A very rare Chinese saber guard dating from the height of the Qing dynasty.
Base 18 mm
Middle 12 mm
Near tip 7.5 mm
6 cm from guard
China, Qing dynasty
Bronze, brass, wood.
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Chinese iron or steel maces with a smooth rod are called tiějiǎn (鐵鐧). There is a reference in a 1702 Chinese-Manchu dictionary of a tóngjiǎn (銅鐧) or "bronze mace".1 These bronze examples are much rarer and very much sought after by collectors. They also tend to be of better quality manufacture than most of their iron counterparts.
A nice Chinese smooth-rod-mace of a type called jiǎn (鐧). It consists of a strongly tapering bronze rod of square cross-section, with each flat being concave creating better edges on each corner. There are some small deposits of iron in the bronze rod, as is evident from some red rust forming on them.
At the base of the rod is a large brass dragon head tūnkǒu (吞口) or "swallowing mouth". It is a representation of Yázì (睚眦), one of the nine legendary sons of the dragon. Yázì is the most aggressive of dragon -normally benevolent creatures in Chinese mythology- and is often a hybrid of wolf and dragon stylistic elements. The head of Yázì on this jiǎn is very well articulated. One of its horns lost its end.
The guard is a four-lobed bronze plate with a protrusion between each lobe that are the tips of a cross-shape chiseled on the top. It is further decorated with radial lines engraved in the place.
The grip consists of a bulging ribbed wooden handle between two bronze ferrules. Grip with smooth patina from handling. Some damage near the ear.
The polyhedral pommel is engraved with stylized cloud and flower shapes. The bronze tang of the main rod is peened at the back over a six-petaled flower washer.
Some minor play in all handle parts, a small crack in the guard, and some chips cut out of the grip. (How or why eludes me.) As mentioned one horn of Yázì misses its tip. Judging from the patina this happened long ago. Otherwise with a beautiful, undisturbed patina throughout on all parts including the grip. The piece has not been subject to any recent cleaning.
A nice example of a very rare type of all bronze Chinese mace. The workmanship is beyond the norm for Chinese maces, with nice attention to detail in the various parts.
1. Tongwen Guanghui Quanshu (同文廣彙全書) or "Enlarged and complete dictionary" of 1702. A Qing imperial dictionary in Chinese and Manchu, each entry double-checked and approved by the Kangxi emperor.
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