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Old 2nd August 2010, 04:48 AM   #1
A. G. Maisey
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Default The Sendai Keris

Hasekura Tsunenaga was a Japanese samurai and diplomat who was born in 1571 and died in 1622.

He undertook diplomatic missions to the Americas, Europe, and the Philippine Islands.

He returned from his mission the the Philippines in 1620, and amongst the things he brought with him was a keris from the Indies, that is, Indonesia.

That keris can now be found in the Sendai City Museum in Japan.

Here is a picture of the keris brought to Japan in 1620 by Hasekura Tsunenaga.
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Old 2nd August 2010, 11:54 AM   #2
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That's interesting. Too bad we don't have some better images.
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Old 2nd August 2010, 12:38 PM   #3
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Here two interesting links, which are an absolute must:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Date_Masamune - about the famous daimyo of Sendai, one of the Japans christian daimyos, who sent this ambassy;

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hasekura_Tsunenaga

About Sendai Keris: it isn't clear, where exactly it was obtained. There are also a hypothesis, it was given to Tsunenaga in Spain (by Spanish king) or in Rome (by pope). Philppines is just another hypothesis.

Clear is, that such a weapon must be given by a very high rang person as a status symbol.

The most interesting thing, besides the keris himself (a magnificient keris with perfect details and early stile kinatah, also a figural hilt) is the sheath, where on atasan a symbol, which seems to be a christian one, is depicted, together with alas-alasan motifs on the gandar.

Somewhat better pictures are to be find in Jensen's Krisdisk.
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Old 2nd August 2010, 01:51 PM   #4
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Maybe this photo will help.

ADDED: Actually, nw that i look more closely, this is the same photo which Alan cropped just to show the keris....but at least it is a bit larger.
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Old 2nd August 2010, 03:15 PM   #5
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It is interesting to note that this same mission apparantly acquired one of the earliest provenanced examples of the kastane (in the familiar sinha hilt with makaras) of which I am aware. This early example kastane is also on display in the Sendai Museum, perhaps part of the same exhibit, with this material in "The Unique Kastane Sword in Japan" by Dr. P.H.D.H. DeSilva in an article from Nov. 15,1998 listed as in the "Sunday Observer". It notes that Tsunenaga was a vassal of the Daimyo of Sendai and left on the Keicho Mission in 1613, returning in 1620, noting visits to Mexico, Madrid and Rome.

As noted, details of provenance of this, as with the keris, seem a bit vague, and acquiring these suggest visits to these places but apparantly remain unclear.
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Old 2nd August 2010, 10:16 PM   #6
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post deleted

to be continued
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Old 2nd August 2010, 10:31 PM   #7
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Very interesting thing is, the blade of this most early Kastane seems to be an imported one, there should be an european monogram on it.
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Old 2nd August 2010, 10:42 PM   #8
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Please accept my apologies for posting such inadequate images.

I find that I am unable to understand almost anything about a keris unless it is in a vertical orientation, rather than a horizontal orientation, in fact when I want to really look at a keris I download the image and change the orientation to that shown in this post.

Hopefully these images will be a little more useful.
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Old 3rd August 2010, 02:02 PM   #9
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The hilt looks most interesting! I've seen something similar of recent manufacture, and I dismissed it as a newish design. According to the dealer, the hilt came from north coast of Java.
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Old 3rd August 2010, 08:07 PM   #10
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The hilt is much more finer as it seems on the pictures.
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Old 15th February 2011, 06:06 PM   #11
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Time to bump a worthy thread. Can anyone say anything about the sheath?





J

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Old 15th February 2011, 10:02 PM   #12
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Well, this really deserves more attention, yet there is a problem with adequate online pictures, with available material a discussion here seems to be impossible. Slightly better pictures of sheath and blade, good pictures of hilt and description are to be find in Jensen's Krisdisk, chapter 7 (Bali), pages 31-33.
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Old 16th February 2011, 09:05 PM   #13
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PERHAPS THE DESIGN ON THE SCABBARD IS ONE OF THE BATIK DESIGNS. THESE DESIGNS IN BATIK AND PUA AND OTHER FABRICS HAVE A LOT OF DIFFERENT MEANINGS JUST AS PARMOR DOES. I WONDER IF THE HANDLE IS CARVED TO REPRESENT A JAPANESE GOD FIGURE PERHAPS QUAN YIN. THAT WOULD BE APPROPRIATE FOR A GIFT TO THE JAPANESE RULER. IT NO DOUBT WAS MADE ESPECIALLY FOR THAT PURPOSE UNLESS IT WAS AN OLD ONE AT THE TIME .I SUSPECT IT WAS SPECIALLY MADE FOR THE PRESENTATION AS AT THE TIME GIVING SOMEONE SOMETHING OLD WAS OFTEN LOOKED ON UNFAVORABLY. THE ANTIQUE IDEA WAS NOT YET BORN AND OLD STUFF CONSIDERED LESS VALUABLE. JUST CONJUCTURE AS USUAL
I ESPECIALLY LIKE THIS FORM OF BLADE AND ONE OF MY FAVORITE PHILIPPINE OR MALAY KRIS HAS THIS FORM OF BLADE. IT IS A KRIS AND LARGE SO DOSEN'T FIT INTO THIS KERIS FORUM OR I WOULD DO A POST , THERE IS ONE IN THE OLD ARCHIVES ON IT. UNFORTUNATELY NO ONE COULD PIN IT DOWN.
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Old 16th February 2011, 09:59 PM   #14
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Would love to have had even bigger pictures to tell if the scabbard has gold on it for sure and what quality of work. Same for the rest of the piece, especially since it is rare to have such an old piece like this with documented provenance going back that far.

Still thanks for posting this Alan.

Also I wonder if this was indicative of the size of blade back then, getting smaller in Indonesia as time progressed and larger in the Philippines.....
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Old 16th February 2011, 10:37 PM   #15
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The sheath is painted. There exist three or four such old sheaths with painted alas-alasan motifs. Painting is done very spontaneously, the depicted animals are well characterized.
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Old 17th February 2011, 02:50 AM   #16
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Thank you - I now see it as gloss and not metal shine. Helpful.
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Old 17th February 2011, 08:30 AM   #17
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Jose, these white stains are places, where ground coat is visible.

The sheath is made from one piece of wood, gandar iras, like all sheaths, which can be traced back to the first half of 17. cent. Gambar is unfortunately broken (the wright side).
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Old 17th February 2011, 10:05 AM   #18
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Regarding hilt and selut, there probably are some mysterious things. For such high quality keris and sheath the match of hilt and selut is very bad. Selut is clearly to small for the hilt (which must be very huge, even compared to keris), this selut is the only one of this type I have seen with such an early provenance, and looks, how can I say it, modern designed compared to the rest.
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Old 17th February 2011, 01:19 PM   #19
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I am a little hesitant to enter this conversation when so little about the origin of this keris is know and the photos are so bad. Where do people believe this keris is originally from. From what i can see, to my eyes it looks a little Balinese. Certainly the hilt form, though a bit different from later styles, looks that way due to the type of selut and figurative hilt. Also what appeas to be two fullers reaching down most of the blade is a common feature on Bali blades. If indeed we are looking at a keris that has been unchanged since it's collection in the early 1600s i'm not sure that we can really say without a full understanding of the origins of this keris whether of not this is a proper ensemble or not.
And Barry, if it was collected in the Philippines it may well be something pick up in travel, not a formal royal presentation, because this clearly is not of the Philipinnes. Given that scenerio it would be unlikely that the hilt was made specially for the Japanese ruler. It may well have had some age at the time.
If the diplomat had made his way to Bali or Jawa to receive this then the story might be different. But i doubt that they would create a hilt depicting a Japanese deity for this. Certainly figurative hilts like this were being created in Bali at that time.
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Old 17th February 2011, 11:05 PM   #20
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In Tropenmuseum there is (much younger) Balinese keris of somewhat similar appearance (picture borrowed from Maurice). I suppose, such feature as this selut is not known in Java.

I think, we can accept hilt and selut as a bad fit, becouse selut is not covering bungkul.

It is clear, that gambar is being repainted with a symbol, which could be regarded as a christian one. With some certainity the repainting is done in the same style as alas-alasan on gandar, some colours are the same, some differ.

I am not sure if we can call this keris a pick up, becouse it is a really high quality keris and Hasekura Tsunenaga was a diplomat on official mission. After beeing in Spain and Rome he stayed for two years in Manila before returning to Japan. It is a speculation, nothing about this part of his voyage is known, yet I don't think he was staying in this town all the time, and his staying there before the fulfilment of his mission should have some reason.
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Old 18th February 2011, 12:13 AM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gustav
I am not sure if we can call this keris a pick up, becouse it is a really high quality keris and Hasekura Tsunenaga was a diplomat on official mission. After beeing in Spain and Rome he stayed for two years in Manila before returning to Japan. It is a speculation, nothing about this part of his voyage is known, yet I don't think he was staying in this town all the time, and his staying there before the fulfilment of his mission should have some reason.

Well Gustav, it certain does appear to be a keris of court quality, yet there does not seem to be any evidence that this diplomat met with members of the Balinese (or Javanese if this is of that origin) members of court. Perhaps not a "pick-up" as a tourist might gather, but also not a gift directly for it's point of origin as far as i can tell.
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Old 18th February 2011, 03:00 PM   #22
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Can someone also explain to be what the supposed Christian symbol is that appears on the sarong. I can not see any such thing in the photos presented.
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Old 18th February 2011, 08:52 PM   #23
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Well David, for the speculative oppinion, this keris has been presented to Hasekura Tsunenaga in Manila, there are points:

1) this is a high quality keris; such keris is not only a weapon, it is a status symbol;

2) he was not an ordinary man, he was a diplomat;

3) there is a symbol, which could be regarded as christian, and he, he's family and he's family servants in next generation were christians.

For speculative oppinion, he just obtained this keris, there are points:

1) we don't know about he's contacts with high ranked persons from Bali or Java;

2) the symbol could be painted on his request after obtaining keris in Manila.

You should consider, there is also a possibility, actually also a speculative oppinion, this keris was presented to Hasekura Tsunenaga in Madrid, where he met Philip III and become a christian, or in Rome by Pope, to demonstrate him the religios and political christian influence in South East Asia. You just should bear in mind, also the kastane has a marking on it, which could be regarded as christian.

Regarding the symbol, there is a red bleeding heart, pierced by two arrows, beeing hold by two white dows. I was also curios about this symbol and searched for it. I found a religious order, founded in France at the beginning of 17 cent., which has an emblem of bleeding heart, pierced with two arrows. It has not interested me anymore, so I forget the name of the founder and order. Important for me was, I have an evidence of such symbols in christian emblematic of this time.

The most interesting - abowe the heart there are two eyes with eyebrows, and style how they are painted is Javanese-Balinese.

As I wrote, the symbol appears to be done in the same region where the alas-alasan was done, yet there is no absolute certainity about it.

The ansver on some questions would probably give a chemical analysis of the colours, comparing the paint on Gandar and Gambar. Absolutely clear is, here in Keris Warung Kopi we will not come to any solvings of the many problems regarding this most interesting keris, when even some better quality depictions are problem.
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Old 18th February 2011, 11:37 PM   #24
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Thank you for describing the symbols Gustav as they are not visible on either weapon in these photos.
I believe you are missing my point about the acquisition of these blades. The common tale seems to be that he got them in Manila. Perhaps he did get them in Spain. It doesn't really matter. His travels do seem to be pretty well documented and it does not seem that he was ever in Bali of Jawa. My point here is that in all likelihood these were not presented to him by any royal Indonesian court. They seem to have come to him second-hand just as he in turn passed them on to Date Masamune upon his return to Sendai. That is not to say that they were not a gift from someone of power, just not gifted from the source. My initial reason behind bringing up this point was Barry's speculation on the hilt and whether or not it was made specifically for a gift to a man of another culture. My point was that this was probably an normal hilt for it's time, not a special commission. The Christian symbols may have been added anywhere at anytime i suppose. They may have been added by Hasekura Tsunenaga himself for all we know so that he would feel more comfortable with his "pagan" artifact. In any case, as you acknowledge, this is mostly pure speculation so i am unclear exactly what part of my writings you are taking issue with.
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Old 19th February 2011, 08:41 AM   #25
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David, what disturbed me was your statement in #19, this keris would well be something pick up in travel. I know, you wrote later, not pick up in the tourist sense.

I would stay away from forming an oppinion about this hilt from online pictures available.

Some time ago I thought, it would be exactly the opposite case - hilt would be done somewhere outside of Bali or Java, copying a Javanese/Balinese hilt. It would be just a guess of a totally uninformed person. Hilt, particulary face, shows signs of wear, which could somewhat change the appearance, and we have probably only a part of a % of figural hilts from the beginning of 17. cent. for comparing.

The hilt has some strange features on it, yet clearly is not depicting a Japanese budhist deity (correct Japanese name for Guanyin is Kannon). The figure has a hairdo called gelung centung, and sumping at the ears. Jensen wrotes, this would be the hilt type depicting Arjuna or Bhima (in this case Arjuna, becouse there is no moustache), yet in my eyes it differs from the Makassar/Gowa golden hilts and the other wooden figural hilt in Vienna both in details and proportions.

About repainting of Gambar, Wahyono Martowikrido, Former Head of the Department of Archaeology and History, Museum Nasional, has stated the oppinion in his article from 1997, painting was changed or repainted by the same craftsman who painted the rest. As I wrote, clear evidence would bring probably only chemical analysis.

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Old 19th February 2011, 02:27 PM   #26
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Again Gustav, i am not sure what your argument is with me. I have not at all put forth that the hilt depicts a buddhist deity. I have in fact argued exactly the opposite, that it is probably of Bali origin.
I am sorry if my passing remark that this keris was "picked up" in his travels was "disturbing" to you, but there is absolutely no documented evidence in the rather well documented stories of this man's incredible journey's that he ever stepped foot in Bali so i am making the assumption that this was not a formal gift from any Balinese court. It may have been a gift from a diplomat in Manila who had contact with the Balinese court, or it may have been a gift from a Spanish diplomat who had such contact, but right now i see nothing that puts Hasekura Tsunenaga in Bali and most writers seem to think he acquired this keris in Manila. Under what circumstances i am afraid none of us can say. Yes it is a keris of status, but there is nothing to say that it was presented to Hasekura Tsunenaga directly from it's source.
As for the painting i am uncertain how an expert would determine if the symbol painted on the sheath was done by the same hand that painted the sheath if it was done in the same era using similar materials. Even so there is always the possibility that the entire painting of the sheath was done outside of Bali. Who knows. It's hard for me to form any opinions on that from the images available.
Interestingly it seems that the two arrows in the painted design may have been incorporated into the design perhaps because they were a part of Hasekura Tsunenaga's own coat of arms.
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Old 19th February 2011, 03:58 PM   #27
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David, just the first two lines in my last post were adressed to you. I thought, the rest is speaking for itself for somebody, who follows this discussion with smallest interest and attention. I wrote it just becouse you mentioned in the post before the initial reason: Barry's speculation on the hilt. This was what I could say about it.

There is a clear connection with the coat of arms of Hasekura Tsunenaga for sure. Yet in he's coat of arms the arrows are pointed upwards, otherwise, when pierced through heart (in christian symbolism), downwards. Actually this is the symbol of Teresa of Avila, who was exaltated to patroness of Spain at 1617 (Hasekura was baptisised and most probably got his coat of arms at 1615).

Actually he was leaving Spain in June 1617, so the 1616 on the map from wikipedia is a mistake.

As for the oppinion of an expert, I think, we can doubt it or to believe it, his oppinion has more weight then ours. Moreover, he was able to examine the keris in Sendai City Museum.

The possibility entire painting was done outside of Bali or Java is very, very small. The style of painting on sunggingan from Vienna (before 1608) is very similar (also W. Martowikrido mentions this). I have not seen till now better pictures of the third old sunggingan with alas-alasan in Munich, which is also in a good state of preservation.

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Old 19th February 2011, 06:49 PM   #28
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David, just one thing that interests me: which are the "most writers" which "seem to think he acquired this keris in Manila"? The only publications I am aware, which raise the question about provenance of keris and kastane is "A fundamental study on Hasekura's kastane and kris" (Bulletin of Sendai City Museum) and "The kastane and the kris, their arrival in Japan in 1620" (in Royal Armouries Yearbook, vol. 3, Leeds), both written by Sasaki Kazuhiro, curator of Sendai City Museum, in 1998. Before there are only two publications of Sendai City Museum from 1988 and 1995, and article of Wahyono Martowikrido from 1997, where this thema is not discussed. There must be articles about this keris I am not aware of. I would be very interested to learn them know.

Sasaki Kazuhiro, the only writer I am aware of, which deals with this thema, has the oppinion, both keris and kastane are presented to Hasekura Tsunenaga by Philip III. Here in short he's points and other interesting details:

Among the 52 mementos that Hasekura brought to Japan, only three were presented to Date clan: portrait of Pope Paul V, kastane and keris.

Date Masamune drafted official letters only to Pope, the mayor of Sevilla and King Philipp III.

Masamune allowed Hasekura to take care of all official contacts with dignitaries in other countries.

Masamune obviously had great interest in the messages and gifts these figures bestoved on Hasekura.

Then Sasaki Kazuhiro writes:

"If we suppose Masamune requested only the articles from the three men he deemed most critical, then the two swords should have come from one of these three men. (...) it seems much more likely the Namban swords were a gift from Philipp III. This would also explain the reason these gifts made their way to the Masamune collection, while presents from dignitaries in other locales were allowed to remain in the Hasekura collection.

(...) We find an illustration of a kris hilt on plate 8 of Plautz's book (Nova Typis Transcta Navigatio, 1621). It was presented by Philipp III to his mother-in-law, Mary of Bavaria in 1599. He married Margaret of Austria by proxy in November 1598 in Ferrara. She and her mother sailed from Genoa in February (1599) and met Philipp III in Valencia (here I must think about the part keris played in weddings of high ranked persons in Bali
). I believe Philipp presented this kris to Mary as a memento of the marriage. Philipp III had inherited a vast collection, including Asian objects from Philipp II, his father. I believe Philipp II's collection contained various krises, and that the kris presented to Mary must have been one of them.

(...) Certainly, Philipp III knew Date Masamune would be pleased with the presentation of the swords, as he had been presented eight armours and one sword by Shogun Tokugawa Hidetada and the former Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu as a sign of friendship between the two countries. Howewer, he could not present Spanish arms to Date Masamune because the presentation of Spanish arms to a foreigner was then prohibited by law."

David, you wrote in #24: "The common tale seems to be that he got them in Manila. Perhaps he did get them in Spain. It doesn't really matter." Is it so?

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Old 19th February 2011, 09:38 PM   #29
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gustav
David, just one thing that interests me: which are the "most writers" which "seem to think he acquired this keris in Manila"? The only publications I am aware, which raise the question about provenance of keris and kastane is "A fundamental study on Hasekura's kastane and kris" (Bulletin of Sendai City Museum) and "The kastane and the kris, their arrival in Japan in 1620" (in Royal Armouries Yearbook, vol. 3, Leeds), both written by Sasaki Kazuhiro, curator of Sendai City Museum, in 1998. Before there are only two publications of Sendai City Museum from 1988 and 1995, and article of Wahyono Martowikrido from 1997, where this thema is not discussed. There must be articles about this keris I am not aware of. I would be very interested to learn them know.

Sasaki Kazuhiro, the only writer I am aware of, which deals with this thema, has the oppinion, both keris and kastane are presented to Hasekura Tsunenaga by Philip III. Here in short he's points and other interesting details:

Among the 52 mementos that Hasekura brought to Japan, only three were presented to Date clan: portrait of Pope Paul V, kastane and keris.

Date Masamune drafted official letters only to Pope, the mayor of Sevilla and King Philipp III.

Masamune allowed Hasekura to take care of all official contacts with dignitaries in other countries.

Masamune obviously had great interest in the messages and gifts these figures bestoved on Hasekura.

Then Sasaki Kazuhiro writes:

"If we suppose Masamune requested only the articles from the three men he deemed most critical, then the two swords should have come from one of these three men. (...) it seems much more likely the Namban swords were a gift from Philipp III. This would also explain the reason these gifts made their way to the Masamune collection, while presents from dignitaries in other locales were allowed to remain in the Hasekura collection.

(...) We find an illustration of a kris hilt on plate 8 of Plautz's book (Nova Typis Transcta Navigatio, 1621). It was presented by Philipp III to his mother-in-law, Mary of Bavaria in 1599. He married Margaret of Austria by proxy in November 1598 in Ferrara. She and her mother sailed from Genoa in February (1599) and met Philipp III in Valencia (here I must think about the part keris played in weddings of high ranked persons in Bali
). I believe Philipp presented this kris to Mary as a memento of the marriage. Philipp III had inherited a vast collection, including Asian objects from Philipp II, his father. I believe Philipp II's collection contained various krises, and that the kris presented to Mary must have been one of them.

(...) Certainly, Philipp III knew Date Masamune would be pleased with the presentation of the swords, as he had been presented eight armours and one sword by Shogun Tokugawa Hidetada and the former Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu as a sign of friendship between the two countries. Howewer, he could not present Spanish arms to Date Masamune because the presentation of Spanish arms to a foreigner was then prohibited by law."

David, you wrote in #24: "The common tale seems to be that he got them in Manila. Perhaps he did get them in Spain. It doesn't really matter." Is it so?


Gustav, you continue, it seems, to try to make this a debate in which one person will be proved victorious in the end, yet i am not completely clear on what important issues we truly disagree. You also seem to approach each rebuke with an adversarial tone. I am not the lest bit interested in such a debate. It is counter-productive to the discussion and given the pure speculation that we have to deal with in this case it is completely impossible that we can ever come to any positive conclusion anyway.
You are obviously better read on the subject than i. When i speak of "most writers" i am not coming from the scholarly position you are at all. I have only had the opportunity at this point in time to research this from the internet. It seems to be that "most writers" in that venue are following the Manila story. This does not make that story necessarily so and i have made no claims that it is. This is often the case on the internet where one particular story gets picked up and repeated again and again by various writers on websites.
Why does it not matter to me whether he was gifted the keris in Manila or Spain? Because in both scenario he is still not receiving it as a gift from the Balinese court. This is all i have been trying to establish here. If Phillip III presented this keris to him in Spain or by a Spanish official in the Philippines it has a completely different meaning, purpose and power than if it was presented to him directly from the Balinese court. From it's original source the gift would have come as a particular transference of power that would be absent from a second or third hand re-gifting of this keris. This is all i am trying to establish.
I posted the map to show the travel route, not to establish time lines so an off date does not particularly concern me. Is this travel route fairly correct? Has anyone written anything placing Hasekura in Bali or what is currently Indonesia at any time during his travels? This was my purpose behind posting the map, merely you help establish what you yourself are already saying, that Hasekura did not receive this keris in Bali directly from the court.
It also seems that the Christian symbolism on the keris would not likely have been placed there for the benefit of the Christian covert Hasekura since it seems that the gift of the keris may well have always been intended to be received by Date Masamune, who as far as i can tell was not a Christian. If the keris was originally gifted to Philip III or some earlier Spanish king perhaps the symbolism was placed there for their benefit. If the keris was indeed completely painted in Bali this would make more sense.
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Old 19th February 2011, 10:31 PM   #30
Gustav
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David, there is no victory at all possible, and please accept my sincere apologies, if my tone seemed or was adversarial.

You are absolute right, there is most probably no possibility this keris beeing a gift directly received a Balinese court. Other possibilities each could have their speculations (behind some speculations are undeniable facts we learn to know) and averment proofs. I still have the deceptive idea, to follow each possibility would give me (and us) a better understanding or probably only a feeling of history, and in the case of this keris history is pure adventure.

Last edited by Gustav : 19th February 2011 at 10:42 PM.
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