A Ming-Qing transition period jian | Mandarin Mansion

A Ming-Qing transition period jian

The Chinese straightsword or jian (劍) was the side arm of the Chinese literati. Their blades relatively wide and heavy compared to straightswords of other cultures, the Chinese jian is not only a good thruster but a great cutter as well. Because they were made for a small elite, there were never that many jian in production in China, compared to for example civilian and military sabers. Due to the popularity of the practice of taijiquan jian forms today, the demand for good balanced antique jian creates steady demand for an already scarce item. For this reason we don't have good jian all that often, and they tend to sell quick.


Overall length: 87 cm / 35.20 inch
Blade length: 68.3 cm / 26.8 inch
Thickness: forte 8 mm, middle 5 mm, near tip 3.5 mm
Blade width: forte 37 mm, middle 26 mm
Weight without scabbard: 730 grams
Point of balance: 16.8 cm from handle side of guard

A very rare jian with early blade that dates from the late Ming to early Qing transition period of the 17th century. With characteristic blade for this period, that starts out relatively wide and narrows down more over the length than later jian do.

The condition is remarkable for its age, with a healthy, and heavy blade that is free of edge nicks or fatal damage like edge cracks. It retains the very stiff temper characteristic for good Chinese jian. It is forged in the sanmei method, with three layers, the middle of which being high-carbon steel. The forge folded steel outer layers show in high contrast, exhibiting a pattern resembling wood or flowing water. It comes fully sharp.

Inlaid in the blade are seven brass stars, representing the Big Dipper, a significant constellation in Daoism. (Some harmless cracks, far from the edge, around the brass dots. One dot can move slightly.) When looking along its length in the light you see bulges in edge and surfaces that indicate field sharpening sessions. None of these removed too much material. Today they are reminders the days of the sword's active service over the course of the three centuries it spent in China. Despite the sharpenings, it is still a substantial sword with good weight in hand and excellent balance.

Mounted in associated hilt fittings probably dating from the late Qing, but are executed in a Ming style. Such fittings are rather rare for that period, where the "ace of spades" or "taotie" style guards were pretty much the norm on higher end straightswords. The set consists of a guard in stylized cloud shape, and with a lobed pommel. All fittings punched and engraved with flowers. With new hardwood handle. No scabbard.

Jian with good quality fighting blades have become increasingly rare, even of the late Qing. Very rarely do we encounter an over 300 year old blade such as this one that is still worthy of a restoration. A rare chance to own a very old jian in this condition.


Interested? Further questions?
Contact: peter@mandarinmansion.com

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