Chinese duanjian with black lacquered scabbard | Mandarin Mansion

Chinese duanjian with black lacquered scabbard

Short Chinese straightswords or duanjian (短劍) were worn as a status symbol and self-defense sidearm by a wide range of people in China, including many minority peoples who are depicted wearing typical Chinese styled duanjian in the Qianlong period "Qing Imperial Illustrations of Tributaries".

Overall length: 64.5 cm / 25.4 inch
Blade length: 52.5 cm / 20.7 inch
Thickness: forte 5 mm, middle 4 mm, near tip 2.5 mm
Weight without scabbard: 400 grams
Point of balance: 16.5 cm from handle side of guard

A charming little duanjian, of classic form, probably dating to the late 19th century.

The somewhat stout blade is stiff and of good temper. In original finish, it's edges remain unsharpened, while the leading edges of the point and the point itself is sharpened. You get the feeling it might have served for self-defense, trying to avoid the kill with strikes from the blunt sides and keeping the point as a last resort.

Blade decorated with seven copper stars inlaid in the blade referring to the Great Dipper, a significant constellation in Chinese philosophical thought, mainly Daoism. Such stars are usually done in brass, the execution in copper such as on this sword is somewhat more rare.

The hilt is small, it might be made for a woman or youth. Its handle of deep dark red wood. The backward swept guard and flattened ball pommel are made of sheet brass. The pommel is reminiscent of those found on Chinese military sabers of the 19th century. Handle is tight, nothing is loose and the original peened tang end is intact.

Comes with a nice wire wrapped scabbard which is subsequently lacquered black. Scabbard is in remarkable condition, structurally sound and with only very few losses to the lacquer. Scabbard fittings also of sheet brass, with pierced decor, they all fit snugly to the scabbard with no moving parts. Some damage to the scabbard mouthpiece, see photo's, otherwise all intact and complete.

An honest old duanjian. Despite the small size, it has a serious feel to it and could be used effectively for self-defense. Nothing fancy, but of decent quality for the time and in very good overall condition.


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