A Chinese straightsword | Mandarin Mansion

A Chinese straightsword


Overall length: 71.5 cm / 28.1 inch
Blade length: 56.8 cm / 22.4 inch
Thickness: forte 4 mm, middle 4 mm.
Blade width: forte 35 mm, middle 33 mm.
Weight without scabbard: 494 grams

A late Qing dynasty jian (劍) or straightsword. Such swords were carried by the upper class of the late Qing as a symbol of their scholarly status, and for personal protection. Many late Qing jian are of rather uninspiring quality, made with soft steel. This sword is a delightful exception, with a fully functional fighting blade.

It has a wide blade with an inserted hardened edge, visible at the tip. The blade is rather stiff for its thickness, partly due to the hard steel used, partly due to its width. The edges are very hard, and very sharp. Some hints of its forge folded construction can be made out when looking closely. Also, in the right light, a faint grey temper line is seen along the edge. This is probably a sign of differential heat-treating with clay, producing an effect known as "hamon" on Japanese weapons.

Fittings & hilt
All parts original, fittings made of sheet brass, undecorated but of good geometry one scabbard band lost. In typical style, well-made but undecorated. The blade is a somewhat rare example of a brass guard with forward swept quillons, while on most they sweep backwards. Due to shrinkage of the handle there was some play in the guard, which is tightened again by wrapping some cord under the ferrule. The pleasant grip is made of a beautiful piece of water buffalo horn.

It comes in its original wooden ray-skin covered scabbard. The ray-skin is in excellent condition, the seem opened up a little due to shrinkage of the materials over the last century, but other wise there is hardly any damage. The ray-skin was lacquered black and then polished to a glossy surface, which it retains until today.

Antique Chinese straightswords are rather hard to come by. Not many late jian are true weapons, but this one is. It's overall quality manufacture will appeal to the collector, while it's handling characteristics and martial potential will appeal to the martial artist.