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Old 7th August 2010, 07:38 AM   #1
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Default Chinese weapons: at last, a really good pictorial book

ZHONGGUO GUDAI GANGTIE LENGBINGQI (Antique Chinese Iron and Steel Cold-Arms) by Liang Baozhong et al, Beijing, 2008. Lg format, hardbound, 225 pg, all-color photoplates on most pages, Chinese text (simplified characters), no English summaries. Covers all types of hilt weapons (bladed and percussive), axes, pole arms (no firearms or archery) of the Ming and Qing Dynasties.

You don't need the ability to read Chinese to make use of this: the photos (many weapons are depicted in entirety plus in various details) speak for themselves and for someone who wants to gain exposure to the subject beyond the ca. 1900 tourist curios and Boxer Rebellion war souvenirs, and without travelling to museums and private collections on 3 continents, this is the book to have. The specimens shown have been minimally conserved, I looked hard for modern repros masquerading as antiques but everything looks kosher to me. Patinas remain intact and aside from basic cleaning and an occasional renewed cord grip wrap, nothing appears to be "gussied up" for the camera.

There are almost 3 dozen pages of close ups of various damascus patterns on jian and dao, including a number of twist-core styles. There are numerous examples of fullering, chiseled motifs, "rolling pearls" (tears of the afflicted), hilt fittings styles, guards, and a multitude of details on maces and truncheons. Angle shots show the thickness of blades, and their cross-sections. An amazing number of non-edged hand weapons are shown, plus some rare pole arm variations such as the "xiangbidao" (elephant trunk knife) that most collectors know only from period woodcut engravings.

The quality of the weapons runs the gamut from "GI issue" to princely, although the extremes on the spectrum are omitted : no jade-hilted Qianlong era court swords here, and no blacksmith-made militia weapons. The common denominators are combat-worthiness and some outstanding aspect of their workmanship whether it be blades or fittings. You won't see any purely ceremonial or ritual arms here. The pieces all seem to be drawn from private collections in China.

For the collector who's becoming "gun shy" on Chinese because of the number of fakes, this book is useful because there are pics that give a very good idea of what patina and corrosion look like on old iron and steel surfaces. Also, all the details that differentiate real from fake: fullering and contours, proportions of blades to hilts, grip cross-sections, decorative motifs, the angle that a pommel should sit at on a handle, and so forth.

Price 95 pounds sterling (about US $145) plus shipping. A tad pricey but well worth it. Available on special order from Hanshan Tang Books, London.
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Old 7th August 2010, 07:44 AM   #2
Gavin Nugent
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Default Thank you

Thank you Philip, I am extremely gracious to have this title bought forth to these pages as I am sure others are too, your resourses and scholarly pursuits are second to non ;-), thank you for sharing.

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