Ethnographic Arms & Armour
 

Go Back   Ethnographic Arms & Armour > Discussion Forums > Ethnographic Weapons

Reply
 
Thread Tools Search this Thread Display Modes
Old 18th April 2021, 06:47 PM   #31
Jim McDougall
Arms Historian
 
Jim McDougall's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Route 66
Posts: 8,319
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by Philip
Jim, you might have a better grasp of this after digging deeper into the historical narrative. The Dutch sinologist R van Gulick wrote an interesting article on the significance of the jian, along with the zither, to scholars. Ming writers on connoisseurship do discuss swords among the other things that cultivated gentlemen should appreciate. These discussions dealt with the civilian as opposed to the military sector of society. Also of interest is what the Qing emperor Kangxi (r 1682-1722) wrote about the futility of trying to disarm the common people in some areas of China.

Further inquiry into the role of secret societies in old China might also be fruitful. It seems that the imperial government had some toleration for their activities, providing they were not overtly political, and insofar as they provided a means for local communities to police themselves to a limited extent. Much as minor legal functions, especially those of a familial or contractual nature, were often left to clans and guilds to handle. With a somewhat constrained tax base, and large expenditures in other areas like public works, stipends and perks for the ruling elite, and military campaigns, this helped stretch the resources of a government ruling an empire whose provinces were larger than some European countries.


Well explained Philip, and it would be understandable that observance of the political climate would vary in degree regionally and with regard to certain circumstances. Some time ago I was researching the 'secret societies' etc. along with acquisition of this ring pommel 'Ba Gwa' saber from Scott (in the 90s).
It is from the 'Eight Trigram' rebellion (Millenarian) of c. 1813 and that symbol can be seen near the tip. Apparently the sword has the 'name' 'kill demons' in the Chinese inscription something to the effect of the 'time of Wan-Li'.

I wanted to share it here along with the discussion. It seems these type sabers were used by Chinese martial artists in the exhibitions intended to 'impress' the legations during the "Boxer Rebellion".
Attached Images
    

Last edited by Jim McDougall; 18th April 2021 at 07:00 PM.
Jim McDougall is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 18th April 2021, 07:47 PM   #32
kronckew
Member
 
kronckew's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: CSA Consulate, Rm. 101, Glos. UK: p.s. - Real Dogs Have Feathering.
Posts: 3,550
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by Philip
Don't we all dream of finding the saber carried by Genghis Cohen?
Dig deep enough on the internet, one of us lucky bums might just find it!
...
There is a fairly high mathematical chance that I am a descendant of this Genghis chap. As such, with that connection, I feel I can say that the chances of this sword being his are less than the chances I will win the European Lottery. And I'm not even entered in it.

Personally, I feel the rust is way too uniform, especially in the 'engraved' bits. I'd expect some on an old sword to have transitioned to the black form of oxide, especially in the grooved parts.

Also, the style of the dragon appears rather odd to me. The 19c chinese 'fake swords for those who travel' industry was well underway in the 19c Qing era. If you could disassemble the grip by unscrewing the pommel, and look at the tang might be revealing.
kronckew is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 18th April 2021, 08:09 PM   #33
Philip
Member
 
Philip's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: California
Posts: 920
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by JoeCanada42
also concerning the Jian bird and the sword I wanted to share this
Hi, Joe

Thanks much for sharing additional pics. The one in the scabbard, shown diagonally with a karabela pommel below, has features that point to it being a bona fide antique, probably late 19th to dawn of 20th cent. To be confirmed with an overall view and more details if you're interested in discussing it more. The one in the detail shots of blade dcor appears to be post-1949, based on the style of inlays, and from what I can see of the guard. I saw brand-new swords with exactly the same workmanship and design for sale in China during a visit back in the late 1970s, and they were sold as martial arts equipment and not represented as antiques.

In the final analysis, if you see a sword for sale and it fits within the parameters of your interest in the subject (whether it be as a martial artist, or an interest in spirituality, or in historical objects as a record of art history and traditional technology), go ahead and enjoy! Individual preferences vary. No harm done, so long as you have an idea of what things are valued at, and are not the victim of a seller's deception.
Philip is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 19th April 2021, 12:47 AM   #34
Ren Ren
Member
 
Ren Ren's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jun 2011
Location: Russia, Moscow
Posts: 209
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim McDougall
Apparently the sword has the 'name' 'kill demons' in the Chinese inscription something to the effect of the 'time of Wan-Li'.
I apologize for interfering!
The following is written on this sword:
大明萬歴年製
dmng wn l nin zh
"Great Ming Dynasty to rule for ten thousand years!"
Ren Ren is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 19th April 2021, 12:55 AM   #35
JoeCanada42
Member
 
JoeCanada42's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2021
Location: Canada
Posts: 81
Default

Thank you Philip for the support and for looking at my sword,
and thanks everyone else as well

I have found a similar pommeled Jian with some differences and a different blade.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ixE4Qk_evrc

at about 2:05

Licorne Blanche Kung fu School ?????

I guess this means my sword is not as old or unique as I Hoped.

The video does leave me with a few questions...
JoeCanada42 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 19th April 2021, 01:00 AM   #36
JoeCanada42
Member
 
JoeCanada42's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2021
Location: Canada
Posts: 81
Default

the sword with the karabela hilt comparison, I found it online, and I only used when discussing some research on the symbol that often appears on the Jian.

the Sword with the engravings on the blade I saw sell on eBay for a considerable amount more. and I would have guessed was an old one...
Attached Images
   
JoeCanada42 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 19th April 2021, 01:07 AM   #37
JoeCanada42
Member
 
JoeCanada42's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2021
Location: Canada
Posts: 81
Default

concerning the YouTube video and my sword.

3 - Epe de Matre de Kung fu Bouddhiste, tte du bouddha Skyamuni "Le bouddha voit tout". Fourreau (tui) en bois et peau de requin naturel verni, "galuchat petits grains", pe du Sud de la Chine. Lame rigide. Lame droite, doubles tranchants avec les sept points en laiton incrust, les sept toiles "Qi Xing Jian".
Cest une pe rare, Chinoise, qui tait utilise par les pratiquants de Kung-Fu Bouddhiste et adeptes du mouvement spirituel Taoste.

Authentic Chinese weapons from the 18th century and reproductions from originals.
Private collection.
JoeCanada42 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 19th April 2021, 06:39 AM   #38
kronckew
Member
 
kronckew's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: CSA Consulate, Rm. 101, Glos. UK: p.s. - Real Dogs Have Feathering.
Posts: 3,550
Default

Full section of video description translated:
============================

Replica of Han Dynasty Imperial Court Sword "206 BC - 9 AD"
YEN MAO DAO, 19th century.
Chinese classic swords from the myths of the 3 traditional and ancient Dynasties. Private collection of the White Unicorn Kung Fu School.
"A weapon has no destiny, it is the one who uses it who creates one".
The straight sword is a weapon that has been used by Chinese warriors for over 2,500 years. It is the ultimate weapon for any martial arts master or knight. The Chinese sword has a whole mystical and fantastic connotation. Born from the fire of the bowels of the earth, the blades of the swords are all unique.
Since the Ming Dynasty "1369-1644" there are two main kinds of straight swords: the military warrior sword "Wu Jian" and the noble civilian sword "Wen Jian".
On the blade of the Taoist sword are inlaid seven small copper pellets. The sword is named after Qi Xing Jian, or seven-star sword, in memory of the Celestial Emperor and his seven daughters.

1 - Simple dragon and phoenix sword of the sky, Taoist sword of kung fu master, "protector of the sky". Polished steel scabbard. Sword from central China. Semi-flexible blade. Wen Jian.
2 - Sword of Taoist governor, knight of kung fu, the two heavenly dragons It represents ancestral loyalty. Traditional Chinese black lacquered wooden scabbard, central Chinese sword. Rigid blade. Wu Jian.
3 - Sword of Master of Kung fu Buddhist, head of Skyamuni Buddha "The Buddha sees everything". Scabbard (case) in wood and natural varnished sharkskin, "small-grained shagreen", sword from southern China. Rigid blade. Straight blade, double-edged with the seven inlaid brass points, the seven stars "Qi Xing Jian".
It is a rare Chinese sword that was used by Buddhist Kung-Fu practitioners and followers of the Taoist spiritual movement.

Authentic Chinese weapons from the 18th century and reproductions from originals.
============================

It doesn't specify which are originals (if any) and which are repos, but the Buddah one's bright work looks suspiciously new. I'm surprised they let them rust near the blade root.

Last edited by kronckew; 19th April 2021 at 06:51 AM.
kronckew is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 19th April 2021, 02:59 PM   #39
mariusgmioc
Member
 
mariusgmioc's Avatar
 
Join Date: Sep 2014
Location: Netherlands
Posts: 1,676
Default

I have very little knowledge about antique Chinese swords but what I know is that it is extremely, extremely difficult to find genuine antique fighting jian swords.

Even before the rise of Communism in China, old swords were frequently molten and the steel reused, and the majority of extant examples are decorative/tai chi ones from 1900 or later.

On top of that, because of extreme rarity of genuine antique swords, even from the beginning of the 20th century (1900 and later) there was a booming industry of producing "antique" jian swords that ranged in quality from examples that are practically undistinguishable from the originals to phantasy antiquated examples. These swords were aimed not only for the foreign amateurs of exotic souvenirs but also for the internal market, as they were both considered to bring good luck while being symbolic weapons for martial arts practitioners.

Last edited by mariusgmioc; 19th April 2021 at 05:09 PM.
mariusgmioc is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 19th April 2021, 03:33 PM   #40
JoeCanada42
Member
 
JoeCanada42's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2021
Location: Canada
Posts: 81
Default

Thank You Kronckew, for the full English translations

and thanks Marius for the info,

Personally the though of a battle weapon wasn't a consideration in the purchase,, finding an old talisman sword was interesting enough. I couldn't see the buddha sword being used in battle. but I did suspect a temple sword or talisman sword that could be old.
JoeCanada42 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 19th April 2021, 11:01 PM   #41
Jim McDougall
Arms Historian
 
Jim McDougall's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Route 66
Posts: 8,319
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ren Ren
I apologize for interfering!
The following is written on this sword:
大明萬歴年製
dmng wn l nin zh
"Great Ming Dynasty to rule for ten thousand years!"

Ren Ren, THANK YOU!! I was having difficulty getting accurate translation of that panel. This makes good sense considering the context of the Eight Trigram rebellion,
Very much appreciated,
Jim
Jim McDougall is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 20th April 2021, 12:04 AM   #42
Ren Ren
Member
 
Ren Ren's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jun 2011
Location: Russia, Moscow
Posts: 209
Default

Jim, this is my pleasure!

I agree that this inscription in context indicates that the sword belonged to the anti-Qing rebels.
Serge
Ren Ren is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 20th April 2021, 05:49 AM   #43
Philip
Member
 
Philip's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: California
Posts: 920
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by mariusgmioc
I have very little knowledge about antique Chinese swords but what I know is that it is extremely, extremely difficult to find genuine antique fighting jian swords.

Even before the rise of Communism in China, old swords were frequently molten and the steel reused, and the majority of extant examples are decorative/tai chi ones from 1900 or later.

On top of that, because of extreme rarity of genuine antique swords, even from the beginning of the 20th century (1900 and later) there was a booming industry of producing "antique" jian swords that ranged in quality from examples that are practically undistinguishable from the originals to phantasy antiquated examples. These swords were aimed not only for the foreign amateurs of exotic souvenirs but also for the internal market, as they were both considered to bring good luck while being symbolic weapons for martial arts practitioners.
Having handled, researched, and restored many of these "extreme rarity" swords since the 1970s, I must disagree. It's easy to assume from the tons of crappy fakes floating around that the genuine old ones are very rare, but not necessarily so. Many older blades have been remounted, at later periods and even in modern times. Museums such as the Met, and the Peabody-Essex Museum (Salem, MA) have extensive collections of antique Chinese sabers and swords (not all on display, many have to been seen in the depot), so a study of these, and comparison with those seen on the market and in private collections, can give a serious researcher a good idea of what's the real deal, what's BS, and what's been monkeyed with.

And contrary to what you state, it's not all that difficult to distinguish pieces made for the 19th cent. curio trade from those of earlier periods, there are notable qualitative and design differences. If you "have very little knowledge about antique Chinese swords" perhaps this might explain your perception. It's as though I, who have little knowledge or appreciation of keris, would try to venture opinions on what is old and important versus the new stuff being circulated in the contemporary collectors' marketplace.
Philip is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 20th April 2021, 07:08 AM   #44
Kubur
Member
 
Kubur's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jun 2013
Posts: 2,060
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by Philip
And contrary to what you state, it's not all that difficult to distinguish pieces made for the 19th cent. curio trade from those of earlier periods, there are notable qualitative and design differences.
I agree at 100%. I have several Chinese swords and they are all in between 1850 and 1920. The 1900-1920 swords and the so-called boxer rebellion are not difficult to find. The problem is when people don't know they mix everything. Look at the post 36:

http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showpo...3&postcount=36

Two swords completely different, but they "look" the same of course...
Plus don't rely on museums, they do huge mistakes (Royal armouries museum for example)...
Kubur is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 20th April 2021, 08:33 AM   #45
kronckew
Member
 
kronckew's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: CSA Consulate, Rm. 101, Glos. UK: p.s. - Real Dogs Have Feathering.
Posts: 3,550
Default

After many Oops's here and elsewhere, I've learned:

1. Always take Museum and Auction House item descriptions with a grain of salt. Their source may have just repeated a label he was given by a previous owner, or 'Improved' on it to make the item more attractive. Or the 'expert' just guessed.
2. If it looks too good to be true, it probably isn't.
3. Caveat Emptor.
4. Many 'Experts' aren't.
5. Google is not your friend.
6.If an Item has been inventoried, photographed and shown publicly for over a century and well documented, and other examples exist from reputable sources, it just might really be an antique.
7.They made 'replicas' well over a hundred years ago for collectors and those who travel.
7a. Sightseeing has been a popular sport from millennia or longer.
7b. People also commissioned copies of stuff they admired. Especially if they were unlikely to actually be used when the fit hits the shan, like French (& English) senior officers 'Mameluke' sabres and US Marine officers.
7c. Some fakes are better made with better steel than the originals.
8. The blurrier the photo the more likely it's a fake.
9. Always carry a knife. (Gibb's rule #9)
10. Sometimes I forget to read my own rules.
10a. There are more numbers to add to this list I haven't found yet.

Last edited by kronckew; 20th April 2021 at 09:49 AM.
kronckew is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 20th April 2021, 10:28 AM   #46
mariusgmioc
Member
 
mariusgmioc's Avatar
 
Join Date: Sep 2014
Location: Netherlands
Posts: 1,676
Default

The opinion I posted above is what I learned from a Chinese curator.

A few years ago, I wanted to sell two "19th century" jian swords, and I thought I can fetch a better price selling them in China with a Chinese auction house.

So I contacted one of the largest auction houses in Beijing, and one in Hong Kong asking them if they would like to take my swords. They both declined, citing problems with authenticity. So I asked for details and the guy from Beijing (who was also working with a big museum there) explained me what I essentially summarised above.

So I ended selling them with an European auction house.

Boxer Rebellion took place in 1899-1901... and their main weapon of choice was the dao.

Last edited by mariusgmioc; 20th April 2021 at 03:32 PM.
mariusgmioc is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 20th April 2021, 03:48 PM   #47
Philip
Member
 
Philip's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: California
Posts: 920
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by mariusgmioc
The opinion I posted above is what I learned from a Chinese expert.



So I contacted one of the largest auction houses in Beijing, and one in Hong Kong asking them if they would like to take my swords. They both declined, citing problems with authenticity. So I asked for details and the guy from Beijing (who was also working with a big museum there) explained me what I essentially summarised above.
Yes indeed. The two posts just previous, by Kubur and Kronckew, aptly point out the hazards of relying on "experts". Relying on Chinese auction "experts" has special shortcomings. The antiques collecting and trade in the PRC is a comparatively recent revival after having been decimated by the fanaticism of the Mao years. Destruction of the "Four Olds", including both things and ideas. (Have you seen the movie "The Red Violin"? The China segment of the story is as close to history as cinema can get.) Keep in mind that this is a country with a regime that limits access to knowledge and tries to control the historical narrative.

When I mentioned my decades-long research into this field (others too like early firearms ) it did not involve just looking at pictures and going through catalog cards in museums. It took getting permission to handle all this stuff in person, lots of it, taking a ton of notes and photos. Discussing with curators, and also looking at depiction in period photos, art work, etc. Comparing styles and craftsmanship with that in analogous applied arts of various periods. Working with colleagues who read the lingo a lot better than I, determining in the process that there are such documents as gazetteers, palace inventories, military production specs, and so forth. Getting the "big picture" from the historical narrative -- about trade, conquest, fashion. Looking at developments in fields such as the metalworking and furniture industries going back to Ming times and even before for an insight into raw materials production and procurement. A lot of geek stuff like this. You find out soon that the Boxer Rebellion is not the huge benchmark that most collectors seem to think it is.

Just look at Donald LaRocca's magisterial book on Tibetan arms, Warriors of the Himalayas... Before this was published, the comment from most collectors was, "is there any info to be had about this field?", having known only Stone's Glossary and perhaps Egerton's Handbook of Indian Arms. Think about the amount of digging that Mr LaRocca had to do to pull this off.

There is a Harvard PhD, H H Kang, whose thesis on Korean matchlocks is groundbreaking. Surviving examples of the guns are relatively few, thanks to disarmament of the country by the Japanese and the massive losses of the Korean War. But by means of broad-ranging and thorough research he has come up with an amazing body of info, and I can say from personal correspondence that he isn't done yet.
Philip is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 20th April 2021, 07:20 PM   #48
kronckew
Member
 
kronckew's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: CSA Consulate, Rm. 101, Glos. UK: p.s. - Real Dogs Have Feathering.
Posts: 3,550
Default

Another thought on context; I've read that the Jian was a 'scholars' sword, for their self-defence. Presumably this was a subject they also studied to be effective with it.

...But what else did 'Scholars' study, aside from learning the tens of thousands of characters and combinations of them.

The Chinese Government was based on Confucianism. The system required testing, written and oral exams, not only for entry, but for advancement to the next higher level. If you didn't pass the exam, you stayed at your current level. No rising to your level of incompetence, you stayed at your last level of competence. The study of the Jian was considered to take a lifetime. The Military preferred the Dao, which you learned fast, or died in battle. The Dao was also part of a weapons system with shields, armour, pole arms, artillery, missile weapons, strategy and tactics, not needed by civilians who liked to dance in well regulated patterns, the Dao was for killing, the Jian for showing off.
kronckew is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 20th April 2021, 07:49 PM   #49
JoeCanada42
Member
 
JoeCanada42's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2021
Location: Canada
Posts: 81
Default

Kronckew, I dunno if I would agree, I would argue for fun that the Jian is More deadly. If you were going to encounter a person with any armor at all, picking out a spot and puncturing would probably work better than cutting. the tapered blade makes the jian look more effective at blocking than a saber, the jian has a larger range for defense and a larger amount of movement for attack , it is also double edged. The Jian may need more education and skill which in turn would also make it more deadly, I would say its the smart choice, not showing off. maybe the Dao was more suitable for the militia because as you said it was easier to use etc.
JoeCanada42 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 20th April 2021, 09:31 PM   #50
Philip
Member
 
Philip's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: California
Posts: 920
Default Context?

Quote:
Originally Posted by kronckew
Another thought on context; I've read that the Jian was a 'scholars' sword, for their self-defence. Presumably this was a subject they also studied to be effective with it.

...But what else did 'Scholars' study, aside from learning the tens of thousands of characters and combinations of them.

The Chinese Government was based on Confucianism. The system required testing, written and oral exams, not only for entry, but for advancement to the next higher level. If you didn't pass the exam, you stayed at your current level. No rising to your level of incompetence, you stayed at your last level of competence. The study of the Jian was considered to take a lifetime. The Military preferred the Dao, which you learned fast, or died in battle. The Dao was also part of a weapons system with shields, armour, pole arms, artillery, missile weapons, strategy and tactics, not needed by civilians who liked to dance in well regulated patterns, the Dao was for killing, the Jian for showing off.
Well, the foray into Confucious and the Chinese civil service is quite a stretch, isn't it? What the examination system had to do with the jian and its use isn't exactly clear, but let me think about it.

What this does sound like is the sort of thing I've heard over many years of gun shows, collectors' meetings, and auction previews. Folks taking a bit of knowledge and extrapolating willy-nilly. Have heard earfuls regarding European swords and swordsmanship. People whose only exposure to traditional Western armed combat is Olympic fencing and Hollywood costume dramas expounding on eight centuries of swordplay in Europe. And how the sword in Europe essentially became irrelevant with the steady improvement of firearms. Irrelevant? I would recommend J. C. Amberger's The Secret History of the Sword for its analysis of how the use of cold steel has remained a vital and serious field of study and training down to the 20th cent.

Another case is the understanding of the small-sword in relation to its predecessor, the rapier. It is true that small-swords as part of a diplomat's formal dress and the regalia of the Acadmie Franaise are symbolic props, but to dismiss these weapons as fashion statements or "all for show" misses the point that they originated well back into the 17th cent. when swordsmanship was an important skill for civilians of a certain class. And that it is the result of a few decades' worth of transition from the true rapier, which would imply that functional parameters connected with fighting styles were at play. Funny thing, I remember a heated discussion I had with a gent who claimed that the smallsword was not a real weapon, it was only a piece of male attire like cufflinks or a tie-clip. And that European swordfighting techniques couldn't hold a candle to Japanese since in the West, it was mainly a sport and not real combat. Oh, I should mention that the "expert" who was lecturing me was a kendo practitioner (and a weekend duffer, at that). Last I checked, these guys do their thing with fasciculated strips of bamboo, not steel blades. Sport or combat?
Philip is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 21st April 2021, 03:39 AM   #51
Ian
Vikingsword Staff
 
Ian's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: The Aussie Bush
Posts: 3,193
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by Philip
Well, the foray into Confucious and the Chinese civil service is quite a stretch, isn't it? What the examination system had to do with the jian and its use isn't exactly clear, but let me think about it. ...
Thanks Philip. Much appreciated if you can bring Confucius, the Chinese civil service, and the examination system into focus with regard to the jian and its use. Wayne's comments are a bit "fuzzy" to me.
Ian is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 21st April 2021, 06:46 AM   #52
mariusgmioc
Member
 
mariusgmioc's Avatar
 
Join Date: Sep 2014
Location: Netherlands
Posts: 1,676
Default

Thank you Philip for the very interesting information!

Reading your explanation I remembered another very interesting aspect:

the museums in China have very small collections of Chinese porcelain.

And this is because of two main reasons:
1. throughout the whole history of China, porcelain was a main export product and was exported in massive quantities;
2. during Mao's "Cultural Revolution" porcelain has been considered as a symbol of aristocracy and decadence and was systematically destroyed.

So I was thinking that maybe the "Cultural Revolution" thing may have impacted the jian swords as they also were a symbol of aristocracy.
mariusgmioc is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 21st April 2021, 07:09 AM   #53
Philip
Member
 
Philip's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: California
Posts: 920
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ian
Thanks Philip. Much appreciated if you can bring Confucius, the Chinese civil service, and the examination system into focus with regard to the jian and its use. Wayne's comments are a bit "fuzzy" to me.

Ian, after thinking about it more, I also can't help but find his comments to be, as you say, "fuzzy". There seems to be no clear nexus between the jian and Confucian ideology (essentially a framework governing social structure and political morality) or the governmental structure itself.

Since Wayne does comment on the role of the jian (straight double edged) and the dao (single edged, either straight backsword or curved saber), how about an historical overview to put all this in some sort of developmental context.

1. The first hilt weapon (with longish blade) to hit the scene in China was the sword (jian), made of bronze, first appearing during classical antiquity, during the feudalistic Zhou period prior to unification. It predated the use of long single-edged blades and for awhile it was the only game in town as far as swords went.

2. The backsword, zhibeidao (literally "straight backed knife") came into use towards the end of the Zhou, first in bronze then later in iron and eventually steel. It was used alongside the jian and became increasingly popular during the consolidation and unification of the feudal states into a centralized empire (Qin Dynasty, 3rd cent. BC).

3. During the succeeding Eastern and Western Han Dynasties, which more or less coincided with the late Roman Republic and early Empire, both weapons remained in use, although the backsword gradually became more important in a military role.


4. During the medieval dynasties, both blade types underwent a design change, in terms of hilts and scabbard suspension, influenced by the swords of pre-Islamic Iran, whose culture helped shape that of China in terms of the sciences, cuisine, music and arts (Buddhism also reached China via western Asia from India, also accounting for these cultural linkages). This "new" style Chinese sword mounting was also adopted by the Koreans and Japanese, which explains the considerable outward similarities between 7th-9th cent. swords from Iran, China, and Japan seen at such institutions as the Met and the Sh-s-in (Nara, Japan).

5. Later in the medieval period, during the Song Dynasties (10th-13th cent.) the jian hilt changed again, to a form not much dissimilar to the familiar shape known today. The backsword continued in its military role but its worth noting that in the 11th cent. military compendium WUJING ZONGYAO the double edged sword is listed as one of the close-combat hilt weapons as well.

6. The saber (peidao) with its CURVED single edged blade, makes its debut on a large scale during the short-lived Mongol Dynasty (13th-14th cent.). From the researches by Kyrill Rivkin et al, we are all no doubt familiar with origins of the saber among Eurasian steppe nomad cultures, and its spread to surrounding "sedentary" agricultural- and commercially-based states by way of the migration and conquests of Inner Asian peoples from the Avars to the Timurids.

7. By the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) the saber gained in importance in the military, and the backsword declined and practically disappeared (surviving only in the Himalayan kingdoms of Tibet and Bhutan, and to a limited extent in Korea). The jian increasingly became a civilian weapon, somewhat analogous to the rapier in Europe at about the same time.

8. This pattern of use continued into the last imperial dynasty, the Qing (Manchu) , 1644-1911. Manchu guards officers were known to practice with the jian for sport, and commoners in the more unsettled provinces and districts of the empire carried short-bladed jian for self-defense or more nefarious purposes according to local gazetteers and official documents of the era. The Kangxi emperor (r 1682-1722) had to deal with complaints from provincial officials about armed civilians causing mischief with various weapons, but his memoirs indicate that trying to disarm them was probably more trouble than it was worth since as foreign interlopers, the Manchus were wary of discontented subjects being goaded into rebellion.

A survey of the considerable numbers of jian in museum collections, and of the historical literature, can tell us something about the usage of these weapons, as correlated to their design.
A. There are a number of blade configurations from various periods that point to distinct functional parameters -- Long, narrow, thick, and notably tapered blades, almost reminiscent of rapiers though without the extreme length, popular during the Yuan and Ming Dynasties. Somewhat broader cut-and-thrust blades with fairly aggressive distal taper. Slightly narrower ones with more obtuse edge geometry. We do know that there were a number of fencing styles taught during the late imperial period, and there is probably a correlation.

B. Distinct forms of blades and hilts were reserved for ritual or votive swords connected with popular Taoist practice. The blades are typically inlaid with emblems and inscriptions not found in weapons in Group A. The religious significance of the double-edged sword is also strong in Buddhism, and nowhere is this more apparent than in neighboring Japan, where the ken has been reserved for use as temple regalia, often lavishly mounted in very Indic or Tantric-inspired motifs

C. Touristic curios, widely produced during the end of the Qing through the pre-WW II years, which are non-functional (blades often not tempered), gaudily decorated in stereotypical designs.

D. Equally non-functional but plainer versions made for exercise, beginning in the early years of the Republic, to go along with a revival of traditional martial skills like boxing and archery. This degenerated into the showy "wushu" techniques promoted by the Communist regime after 1949.
Philip is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 21st April 2021, 07:21 AM   #54
Philip
Member
 
Philip's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: California
Posts: 920
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by mariusgmioc
Thank you Philip for the very interesting information!

Reading your explanation I remembered another very interesting aspect:

the museums in China have very small collections of Chinese porcelain.

And this is because of two main reasons:
1. throughout the whole history of China, porcelain was a main export product and was exported in massive quantities;
2. during Mao's "Cultural Revolution" porcelain has been considered as a symbol of aristocracy and decadence and was systematically destroyed.

So I was thinking that maybe the "Cultural Revolution" thing may have impacted the jian swords as they also were a symbol of aristocracy.
You're most welcome, Marius!

It might be useful to remember also that the anti-aristocratic attitude predates Mao, we see it after the 1911 revolution that toppled the monarchy. Just like in France in 1792 and Russia post-1917. A lot of articles associated with the Manchu rulers were destroyed -- mandarins' uniforms and hats, insignia and flags, official seals, and (sadly) documents that historians would love to have available today.

Mao's Red Guards targeted ALL antiques. That's why the shortages of objects in museums. Antiques dealers and collectors were harassed, arrested, and on occasion sent to camps to be "re-educated". Because antiques collecting was considered a BOURGEOISE habit, and you know how Communists hate that class!

Funny story -- when I spent a month in the USSR in the 1980s, I took some cigars with me to enjoy, not knowing if I could get them there. What a pleasure, puffing on one in the park, or at a caf. Some folks stopped to look -- I thought it's because I'm a funny looking guy with a bald head, but no, it was the cigar. Soviet citizens just didn't do cigars. Someone told me that the prejudice was a holdover from old propaganda associating cigar smoking with fat cat capitalists in their expensive suits sitting on bags of ill-gotten money squeezed from the proletariat!
Philip is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 21st April 2021, 04:07 PM   #55
mariusgmioc
Member
 
mariusgmioc's Avatar
 
Join Date: Sep 2014
Location: Netherlands
Posts: 1,676
Default

Cigars you said?!

Was like wearing an infamy badge saying "I'm a bloody capitalist suckling on the blood of the working class"...
Attached Images
 
mariusgmioc is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 27th April 2021, 12:28 AM   #56
kronckew
Member
 
kronckew's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: CSA Consulate, Rm. 101, Glos. UK: p.s. - Real Dogs Have Feathering.
Posts: 3,550
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by Philip View Post
...
Some folks stopped to look -- ..., it was the cigar. ...
Probably just because cigars smell really bad.
Attached Images
 
kronckew is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12th May 2021, 06:02 PM   #57
josh stout
Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2007
Posts: 404
Default

Philip- Your brief history of the Chinese sword is a useful little reference guide. Too bad it is hidden deep in a post based on such a poor, recent example.

I also liked your comments on what people sometimes called "dragon well" swords with the etched dragon and phoenix, and seven etched stars. You mention seeing them brand new in China in the late 70s. My teacher and his wife picked up a couple in China at about that time, and they are recognizably the same. I bought several for not much in the mid 80s and early 90s to practice with, and ended up giving them to friends so I could make room for antiques. Now I see 80s era ones on eBay for many hundreds of dollars, while new ones are still available in Chinatown.

On the original jian in this post, I used to try and be charitable, and say they might be "vintage", but I think that is only if "vintage" is between 10-25 years old.

As for secret societies, I would say they are central aspects of Chinese culture. Most Indonesian Chinese temples have their own set of Kilin dancers, despite them having been being illegal under Suharto. The Kilin societies are also martial arts schools and neighborhood protection groups. I understand it is similar in Taiwan.

My martial arts group got free sake for years in NYC when it turned out the restaurant was run by Chinese Indonesians. We were the boys from the temple.
josh stout is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 13th May 2021, 06:04 AM   #58
Philip
Member
 
Philip's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: California
Posts: 920
Wink

Quote:
Originally Posted by josh stout View Post

My martial arts group got free sake for years in NYC when it turned out the restaurant was run by Chinese Indonesians. We were the boys from the temple.
Conservative or Reform?
Philip is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 16th May 2021, 06:02 PM   #59
JoeCanada42
Member
 
JoeCanada42's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2021
Location: Canada
Posts: 81
Default

Josh-stout, your opinion drew me back to this thread,, as said before sometimes new swords are made to a better quality than the old ones, I found an example of my sword being called a Tai chi masters sword, to my understanding they use battle ready swords for cutting tests.
I still haven't seen any other similar examples except the one in that video and another one with similar fittings not the pommel called 19c which remains for auction. I have seen a recent YouTube video where they talk about all the points of a good Jian besides the balance point, which are all good on my sword to be a user. ill link the video.
I have had a lot of fun with the sword, I can do several spinning hand moves and can consistently hear the hasuji or sword wind cutting sound when practicing cuts. its definitely well enough to be a user in my opinion.
there is signs of age on the blade so
I seriously doubt it is modern or recent, or I think we would see some similar examples on the market, I don't think the functional quality is poor at all, just the finish on the fittings, I heard the Jian sword is meant to break the opponents sword and even cut through amour. anyways its proven to be more unique than any other modern ones I see, and more interesting then the comparable vintage ones that sell for a lot. the fittings may look poor but the sword until thoroughly tested could prove to be good quality, recent, vintage or antique.
I am gaining more appreciation for the qualities of this sword, I would rather it wasn't put down , id bet it would cut in half most other jians I see for sale.
JoeCanada42 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 16th May 2021, 06:07 PM   #60
JoeCanada42
Member
 
JoeCanada42's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2021
Location: Canada
Posts: 81
Default

these videos were new on youtube and i found them very informative.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iac6Ie4snUc

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H67oI6pv8U4

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vvbKzvUm8rA
JoeCanada42 is offline   Reply With Quote
Reply

Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT +1. The time now is 08:57 AM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.11
Copyright ©2000 - 2021, vBulletin Solutions Inc.
Posts are regarded as being copyrighted by their authors and the act of posting material is deemed to be a granting of an irrevocable nonexclusive license for display here.