Asian (export) sword guards | Mandarin Mansion

Asian (export) sword guards

A selection of Asian export sword guards

Whenever a Japanese sword guard ("tsuba") shows odd workmanship or foreign-inspired designs, they are indiscriminately put in a catch-all category; nanban tsuba or “Southern barbarian sword-guard”. This classification is fairly dismissive and often represents the end of further investigation.

Even the NBTHK, by most considered to be the highest authority on antique Japanese arms and armor, classifies anything odd under this one name, nanban. The classification is treated as if it’s a school, yet it has no founder, no lineage, like other schools do. It seems to be a blind spot.

As a result, these pieces have long been ignored by the highly developed collector’s culture around Japanese antiques as “not one of ours”, and at the same time collectors of other antiques often dismiss them as “Japanese”. The genre deserves a better look from a pan-Asian trade perspective.




Redefining the genre

We have so far established that they are connected the the vast and complex maritime trade networks of Asia. Some of the first were probably ready-made guards from other cultures, introduced into Japan by Dutch and Chinese merchants who used them as a gift to trade partners and dignitaries. At some point, maritime traders probably commissioned more exotic looking pieces, specifically for this purpose, from other ports their frequented. Japanese craftsmen also started to take inspiration from imported styles, and sometimes even attempted to create entirely foreign-looking guards.

(Excerpt from my recent catalog, "nanban tsuba & Asian export sword guards", to be downloaded here.. (12mb.) Also see: An introduction to Asian export sword guards by James McElhinney & Peter Dekker.)


Current sales inventory

Last updated 19 August, 2018

New! Study groups:


"Canton style guards"

€ 700,-


"Eccentric Canton style guards"

€ 2400,-


"Exotic reliefs"

€ 1650,-


"Foreign inspired piercing and repetition"

€ 750,-


"Lobed guards study group"

€ 750,-


Individual items for sale:


Chinese style koshirae € 3500,-

Korean sword guard logo
SOLD

Possibly Sinhalese guard logo
€ 2000,-

Possibly Sinhalese guard logo
SOLD


€ 1600,-


€ 1500,-


€ 1500,-


RESERVED


€560


€1200


€900


€200


€250






Sold items archive

Kogai and koggatana in the nanban style
Extraordinarily rare futakoromono in Chinese style
SOLD


Kogatana in the nanban style
Very rare kogatana in Chinese style
SOLD


SOLD


SOLD


SOLD

A Chinese openwork saber guard
SOLD

A Japanese nanban style tsuba
SOLD

A Japanese nanban style tsuba
SOLD