'm really enjoying this dha. If you have time, please do post more pictures/details of this dha... its simply amazing!

fernando 26th December 2004 06:42 PM

Portuguese settlers in Birmania, being or not mercenaries, are more abundantly quoted in earlier chronicles. They got there around 1512 and soon they engaged in either side of the conflicts between Sion and Pegu, having in their skills the use of firearms. Later by the end of that century, two portuguese adventurers joined the armies of Mim Razagi, in conquering the kingdom of Pegu. One of them, Salvador de Sousa, was named King of Pegu, and the other,Filipe Nicote, was given Syriam, a river island harbour in the Erawady river delta, building a fort and a town that still exists. He was impaled in 1608.
Any relation between this and the mercenary quoted by Mark?

Mark 26th December 2004 11:17 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by fernando
Portuguese settlers in Birmania, being or not mercenaries, are more abundantly quoted in earlier chronicles. They got there around 1512 and soon they engaged in either side of the conflicts between Sion and Pegu, having in their skills the use of firearms. Later by the end of that century, two portuguese adventurers joined the armies of Mim Razagi, in conquering the kingdom of Pegu. One of them, Salvador de Sousa, was named King of Pegu, and the other,Filipe Nicote, was given Syriam, a river island harbour in the Erawady river delta, building a fort and a town that still exists. He was impaled in 1608.
Any relation between this and the mercenary quoted by Mark?


Yes, I believe Filipe Nicote is the one I am remembering.

Gavin Nugent 16th February 2017 11:46 PM

A shame that other than being briefly published, that this sword and swords of the type did not develop further in discussion.
http://www.arscives.com/historystee...a.swordlist.htm

The subject of the "Story Dah", as far as I am aware, has not been ventured in to in detail. I note Mark had added a little more insight and detailed images here;
http://dharesearch.bowditch.us/0074.htm
It is my hope that Mark might chime in and offer some further first hand insight to this sword.

Personally, I think this sword dates post 1858, supported by the many and various Burmese silver collections held in Museums around the world.
It was the British Raj period that bolstered this fine age old craft, the period being 1875-1945, although, I understand that the 1860's saw the initial rise in export silver.

A point that I do not think Mark photographed, is what I think is a face from which the upper suspension loop protrudes from the mouth of.
If I am correct in my suspicions, based on others of the type known to me, this is the same face seen on the pommel, a face that I suspect is Hanuman... even the goodies had teeth and tusks...

I do not mean to be disparaging in my visual assessment of this sword, and for learning and discussion purposes, and that it is only my personal belief based on the examples I know, that the hilt on the example pictured is a later replacement... exactly how later I do not know, but I suspect post WWII. The level of carving is in my honest opinion, not consistent with known ivory carving found on these sword types or comparable carved ivories from Burma during this period. the method and quality of the craft which binds the antler is also questionable, I get an almost Laos or Thai flavour from it.

In the description Mark provided in his further research of the sword, he notes the panel on which 1798 is found on an added panel whilst the blade dates to 1919, a quandary indeed. On one example known to me, it has the English Royal coat of arms in repousse for this panel. Possibly this sword had it too, removed to fit this addition?

Of the blade type, it is a quality blade and considered by myself and others as a mid 19th century type through to the 1920/30's. I find from this point on wards that the blades decrease in size and quality as does the dress, finally to a point from the 1950's on wards where these swords became just a shadow of their predecessors with poor quality blades of roughly the same form and very lazy and poor quality repousse in pot metal. One such 1950's pair of swords known to me were purchased during an officers stay in the Kachin regions of Burma...whether this became a point of sale area or a manufacture area of the later types, I am unsure.

There are many online reference points for old Burmese silver, various combinations of word searches will present a wealth of information.

All for now.

Gavin

Jim McDougall 17th February 2017 12:12 AM

Thank you for bringing this thread back Gav! Its been a few years:)
and good to see this analytic look at dhas and seeing the core of knowledge with the guys in the discussion. Given the brilliant work by Ian on the 'what is this sword ?' thread.....this is perfectly timed.
I look forward to learning more on these as my knowledge on them is limited, but they are a fascinating form .

Ian 17th February 2017 01:54 AM

Gavin:

Thanks for bringing this one back up. Interesting that you mention a Lao or Thai flavor to some of the decoration. I was thinking the same thing about the segmented silver panels that run the length of the scabbard. I have thought this was a particularly Lao trait, with multiple panels used to depict various elements in repoussed silver. Of course, the finding of Lao work on Burmese swords is perhaps not surprising, and if I recall correctly the Burmese enslaved Lao craftsmen during one of their conquering expeditions, as did the Thai.

I think you are correct that the "story dhas" did increase during the period of British rule and involvement in Burma. They are certainly quite common in Western markets and most do seem to date from the mid-19th C. on. Whether they existed prior to the British period I don't know.

I have a presentation dha somewhat similar to Mark's but with an ivory and silver hilt. This one bears an inscription dated 1915. It is tucked away in storage, but I will try to find it and post pictures here.

Ian.

Ian 19th February 2017 05:41 PM

1 Attachment(s)
Gavin:

I'm having trouble locating the one I mentioned. But I did find the attached picture online (Pinterest) with a caption saying it was dated 1931. The scabbard has a similar segmented silver treatment, with various Buddhist icons and symbols, much like Mark's dha. I view this style of repoussed silver work as Lao. Would you agree? Also, the blade on this one looks fairly good and the silver work is good but not great. Do you think the blade might predate the inscription by a few decades?

Appreciate your thoughts.

Ian.

Gavin Nugent 20th February 2017 12:35 AM

Hi Ian,

As I rely on others translating the Burmese script for me, I could not without proper review of the text and the blade in the hand, assess the age of the blade...but I must say, the silver application to the blade is better than most for 1930s, that much is certain to my eye.

The silver work of the scabbard dress is Burmese, the Laos notation I previously made, as you know, was only for the hilt binding of Marks sword. An interesting point made by several researchers is that the Shan smiths involved with this craft, of which I am sure many were in these guilds, their silver work was flatter and more floral which might account for some swords that I have seen with these stunning high relief repousse silver scabbards and low relief hilts?
A point of note too, of all these sword types that I have seen and handled, they ALL have a large lotus bud pommel, of varying designs and that that were not of the lotus bud shape specifically, were decorated in lotus bud and flower repousse designs.

With regards to the quality of silver work in this sword that you present, especially seen on the pommel, it shows a general great decline in the art by 1930...I wish I could see more detail of the panels...they look real nice.
An interesting anomaly that I have noticed with several of these sword now, is that well in to the 30's and beyond by many decades, the scabbard repousse panels have remained far superior to the work on the hilts and pommels...an aspect I can't explain with any accuracy. A surplus of old silver fittings? A conglomeration of guilds? Dies for scabbard panels remained undamaged? A change of direction in the craft? But again, there are other examples that date from 1948-75 which bear the state seal of Burma which are exquisite quality throughout? Perhaps it all come down to budget for each sword as these sword types are generally considered to be state and diplomatic gifts and each person who was to receive the gift may have a set amount of funds aside by the state for the swords making?

Gavin

Ian 20th February 2017 04:04 AM

Hi Gavin:

I want to press you a little further on the repoussed silver work on the scabbards of these swords. I understand that these scabbards were likely produced in Burma, either by Burmese craftsmen or imported metal smiths.

I think you would agree that it is unusual to find this segmented style of silver scabbard on Burmese dha, with the exception of these "story dha" that seem to have arisen around the mid-19th C. as commemorative items and perhaps for foreign consumption.

The arrangement of the scabbard elements into contiguous cells or segments is very similar to what has been found on Lao hilts and scabbards that pre-date this period and that appear to have evolved in the mid- to late-18th C. (from an earlier Lan Xang style). Some of the Lao silver work of that period was particularly fine, and they seem to have brought the repoussed metal technique to a fine art in the second half of the 18th C. Please correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't believe that Burmese repoussed metalware was found to a great degree or of a high quality in the late 18th C.--those techniques and skills being learned and adopted from the Lao around that time.

I would like to have your thoughts on this as I have several repoussed silver scabbards on Lao and Burmese swords that appear quite similar.

Regards,

Ian.

Gavin Nugent 20th February 2017 11:51 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ian
Hi Gavin:

I want to press you a little further on the repoussed silver work on the scabbards of these swords. I understand that these scabbards were likely produced in Burma, either by Burmese craftsmen or imported metal smiths.

I think you would agree that it is unusual to find this segmented style of silver scabbard on Burmese dha, with the exception of these "story dha" that seem to have arisen around the mid-19th C. as commemorative items and perhaps for foreign consumption.

The arrangement of the scabbard elements into contiguous cells or segments is very similar to what has been found on Lao hilts and scabbards that pre-date this period and that appear to have evolved in the mid- to late-18th C. (from an earlier Lan Xang style). Some of the Lao silver work of that period was particularly fine, and they seem to have brought the repoussed metal technique to a fine art in the second half of the 18th C. Please correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't believe that Burmese repoussed metalware was found to a great degree or of a high quality in the late 18th C.--those techniques and skills being learned and adopted from the Lao around that time.

I would like to have your thoughts on this as I have several repoussed silver scabbards on Lao and Burmese swords that appear quite similar.

Regards,

Ian.


Hi Ian,

Segmented scabbards are very common on many types of Burmese Dah in plain and repousse styling and far less common on Laos and Thai swords which for 90+% are plain silver sheet with embellished ends...the other 10% or less that are of segmented scabbards are rarely seen and usually not repousse.

Hilts are a different story, for centuries, as you note, this aspect has been present on Thai and Laos swords...why did it not follow through to the scabbard in these countries in these times? On Royal swords it did, but not to my knowledge segmented types of scabbards but certainly repousse.
All others were suspended by baldrics could be one answer as why they weren't repousse scabbard as Royal swords had sword bearers. These Burmese swords are hung by suspension loops in a very European manner, not baldric or sash worn and can display such work.

If I understand correctly the swords you refer to, are mostly royal swords and none to my knowledge are interlocked in the manner of these "story" dah except the 1970s zodiac examples which are reputed to be based on swords held by the royal house...swords I've never seen.

Who genetically worked in these Burmese guilds I cannot say, but as a Burmese production under the British Raj and later Independent Burmese government, we are talking 150+ years here of craft here I see the people as Burmese and English. During the period of the manufacture of these prestigious swords and other fine export silver, there were clear lines/borders defined between the colonial powers of Britain and France...

Gavin

Ian 21st February 2017 11:30 PM

8 Attachment(s)
Quote:
Originally posted by Gavin Nugent:

Hi Ian,

Segmented scabbards are very common on many types of Burmese Dah in plain and repousse styling and far less common on Laos and Thai swords which for 90+% are plain silver sheet with embellished ends...the other 10% or less that are of segmented scabbards are rarely seen and usually not repousse.

Hilts are a different story, for centuries, as you note, this aspect has been present on Thai and Laos swords...why did it not follow through to the scabbard in these countries in these times? On Royal swords it did, but not to my knowledge segmented types of scabbards but certainly repousse.
All others were suspended by baldrics could be one answer as why they weren't repousse scabbard as Royal swords had sword bearers. These Burmese swords are hung by suspension loops in a very European manner, not baldric or sash worn and can display such work.

If I understand correctly the swords you refer to, are mostly royal swords and none to my knowledge are interlocked in the manner of these "story" dah except the 1970s zodiac examples which are reputed to be based on swords held by the royal house...swords I've never seen.

Who genetically worked in these Burmese guilds I cannot say, but as a Burmese production under the British Raj and later Independent Burmese government, we are talking 150+ years here of craft here I see the people as Burmese and English. During the period of the manufacture of these prestigious swords and other fine export silver, there were clear lines/borders defined between the colonial powers of Britain and France...

Gavin
Hi Gavin:

Hmmm. Perhaps we are talking about slightly different things.

In any case, I am posting here two swords that I think show the segmented Lao scabbards. The first also has a segmented hilt.

The first one I posted here about eight months ago when I picked it up online. Having cleaned the hilt and scabbard, the silver work has come up rather well to show some nice repousse work and an unadorned segment on the scabbard where the rope baldric would have been attached. In fact, there are still very faint impressions of the rope that once wound around it. Judging from the condition of the silver work, its style, and quality (good but not great) I would think it is from the 19th C. Incidentally, the blade that came with these fittings was a late 20th C. replacement and a piece of junk!

The second is a late 20th C. sword made by a Lao craftsman whose name I knew once but now cannot find in my records. There are at least three or four of these swords that he has made, maybe more. I purchased this one in the 1990s. The silver covered scabbard has a series of segments in which a different animal is depicted. The ivory hilt on this one is not segmented, but I like the "naked" ivory tusk and silver work. (Incidentally, Scott Rodell has a fine Cochin saber with a similar hilt that appears on his web site. I had the pleasure of handling this sword a few years ago at Timonium and it was beautifully balanced.)

I have another two or three examples similar to the first one, so I don't think that these segmented scabbards are necessarily "rare" on Lao swords, however I do believe they are a distinct style that the Lao developed.

When it comes to Burmese scabbards, I think we are probably talking about different things. To get a handle on your impressions, I went to your web site and looked through all your old pics. I found four Burmese dha with what I would call segmented scabbard decorations--these were all high end, presentation type swords. I excluded Shan and Yunnan decorated dha that might give the appearance of segmented patterns along the scabbard, but which have cut out areas where the wood shows through--clearly a different style from the Lao segmented scabbards.

The numbers of Thai and Lao daab on your site were too numerous to count, but a quick inspection showed few, if any, with the segmented patterns that I show below. A substantial fraction had no scabbard.

It seems that the segmented pattern of which I am talking is not common, on either Burmese or Thai/Lao swords. I know there are others here who collect dha/daab and perhaps they could share some of their examples.

Ian.

Gavin Nugent 22nd February 2017 05:30 AM

Hi Ian,

The 1970's craftsman name that eludes you is Thit Thong Ratanakorn.
I personally feel that the sword you suspect is 19th century silver dress is more likely of the period of the Thit Thong Ratanakorn sword.

Of the Thit Thong Ratanakorn swords, I must have seen 30+ of the type now...I've even seen them in sets of three with sizes relating to the Katana, Waka and Tanto...all the same style with ivory hilts.

The segmented scabbard types are certainly uncommon as a whole, but also rather common when they all start getting documented. You did well to pick through my unorganised sold stock link...you'll see another 3 fine examples in my latest swap forum post, a fellow collector that I've been put in touch with also has two similar, here is another rare short example from these pages; http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showp...206&postcount=1
There is the Vittorio Emanuele the 2nd gem encrusted Burmese dah with segmented scabbard, non repousse but gem encrusted at the joins, a sword akin to those pictured in the hands of the body guards of Shan Princes in this article here; http://www.vam.ac.uk/blog/research-...ina-and-the-tai
Other Burmese types have passed through my hands and numerous others seen online over the years..
Comparatively, I know of the Thit Thong Ratanakorn which are often flogged off as 19th century are auctions and dealers...so I guess, when you include this Laos revival of the 70's, it is more a 50/50 spread and not all that uncommon on either side of the border.
There is a non repousse silver three segment scabbard in a well know Thai Silverware book.

I personally feel that these Laos swords were inspired by the Burmese repousse dah of the Raj and later independent Burma.

Gavin

Ian 22nd February 2017 03:18 PM

Hi Gavin:

Well, I guess we have two different theories about this style.

I am confident that the first example in my last post here is not from the 1970s. Its condition and the amount of oxidation on the silver compare to provenanced examples of Shan knives from the 19th C.--those very familiar knives with silver hilts and scabbards. Just as you must have, I've handled scores of these over the years and older examples show similar wear and oxidation to the Lao example I show above.

But back to our two theories. If I'm stating you correctly, you believe that the Burmese developed the distinctive repoussed, segmented style of scabbard as a highly decorative and prestigious form, almost entirely for distinguished individuals and presentation pieces. You would date this development to the appearance of the British in Burma, and specifically around the mid-19th C. Therefore, the appearance of these features on Lao/northern Thai swords would have been in imitation of the Burmese style.

My competing idea is that this style evolved from an earlier Lan Chang (i.e. Lao) style following the collapse of the Lan Chang era in the early 18th C. This would place it primarily as a Lao style, with perhaps later diffusion to Burma. [There are, of course, other explanations such as independent parallel development of the two, which seems unlikely, or that both developed from a (presently unknown) prior style.]

In support of your view, you point to the large number of Thai/Lao swords you have seen and handled (and there are many on your site), and how rare it is to see segmented scabbards on these. That's a powerful argument, but not exactly a systematic attempt to answer the question of whether these segmented forms developed from an earlier Lan Chang style. Indeed, to disprove your Burmese origin theory it would only be necessary to find one or two Lao/Thai examples that predate the mid-19th C.

I have provided pictures of what I think is a 19th C. Lao example. You question that dating. Fair enough.

As with so many competing theories in our field, we need to have clearly provenanced pieces. These are likely to be found in museums of far away places which I seldom get to these days. Or they might be located in some of the former colonial countries. Or they may reside in the hands of some of our readers who will post them here.

Let's see if anything shows up.

Ian.

Gavin Nugent 22nd February 2017 09:16 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ian
I am confident that the first example in my last post here is not from the 1970s. Its condition and the amount of oxidation on the silver compare to provenanced examples of Shan knives from the 19th C.--those very familiar knives with silver hilts and scabbards. Just as you must have, I've handled scores of these over the years and older examples show similar wear and oxidation to the Lao example I show above.


Hi Ian,

A point worth noting about the oxidisation from my experience is that degrees of colour and patina is based on impurities in the silvers used.
I've found it in both 18th and 20th century silver, some with native hallmarks.
I am sure it is not limited to, but the higher quality silvers have patinated to blues and purples, whilst others from both ends of the age window have been blackish, brown copperish and even hints of gold in places where some form of flux has been used.
With regards to the hallmarks, I'd guess it is like any other known form of noting that tax has been paid on the silver sheets used. Again, I am sure it is not limited to, but those of an appearance you wouldn't consider silver until polished, I'd expect them at face value to be from more provincial areas where regulations and taxes were less exacting.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ian
But back to our two theories. If I'm stating you correctly, you believe that the Burmese developed the distinctive repoussed, segmented style of scabbard as a highly decorative and prestigious form, almost entirely for distinguished individuals and presentation pieces. You would date this development to the appearance of the British in Burma, and specifically around the mid-19th C. Therefore, the appearance of these features on Lao/northern Thai swords would have been in imitation of the Burmese style.


Not quite; I do not believe The Lao/Thai swords are an imitation of at all. If anything, and only as a matter of thought, not fact, that the Burmese "Story" Dah developed in its own right from inspiration of the repousse silver hilts swords of Thai/Lao swords. I am sceptical about the sectional repousse scabbards of Laos being any older that the 1950-70s. Has anyone an image of these reputed royal Laos swords from which Thit Thong Ratanakorn copied his swords from?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ian
My competing idea is that this style evolved from an earlier Lan Chang (i.e. Lao) style following the collapse of the Lan Chang era in the early 18th C. This would place it primarily as a Lao style, with perhaps later diffusion to Burma. [There are, of course, other explanations such as independent parallel development of the two, which seems unlikely, or that both developed from a (presently unknown) prior style.]

In support of your view, you point to the large number of Thai/Lao swords you have seen and handled (and there are many on your site), and how rare it is to see segmented scabbards on these. That's a powerful argument, but not exactly a systematic attempt to answer the question of whether these segmented forms developed from an earlier Lan Chang style. Indeed, to disprove your Burmese origin theory it would only be necessary to find one or two Lao/Thai examples that predate the mid-19th C.

I have provided pictures of what I think is a 19th C. Lao example. You question that dating. Fair enough.

As with so many competing theories in our field, we need to have clearly provenanced pieces. These are likely to be found in museums of far away places which I seldom get to these days. Or they might be located in some of the former colonial countries. Or they may reside in the hands of some of our readers who will post them here.

Let's see if anything shows up.

Ian.


Gavin

Ian 23rd February 2017 04:47 PM

Pictures from Oriental Arms site (Part 1)
 
12 Attachment(s)
Hi Gavin:

Thanks again for your thoughts and experience with these swords. Very helpful.

In pursuing my research further, I looked at another online source of some size, namely Artzi Yarom's archives on his Oriental Arms web site. Artzi presently lists some 600 swords he has sold in his Indo-China/China/Tibet grouping. Within his swords I found three (one Burmese, two Thai/Lao) that are of the segmented scabbard type we are describing here and which were not simply plain silver panels on the scabbard (another two Thai/Lao examples had the plain silver panels).

Attached I have copied the pictures from Artzi's site. I did not count the total number of dha/daab on his site, but a fair estimate might be that one in four or one in five of the items (i.e., 120-150) shown were dha/daab; of these about two-thirds had scabbards. An estimate of the sample size from which these segmented scabbard swords was drawn is thus roughly a hundred in total. That gives us an overall prevalence for segmented scabbards of around 3% based on Artzi's collected experience over the last however many years he has been maintaining his site (about 15-20 years I think). I would call that rate of 3% "uncommon" but not "rare."

When looking at the examples he has on record, I found the two Thai/Lao swords with segmented scabbards appeared to have some age. One has no lotus bud pommel, and the other has a larger, more flamboyant type similar to what is seen on some of the Burmese presentation dha that you referenced. The third example, a Burmese "Story Dha," has a lotus pommel also, which is not particularly large.

The final example from Artzi's site is one of the Thai/Lao swords with an undecorated segmented scabbard. Here the equal lengths of panels is apparent, but there is no engraving or repoussed work on the silver. This might reflect an earlier form of the style, but I have no evidence to support that view.

Would appreciate your thoughts.

Ian.

----------------Attachments-----------------

Thai/Lao daab with segmented scabbard.

Thai/Lao daab with segmented scabbard. Hilt has a large lotus bud pommel.

Burmese "story dha" with segmented scabbard. Hilt has a lotus pommel.

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