Originally Posted by Timo Nieminen
Looks authentic to me. These are fairly common, as far as antique jian go. These are usually late 19th century, and the ones in the West usually went there as tourist souvenirs.
They vary enormously in quality, with some having superb sanmei blades, and others having - judging by really deep nicks in them, probably from children or adult children playing with them - unhardened blades. Ones with angular tips rather than rounded tips are more likely to have low quality blades.
Mine are in the attached photo. From left to right: 385g and sanmei, 310g with re-made scabbard, 435g with plain mounts, 365g and looking very tourist-souvenir, both sword and scabbard.
By and large, these wee indeed decorative, mostly made for the curio trade. But once in awhile you get a rather nice much older blade in these rather late fittings (the style of the FITTINGS can be dated as early as the late 18th cent. from a provenanced example in the Skokloster, Stockholm.) But most examples seen on the market are more likely mid-19th, into early 20th. If you do find an older blade, it could date from the 18th or even a couple centuries earlier. As with Indian swords, the practice of remounting older blades in current style was fairly widespread in China.
It is likely that much older blades fitted-up in this style of mounts (which appear to have been widely produced) may have had a talismanic purpose, as it was the custom to hang a jian
over a baby's cradle as spiritual protection (the Manchus preferred a small saber with a money-pouch for the purpose). Families which had no sword or couldn't afford one typically used a faux jian
made from copper coins attached to an iron rod.