A fine antique jian | Mandarin Mansion

A fine antique jian

Overall length: 70.8 cm / 30.4 inch
Blade length: 57.8 cm / 24.8 inch
Thickness: forte 4 mm, middle 4 mm
Blade width: forte 27 mm, middle 24.5 mm
Weight without scabbard: 373 grams

This is quite an interesting piece, as it's not a duanjian or "shortsword", but it's also slightly short for a jian. It is pretty much in the middle, and despite the light weight, the forward balance provides it with a rather serious feel, more reminiscent of full-length jian. The blade is nicely forged, a recent polish and etch reveal its folding structure with an inserted high-carbon edge plate sandwiched between two layers of milder folded steel.

A manchu jian?
All fittings are original to the piece, two scabbard fittings are missing but fortunately chape and mouthpiece are both still there. The remaining suspension fitting is signed "longquan" after the famous sword making centre there. Interestingly, the loop for the suspension strap is on the left, which means that if the sword is worn on the left side, which was customary, the hilt would point backwards. This is exactly how Manchus often wore their swords, a custom that probably evolved because the Manchu bow was hung from the same side, pointing forward, and this way the sword and bow handles would not be in each other's way. Manchus usually wore sabers, but there are various pieces of artwork showing Manchus with jian as well, mainly in peacetime.

The fittings are well-made, engraved and stamped with floral patterns. Some dents here and there, which is often the case on such pieces. The original scabbard is lacquered in an unusual manner, being dark brown with a pattern of reddish v-shaped streaks. The scabbard has been through a lot and could either use serious conservation or replacement.

Originally the piece came with a dark blue grip-wrap, partly deteriorated. I re-wrapped it with similar, dark blue cord.

A very interesting jian, that's a tad shorter than most but still with a rather grown-up feel to it. It perhaps was a side-arm to a member of the Manchu ruling elite, worn as a daily means of status and self-protection.


Interested? Questions?
Contact peter@mandarinmansion.com