The Chinese straightsword or jian (劍) was the sword of the Chinese civilian elite, worn as a status symbol and self-defense sidearm. In the late Qing, most jian that were made were practice pieces used by martial artists, their blades not hardened. Actual fighting examples such as this one, with forge folded steel blades with inserted high-carbon edges, are relatively rare on today's market.
Overall length: 102 cm / 37.2 inch
Blade length: 81.5 cm / 30.6 inch
Thickness: 8 mm at base, 5 mm middle, 4.5 mm near tip
Weight without scabbard: 1139 grams
Point of balance: 17 cm from handle side of guard
For sale is a very large and impressive fighting jian, probably dating from the late 19th century. Complete with its original scabbard, all fittings ensuite. Its blade the largest single handed straightsword blade we've offered so far. Of excellent quality steel of sanmei construction with forge folded steel body with inserted high-carbon edge plate sandwiched in-between, the high-carbon plate exposed at edges and tip. It rings like a bell when struck: Another sign of excellent steel.
Two tiny nicks near the tip section, otherwise perfectly preserved with no pitting. Some signs of previous sharpening as can be expected with fighting swords of this age. Blade lightly cleaned, already showing some of its forge folded construction. Forging is very tight and controlled, with hints of a differential heat treatment. It could benefit from a full polish by Philip Tom to reveal its true beauty. I leave that to the buyer's discretion.
Apart from the size the most striking feature is perhaps its bronze guard, shaped like a Qing saber guard instead of the more standard "ace of spades" style that late Chinese straightswords tend to be fitted with. Such saberlike guards were more common on earlier jian of the Ming and early Qing and seemed to have gone out of fashion by the late Qing. The hilt retains its original grip wrap in black cotton cord, handle and wrap are very tight.
The original scabbard is in excellent condition, covered with green ray-skin almost completely intact and its original suit of brass fittings. Scabbard mouthpiece and endpiece with pierced designs. Between them three reinforcing bands, with shields on one side. The suspension bands still carry the original suspension cord. Discoloration on the ray-skin suggests the shields were once on the other side of the sword.
A martial arts perspective
The sword is very well-balanced for single handed use, but the handle is long enough to accommodate help from the other hand when needed for heavy cuts or parries. Although the beginner might find it heavy in the hand, I personally find heavy swords excellent for training because it makes your average 700 - 800 gram sword feel light and particularly easy to manoeuvre in comparison. It also forces one to work more from the hips, as a proper swordsman should, and less from the arms and hands. This sword may have been specially commissioned by someone who preferred the protection a saber guard offered, perhaps a military officer trained in saber fencing. The piece has an impressive, serious feel to it.
An impressively large antique Chinese straightsword, of a rare type with saber style guard. It is built around an excellent steel blade with prominently visible sanmei construction. It is very hard to find antique Chinese fighting straightswords today, let alone pieces of this quality, condition and size. This sword is an asset for both the collector or the serious martial artist.
Interested? Further questions?