Perhaps one of the most famous and long-lived of Chinese weapons.
Near tip 4.5mm
Near tip 26mm
12.5 cm from handle side of the guard
China, Ming dynasty
Probably 16th or 17th century
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An early Chinese militia jiàn most likely dating from the Ming dynasty (1368-1644). These were probably used by ah-hoc defense armies such as rural militias. For an introduction on this type of weapon, see my glossary article: Chinese militia jiàn
Of fairly standard size and weight for a 16th to 17th-century militia jiàn, it has a thick and heavy blade that is of sanmei construction with a high-carbon hardened edge plate between protective layers of tougher steel. The blade has obviously seen action, with several cuts made into the tougher steel by another weapon.
Its most unusual feature is the asymmetrical crossguard, with one end pointing slightly up and the other pointing slightly down. The same effect is seen on a saber carried by a northern huntsman on a 15th-century painting in the Freer and Sackler gallery. Crossguards were common on Chinese and steppe weapons well into the Ming dynasty, mostly on sabers but also seen on jiàn. They were supplanted gradually by discoid guards and more elaborate zoomorphic guards on later jiàn.
A practical fighting jiàn of the late Ming, exhibiting a rarer early form of crossguard.
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From approximately the 5th to 3rd century B.C.
Built around a beautifully forged blade, in full polish, revealing a burl grain pattern.
With influences from several cultures that are rarely seen on a single blade.
Presented by the local Dai nobility to a British customs officer in 1936.
With designs of four dragons in scrollwork around a "wish-granting-jewel"