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Old 25th September 2018, 08:49 AM   #1
eftihis
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Default Chinese flat knife

I was wondering what this (chinese i think) knife was made for! It looks quite old from the rust on the blade. Was it made to be hidden in a boot? Is it a ceremonial knife that was attached to something else? DO you have an idea?
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Old 25th September 2018, 09:09 AM   #2
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This is one of two matching knives meant to slide together into a single opening in a sheath, appearing as one. There are many variations of this type of Chinese double knife. Their use was for fighting. Thatís about all I can say from these pictures. The hilt is attractive and may offer some more clues. Thanks for sharing!

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Old 25th September 2018, 02:50 PM   #3
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Yes, a nice example of a double knife sadly missing its mate. The blade is in dire need of cleaning. Don't clean it too much, but take off the red rust to stabilize it.

Knives with similar guards and heavy blades are called "Chinese Bowie knives" or "Hong knives" by American collectors. They seem to all date from the late 19th or early 20th c. This looks like it might be on the earlier side of the range.
They got a reputation during San Francisco's "Hong wars".

Yours appears to be both finer and lacking the heavy faceted pommel of most examples.
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Old 18th October 2018, 02:52 PM   #4
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To me it looks like ones in the study of the house,might have similar use as desk knives(though I have to admit that I don't really know what you could do with a desk knife,except cutting paper).
Certainly there are other possibilities like souvenir/handcrafted just for trade,concealable dagger or anything.I just don't think this one is for any ceremonial use,or at least a rather rarely one.
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Old 19th October 2018, 02:35 AM   #5
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This was a one of a set of double fighting knives. Not for cutting paper.
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Old 20th October 2018, 07:58 AM   #6
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The piece could also be Vietnamese; in that country knives and sabers were often hilted without an expanded metal pommel as was typical in China. The decoration is also typical of Vietnam as well as south China. I find the handle attachment to be a bit different than the usual Chinese treatment of these, which in my experience tends to feature a one-piece wooden or horn grip, half-round, with the tang entirely enclosed and peened on the butt end (invariably featuring a metal cap or knob) as in the case of a single knife. The result in many old pieces which have seen a lot of use is that the material on the flat side, being thin, has a tendency to crack. The riveted attachment seen here is a much simpler method, and quite durable.
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Old 23rd October 2018, 06:53 PM   #7
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Interesting thought on the Vietnamese origin. I have not seen examples, so it is a good tidbit.

Village made double knives/swords frequently show solid riveted construction, while I have seen what you are describing, thin horn on the flat side of a double weapon, frequently on the so called "wedding jian". These short shuang jian with "double happiness" motifs and lots of bats are some of the more common double weapons, but are not as solidly made as village double jian. Village weapons almost always use the more solid riveted approach.

Nice to see a well carved example of a knife with the more solid construction form.
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Old 23rd October 2018, 11:10 PM   #8
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Default wedding jian

Quote:
Originally Posted by josh stout
Interesting thought on the Vietnamese origin. I have not seen examples, so it is a good tidbit.

Village made double knives/swords frequently show solid riveted construction, while I have seen what you are describing, thin horn on the flat side of a double weapon, frequently on the so called "wedding jian". These short shuang jian with "double happiness" motifs and lots of bats are some of the more common double weapons, but are not as solidly made as village double jian. Village weapons almost always use the more solid riveted approach.

.


Are you talking about the short-bladed things with tortoise shell veneered scabbard and ribbed wood grips? They are quite common on the collector market as you probably have noticed. I haven't heard them referred as wedding jian before. Didn't even know the Chinese had swords at weddings (I associate that with India and Burma) although hanging a small sword (or a facsimile of copper coins strung on an iron rod, or in the case of the Manchus a mini saber) over a baby's crib was traditional in China. Is the wedding sword thing a regional custom? Have you located any pics of these in an actual ceremony? Looking forward to learning more about the custom.
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Old 24th October 2018, 04:50 AM   #9
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Sorry, it was just something a Chinese collector friend told me. I showed him a set of short shuang jian, just as you are describing with the tortoise shell. I had thought it a particularly interesting set because its provenance was a Chinese family in Sumatra, and I liked it as an example of cultural migration. He mentioned that they were frequently given as wedding presents because the double sword was good luck for the marriage.

Unfortunately the story is apocryphal, but it does seem plausible. As a counter argument, my Chinese Indonesian friends do not think a knife as a gift is good luck. They would be uncomfortable with any sort of sword as a wedding present.
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Old 24th October 2018, 11:05 AM   #10
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Interesting anecdote on the double swords. The idea they may be presents for certain occasions would help explain why there are so many of them, often with blades that wouldn't be serviceable. There is also a belief in some parts of China that hanging a bow in the house increases the chance of a boy. That part seems to be true, I have about 20 composite bows in the house and we are indeed expecting a boy.

As for this knife, I agree it's probably Vietnamese.

Not only the plum decor on the handle is very Vietnamese, but also the guard with grooved edges is a feature more often encountered on Vietnamese arms.

See "L'Art a Hue" for an excellent overview of typical Vietnamese decorative motifs. Many are strongly inspired by Chinese designs, but all have this Vietnamese twist as observed on the decor of this knife.

A digital version of the book can be found here:

https://archive.org/details/larthunouvelle00asso
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Old 27th October 2018, 03:03 AM   #11
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Wink knives in traditional society

Quote:
Originally Posted by josh stout


Unfortunately the story is apocryphal, but it does seem plausible. As a counter argument, my Chinese Indonesian friends do not think a knife as a gift is good luck. They would be uncomfortable with any sort of sword as a wedding present.


Knives have traditionally not been considered appropriate presents in most Western cultures, either. This is something that I of course heartily disagree with! However, the superstition is tempered by the fact that you CAN give something sharp as a present, it's just that the recipient should hand you a penny or something to make it look like a sale, so the friendship or family tie wouldn't be "cut".

Note that most non-nomadic Eastern cultures did not use knives at the dining-table, at least until the introduction of European customs.

And interestingly enough, the ancient Romans had an aversion not only to dining with knives, but to wearing ANY metal objects like rings or bracelets during meals. Meals were served in bite-sized pieces, diners used fingers and long handled spoons with pointed butt ends (to poke out things like snails or marrow, but not the eyes of fellow diners of course). The Romans of course loved to bring whole roast fowls or boars on platters into the dining-hall, but servants and slaves would cut them into bite size on serving-tables before passing platters around to the guests. Come to think of, the classical dining posture for upper-class Roman citizens was semi-reclining on a couch or triclinium; having to cut food on a plate would be extremely inconvenient since the dish was not resting on a table, but rather on the couch or in the diner's hand and he was generally supporting his upper body on one elbow. But even for commoners, who typically sat on benches or stools, a spoon was usually the only eating implement in use.
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