Presented by the local Dai nobility to a British customs officer in 1936.
81.3 cm / 32 inch
66.5 cm / 26.2 inch
7.5 mm (forte)
5.5 mm (middle)
4 mm (near tip)
42 mm (forte)
42 mm (middle)
41 mm (widest at tip)
18.5 cm from guard
Kingdom of Bhutan
Iron, steel, wood, cotton.
Scabbard: Iron, wood, brass, leather, lacquer.
Late 19th / early 20th century
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The national sword of Bhutan, the patag has a straight, single-edged blade and was typically worn on the right hip. This is a breach of tradition with most Himalayan cultures -or most cultures in general for that matter- that would wear a sword on the left hip for easy grasping with the right hand.
There were many gradations in quality, and some were reserved for certain ranks. Those entirely clad in silver represent the highest quality of Bhutanese swords. From the times of Ugyen Wangchuck onwards, silver-clad Bhutanese patag with a scabbard midsection with wavy patterns called churi chenm are in particular associated with the king himself.
They were not exclusively worn by kings though, Ugyen Wangchuck's most trusted advisor also wore one. At the same time, we can see people as close to the king as the king's father, would still wear a much simpler scabbard.
This Bhutanese patag is built around a fine, pattern welded blade. Hollow-ground on both sides, it has a prominent inserted high-carbon edge plate and even the cloudy effect of a differential heat-treatment is visible. It is made with incredible precision, straight lines and crisp bevels, and rings with a high-pitched sound when struck. There is good weight and balance to it, and it feels rather lively in hand.
Although the profile is typical for these, the construction and finish of this blade is most unusual for this type of sword. They tend to come with Tibetan style forged blades exhibiting hairpin forging. In Bhutanese fashion, the hairpin forging is often accentuated by grooves following the pattern and then burnished to a bright finish.
The common blade style found on these.
Blade of this example.
The hilt follows the typical design for high-end Bhutanese swords, with a fluted and waisted grip, wrapped with braided silver wire held in place with red lacquer in either side. It has a beautiful gilt silver openwork pommel with scrollwork on the front and top, and a geometric honeycomb design on the back. The front and top carry symbols referring to Vajrayāna (Tantric) Buddhism, the main religion in Bhutan. This includes a vase flanked left and right by a fish and conch shell. On the back the dharmachakra or "Wheel of the Dharma".
The Conch Shell refers to the Buddha's teaching spreading in all directions like the sound of the conch trumpet, awakening his subjects from the deep slumber of ignorance. The Vase of Treasure symbolizes long life, wealth and prosperity and all the benefits of this world and liberation. The fish symbolizes moving freely and spontaneously, without fear of drowning in the ocean of suffering. The dharmachakra represents the dharma, the teachings that lead to nirvana.
The scabbard is completely clad in silver, with a slightly more reddish alloy used for the mid-section. It retains its original leather carrying strap. The mid-section is also chased and chiseled with three W patterns, called churi chenm ("wavy pattern"), with remains of gold. The pattern is said to resemble a splashing and meandering river. The workmanship on these is often superb, and it is considered by the Bhutanese to be their height of sword scabbard decoration. Such scabbards were worn by Bhutanese rulers from Ugyen Wangchuck onwards. They were also worn by the ruler's changap, the chief attendant.
For more information on this type of sword, see my description of a notable Bhutananese sword I sold in 2016.
Scabbard has been subject to a lot of cleaning over the years, somewhat rounding the chiseled work and most of the gold is by now lost. There is one ding on the lower portion of the scabbard. Otherwise the scabbard is in good condition, with the usual minor wear and tear from years of use. The scabbard is a very precise fit to the blade. The pommel is still crisp, but with considerable loss of gold. Some scuffing to the red lacquered cord on the handle. The blade is in excellent condition, no nicks, pits or portions of excessive polishing.
A very nice example of a high quality Bhutanese sword with the prized churi chenm type scabbard and unusual, high quality blade.
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