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Old 9th January 2020, 07:50 PM   #1
francantolin
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Default long chinese dadao execution ''sword'' ?

Hello everybody ( And Happy New Year 2020 !!!)

I picked up this long and large sword-polearm in France in a flea market
more than 110cm long half for the blade, half for the handle.
really sharp blade, the back side of the blade is almost 1cm thick...

( not easy to walk with in the street even wrapped with plastic bags.. )

Do you think this model is chinese ? ( maybe vietnamese ? ( guard type ?)

I still havent clean the blade, it seems laminated steel.

Do you think that the band-rope is a later replacement ?
It's not really well made so
I hesitate to take it off and change it...

I wonder why the handle is so long: too long for a sword,
short for a polearm...
an usual shape ?

What do you think ?

Thank you
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Old 9th January 2020, 08:50 PM   #2
David R
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It looks like a classic Chinese long sword. I cannot bring the correct name to mind at the moment, but I think it was called something like a "Horse Sword", midway between a pole-arm and a sword and theoretically for bringing down cavalry.
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Old 9th January 2020, 08:58 PM   #3
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Hello,

Thank you David,
I'll look for that !

Do you think it's from the 20th century or earlier ?
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Old 9th January 2020, 10:44 PM   #4
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I think that this item can be a trophy of the Franco-Chinese War of 1884-85. Then the French troops captured many of these weapons. The ornament, consisting of small circles with a dot in the center, is characteristic of peoples living in northern Vietnam near the border with China.
Could this item become an instrument of execution? Yes, he could. But this is definitely not its main purpose.

Here is a very good comparison of similar items of the Vietnamese and Chinese types. https://www.mandarinmansion.com/art...vietnamese-arms
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Old 10th January 2020, 11:13 AM   #5
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Hello,

Thank you !!
I saw vietnamese swords with these guards shape so I wondered about vietnamese origin...

What do you think about the wraps-ropes,
I hesitate to take it off and make a ''new old'' one with rattan ?

David,for the name of this kind of sword, did you think about a Zhanmadao ''horse chopping ''sword ?

Kind regards
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Old 10th January 2020, 10:09 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by francantolin
Hello,

Thank you !!
I saw vietnamese swords with these guards shape so I wondered about vietnamese origin...

What do you think about the wraps-ropes,
I hesitate to take it off and make a ''new old'' one with rattan ?

David,for the name of this kind of sword, did you think about a Zhanmadao ''horse chopping ''sword ?

Kind regards


Exactly the name I was trying to remember.
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Old 11th January 2020, 05:37 AM   #7
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Default quite likely Vietnamese

I agree with Ren Ren's assessment of the guard deco. The Vietnamese name for this weapon is dao truong.

While it could have been used as a headsman's implement, falchions of this type were not universally used for the purpose. Images of 19th cent. executions in Vietnam which I have seen in publications tend to show a saber with a narrower, tapering blade more similar to the standard Chinese military liiuyedao or "willow leaf saber". The generic Vietnamese term for weapons with these narrower curving blades is guom.

The handle wrapping on this one looks like a much later or even relatively recent replacement, from its weave and the way it's applied. Many dao truong have grips wound in rattan, which distinguishes them from the flat braided fabric type of cord favored in China.
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Old 11th January 2020, 08:31 AM   #8
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My Viet Truong Dao for comparison.Mine is quite well balanced and feels light and nimble, 85cm. overall, 55cm. blade, grip is wound with a twisted fibrous green cord. I've been told the viet ones frequently have engraved decorations like mine.
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Old 11th January 2020, 03:33 PM   #9
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Default Engraved blade deco

Quote:
Originally Posted by kronckew
My Viet Truong Dao for comparison.Mine is quite well balanced and feels light and nimble, 85cm. overall, 55cm. blade, grip is wound with a twisted fibrous green cord. I've been told the viet ones frequently have engraved decorations like mine.


Vietnamese blades are often distinguishable from Chinese ones by the simplistic vegetal scrollwork engraved on them. The motif is inspired by the inlaid floral mother of pearl inlays on the hardwood scabbards. Oof military and civil officials swords. Chinese falchion blades are mostly devoid of designs of marks except for military unit marks or slogans
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Old 12th January 2020, 10:52 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Philip
Vietnamese blades are often distinguishable from Chinese ones by the simplistic vegetal scrollwork engraved on them. The motif is inspired by the inlaid floral mother of pearl inlays on the hardwood scabbards.

I agree that the motif of the climbing plant shoots is a very distinctive mark of the blades of the Vietnamese people.
This symbol has a rather complex origin. For the Chinese, the wavy lines mean mystical power flowing along the blade, they often come from magical Taoist objects. For the Vietnamese, the tenacious young shoots of climbing plants, such as creepers, grapes, and pumpkins, reaching for sunlight, symbolize the "struggle for a place in the sun." Four-petalled creeper flowers and pumpkin fruits filled with numerous seeds in folklore are associated with the origin of some peoples of Vietnam. Therefore, we can see images of shoots of climbing plants, creeper flowers, grape and pumpkin fruits and on the scabbards of ceremonial sabers of Vietnamese officials and on the most simple and modest blades.
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Old 18th January 2020, 10:23 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Philip
Images of 19th cent. executions in Vietnam which I have seen in publications tend to show a saber with a narrower, tapering blade more similar to the standard Chinese military liiuyedao or "willow leaf saber". The generic Vietnamese term for weapons with these narrower curving blades is guom.

One of the most famous paintings on this subject.
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Old 19th January 2020, 06:28 AM   #12
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There were many such events in Vietnam during the first half of the 19th cent., during which many European missionaries and native converts were executed. The early rulers of the Nguyen Dynasty, which reigned until 1945, were hostile to Catholicism, especially the emperor Minh Mang. The persecutions were an echo of those which occurred in Japan two centuries before. However, times had changed and Europe was feeling a renewed lust for colonial expansion with the growth of industry and commerce. Since most of the martyrs of Vietnam were French clergy, France responded aggressively in a way that that Portugal did not in the case of the Nagasaki slaughter. French military incursions led to the colonization of indochina a few years after the event recorded in the above painting.

Also of interest are the conical cane hats which are part of the soldiers' uniforms in the picture. This traditional headgear was retained for most Vietnamese troops recruited by the French into the Linh Tap or colonial army. This force was renowned for its sharpshooters, especially the unit designated the Tirailleurs Annamites, which sent detachments to fight on the Eastern Front during World War I. Although French colonial rule in SE Asia ended by 1954, military units manned by troops of Vietnamese descent continued to serve France through the Algerian campaign lasting for a decade later.
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Old 19th January 2020, 07:51 PM   #13
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Emperor Minh Mạng received from his father Gia Long a peaceful and prosperous country. But over the years of his reign, he did a lot to turn Vietnam into a European colony. In 1860-80, the Japanese government was afraid of turning their country into a colony of European states and specially sent government agents to Vietnam to study the methods of colonial penetration and the errors in state administration that contribute to it. Now the information gathered by Japanese agents is of great value for studying the Vietnamese state system of that historical period.
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Old 19th January 2020, 10:47 PM   #14
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Vietnam's situation was complicated by the fact that the Nguyen Dynasty came to power after a period of internal conflict, with considerable assistance in the form of arms and military expertise provided by France. Maybe you've visited the great Citadelle at Hué, built during Gia Long's time, which contains the Purple Forbidden City -- a superb example of Vaubanesque miitary architecture in Asia. The cannons cast in Vietnamese foundries under French guidance are also magnificent things -- well crafted in the latest French patterns.

You can also note Vietnamese and European interaction with European powers in the field of military technology during the two centuries prior -- purchases of cannon from the VOC, Portuguese cannon-founders working in Annam and also the introduction of snap matchlocks to the area by Portuguese even even before that technology reached Japan.

As re the influence of Catholicism and resistance against it, that parallels a broader theme in parts of Asia other than Vietnam and Japan. China, Korea, India, and the Himalayan kingdoms also experienced this in varying degrees. The anti-Christian sentiment on the part of Confucian states is understandable, considering the early opposition to Buddhism by some Tang Dynasty rulers (Han Yu's essay "Memorial on the Bone of Buddha" is a charming rant by a Chinese medieval nativist scholar).

Whatever one's personal opinions are concerning Christian missionary work in a non-European context, we should remember that France's effort to Catholicize Indochina was not necessarily a bad thing in toto, when you consider the work of Fr Alexandre de Rhodes, a gifted Jesuit scholar who gave us the system of writing the Viet language which is in use today. Using the Roman alphabet (minus a few unneccessary letters) and incorporating diacritical symbols to accommodate the language's complex tonal structure, it is a model of efficiency. It put an end to centuries of less-than-adequate results in trying to fit the Sanskrit alphabet and Chinese ideographs to Vietnamese parameters. This 17th cent. creation ranks along with Korea's development of the han'gul alphabetic system, and the romanization of Turkish under Kemal Atatürk, as monumental strides in boosting literacy rates via rationally-conceived writing systems developed specifically for specific languages.

I was told by someone in Vietnam that in his country, the only city streets named after foreigners are those in honor of de Rhodes, and of Louis Pasteur. Good choice!!
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Old 20th January 2020, 12:20 PM   #15
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What a fountainhead of knowledge, Filipe !
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Old 20th January 2020, 01:21 PM   #16
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In truth so!
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Old 20th January 2020, 05:37 PM   #17
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Agreed, a north Vietnamese trường đao (長刀).

Typical Vietnamese features are the very dramatic widening in width combined with the concave clipped tip. Also the small guard and its decoration point towards northern Vietnam.

The wrap is indeed fairly recent. Apart from the type of cord, it is also the way the cord is wrapped at the pommel that looks like: "I don't know what to do here".

It looks like the hollow part of the guard is directed towards the pommel. Is this the case, or is it massive and just this thick?

As for the executioner's attribution, there are some photos made around 1900 that do show these in the hands of Vietnamese headsmen.

EDIT: I had originally attached pictures of three headsmen with such swords, but someone complained that his grandson was also browsing the forum and kids don't need to see it. I respect that.

But I believe that like in China, there was a degree of freedom as to what weapon would be used for this purpose. You also see Chinese executions performed with the dadao, even though it was not the weapon's main reason for existence either.

Some of these come in pairs with a smaller and a larger one, and I have also seen them with damage from other blades that indicate they were fighting weapons that sometimes were also used for executions.

Ren Ren: Fascinating info about the Vietnamese creepers! I quite like the work, especially in mother-of-pearl, but had not been aware of their significance.

Last edited by Peter Dekker : 21st January 2020 at 05:31 PM.
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Old 20th January 2020, 11:45 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Peter Dekker
Ren Ren: Fascinating info about the Vietnamese creepers! I quite like the work, especially in mother-of-pearl, but had not been aware of their significance.

Thanks Peter! There is another symbol characteristic only for Vietnam - sword and bunch of books. Rarely, but it occurs as an inlay on the scabbard of ceremonial swords. This is a sign of a patriotic scientist.
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Old 21st January 2020, 11:14 AM   #19
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Ha, wonderful! I had seen the motif before but had not been able to find its meaning. Do you have a good reference on Vietnamese symbology?

Nice piece that ceremonial pole arm. The jian is purely Ming, with that open pommel. Quite nice how Vietnam retained earlier Chinese design features that fell out of use in China.
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Old 22nd January 2020, 12:33 AM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Peter Dekker
Ha, wonderful! I had seen the motif before but had not been able to find its meaning. Do you have a good reference on Vietnamese symbology?

In Russian there is a good book "The Magic World of Patterns. Encyclopedia of Ornamental Motifs of Southeast Asia" (edition of the State Museum of Oriental Art) and an excellent article by the famous ethnographer Y. V. Chesnov "The myth of the sword and the beginning of statehood in East Indochina." About the symbolism of creepers, pumpkin and grapes shoots , I took from there. My friend Vladimir Vetyukov (Ph.D., his dissertation is devoted to the Vietnamese military of the Late Lê era) told me about the symbol of the sword and a bunch of books.
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Old 22nd January 2020, 08:10 AM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ren Ren
the symbol of the sword and a bunch of books.


Yes

The Eight Precious Things often occur as decorative motives and sometimes individually as Chinese porcelain base marks. They are from top left; the Jewel or "pearl", the Cash coin, the Open Lozenge, the Pair of Books, the Solid Lozenge, the Musical Stone, the Pair of Horns and the Artemisia Leaf.


pair of books
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Old 22nd January 2020, 10:19 PM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kubur
Yes

The Eight Precious Things often occur as decorative motives and sometimes individually as Chinese porcelain base marks. They are from top left; the Jewel or "pearl", the Cash coin, the Open Lozenge, the Pair of Books, the Solid Lozenge, the Musical Stone, the Pair of Horns and the Artemisia Leaf.
pair of books
This is a very interesting and rare version of the "Eight treasures" ornament (in Chinese 八寶 Ba bao). I think it was popular in the Ming era.
In part, it coincides with the Buddhist ornament "Eight treasures of the perfect king Chakravartin".
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Old 23rd January 2020, 10:42 AM   #23
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Hi,

Interesting set indeed. There are many sets of eight precious symbols in use, they seem to have standardized more towards the end of the Qing. The "Eight Buddhist Treasures" at least in Chinese art were somewhat more rigid in composition.
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