A hefty niuweidao | Mandarin Mansion

A hefty niuweidao

Overall length: 96 cm / 37.8 inch
Blade length: 78.5 cm / 30.9 inch
Thickness: forte 8 mm, middle 3.5 mm.
Blade width: forte 36 mm, widest 57 mm.
Weight without scabbard: 886 grams

A large and impressive late Qing dynasty niuweidao (牛尾刀) or "oxtail saber". These sabers originated in civilian circles somewhere in the 19th century and their widespread use among rebels and martial artists have made it known as the archetypical Chinese saber. They are characterized by having relatively thin blades that flare out considerably near the tip, where they have a rounder cutting section than other Chinese saber types. This design is optimized for cutting soft targets, something that reflected the disappearance or armor of Chinese battlefield when firearms became more widespread.

The blade of this saber is unusually thick and heavy for this late type of niuweidao. Weighing nearly a kilo, it is clearly meant for the more fit practitioner. The steel rings with a very high pitch, indicating good hard steel. The surface of the blade is still in its original and very bright finish, with some light scratching and only very few small patches of black corrosion. Its fullers are precisely cut and deep. It comes with rather well-made, sturdy iron fittings that were once lacquered black. Some of the paint was lost, showing the iron surface underneath. The peened tang end visible through the pommel is still undisturbed: a sign that the hilt was never taken apart. The blade is currently not sharp, and may have served as a training or demonstration piece in the latter end of its life by (street performing) martial artists.

It comes with its original black lacquered resting scabbard with brass fittings. The scabbard is in poor condition and part of the tip section broke off. It has also lost the chape. The other fittings are still there, and may help reconstruct a new scabbard later in life.

An impressively large late Qing niuweidao with a blade quality that stands high above that of most swords dating from this period.


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