Dai dha logo
Overall length

Sheathed 90.2 cm

Sword 83.5 cm

Blade length

54 cm

Blade thickness

Base 7 mm

Middle 3 mm

Near tip 2 mm

Blade width

Base 28 mm

Middle 27.5

Widest 33 mm

Weight

510 grams

Point of balance

6.8 cm from hilt

Origin

Yunnan / Burma border area

Materials

Steel, iron, wood, silver, red foil

Price €1750, -

Interested?
Anything similar for sale?

Contact me

Introduction

Among the many peoples that used and produced the dha were the Dai people, which is an umbrella term for a large group of peoplea in Yunnan, Laos, Thailand, and Burma. Those in China are also known as the "Chinese Shan".

We know from the inscription on a presentation dha from a Chinese Shan royal family to a British custom's officer what their swords look like. This sword has since helped identify other swords as being Chinese Shan.1

Defining features are the large, garlic bulb shaped pommel and the distinctive style of silverwork on grip and scabbard.

 

This example

A fine example, built around a very well-finished blade with a prominent temperline. The blade's surface doesn't show a lot of activity otherwise, this is due to the fact that most of these were made with an outer jacket or high-carbon steel completely covering the inner layering.1

The point is somewhat rounded, and not suitable for the thrust. Many dha from various people in this region have non-thrusting points, one way or the other. A Husa valley dha has a spine that takes a deep curve towards the edge near the point, and most dha in use by the Kachin have flattened tops.

The hilt of typical round cross-section, with large garlic-shaped pommel. The grip section is covered by an intricate braid of silver wire, and site in between decorative bands of silver. Above the grip is an edged silver ring, a divider often seen on these dha. Above that, the grip's cross-section has ten facets. At the top of the handle is a widening part that meets the scabbard.

The scabbard starts round in cross-section and then flattens out towards the end. It is covered in silver sheet, divided into five main segments. A few of the segments have open sections bordered by decorative silver wire braid, through which can be seen a red background. There are some remains of a very shiny red foil.

 

Comparable examples

Going through some of the old catalogs by famous London based dealer W.O. Oldman, I found two very similar dha offered by him in his March 1906 catalog:

Oldman dha

Two Chinese Shan dha from the W.O. Oldman catalog of March 1906.

The catalog entries say:

"2 (9331) Sword; light curved one edged blade; hilt covered silver, large pommel, plaited cane bands on grip; the sheath is almost completely covered with silver, filigree bands, thick red cotton belt attached. Length 33½ inches. £3/3/0."

"3 (9330) Sword; very similar to No. 2, finer specimen, more filigree work. Length 32 inches. £3/10/0"

 

It is hard to draw an accurate image as to when this style was produced and how long production continued, but we can say for sure that nearly identical work was done at least before 1906.

 

Condition

Pretty good condition throughout. The usual denting in the thin silver sheet, but no significant losses other than the red foil in the open sections of the scabbard. The blade is in new polish by Philip Tom.

 

Conclusion

A fine example of a higher quality Dai minority / Chinese Shan dha with well-made, practical blade, mounted beautifully in hilt and scabbard covered with fine silverwork.

 

Notes
1. See the presentation dha listed on this website.
2. E.N. Bell I.C.S.; A Monograph on Iron and Steel Work in Burma. Rangoon, Superintendent, Government Printing Burma, 1907.

Dai minority dha
Dai minority dha
Dai minority dha
Dai minority dha
Dai minority dha
Dai minority dha
Dai minority dha
Dai minority dha
Dai minority dha
Dai minority dha
Dai minority dha
Dai minority dha
Dai minority dha
Dai minority dha
Dai minority dha
Dai minority dha
Dai minority dha
Dai minority dha

Do you have anything for sale?

I might be interested in buying it.

Contact me

Presented by the local Dai nobility to a British customs officer in 1936.

€2000,-

An earlier example with an iconographic hilt.

€1650,-

A rare set of twin knives in a single scabbard.

€750,-

With intricately carved ivory hilt depicting a demon on a horse.

€1800,-

Over the years a number of Ottoman swords have turned up with gilt copper hilts and scabbards that were covered in corals and turquoises. Most of these seem to date from the 19th century, but are loosely based on much older examples with similar decoration...

Price on request

The archetypical Chinese sword guard that gave rise to the Japanese genre of "nanban tsuba".

€2000,-
ARTICLE
Making a Chinese rattan shield
Ever since I acquired an antique Chinese tengpai
Read the article
ARTICLE
Markings on Chinese swords
Most markings are found on military edged weapons, usually in the f...
Read the article
ARTICLE
Antique Vietnamese swords
A reference list of antique Vietnamese swords and sabers I've ...
Read the article
ARTICLE
A saber glossary in Manchu
An overview of Manchu saber terminology.
Read the article