Exceptionally large pierced iron guard for a Chinese yidao; "virtuous saber".
Sheathed 88.7 cm
Sword 84.3 cm
Base 4 mm
Middle 4.5 mm
5 cm from tip 3 mm
Base 29.5 mm
Middle 26 mm
5 cm from tip 23 mm
15.3 cm from hilt side of guard
Iron, steel, bone, brass, wood, lacquer
Longquan, Zhejiang, China
European antique art market
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A very good Lóngquán jiàn, named after the famed sword making center in Zhejiang province, Southern China.
The double-edged blade has a strong "ricasso", a design feature that appeared on Chinese swords somewhere during the late Qing period. The blade is forge folded with a high-carbon edge plate supported on both sides by layers of milder steel. Its surface shows a wood grain pattern.
Blade activity as seen in glancing light,
including an inserted edge and cloudy effects of the heat treatment.
The blade is adorned with seven brass stars inlaid in the blade on either side, representing Běidǒu (北斗), the Big Dipper. To read more about its significance, see my glossary article: Běidǒu (北斗).
On both sides of the ricasso are inlaid in brass a highly stylized 勅魔 "chì mó" - a Daoist demon repelling talisman. The work of these inlays bears similarity to the execution of the inlays on a pair of fine Daoist shuāngjiàn sold here earlier this year. That sword, along with this one, could be the work of Qiān Zì Hao (千字号), a Longquan sword shop that was founded in 1748 and was active to around the Guangxu period (1875-1908).
For more information, see my glossary article: Longquan
"Chì mó" inlaid into the blade in brass.
Grip and scabbard
The grip section is made of bone, a material rarely seen used as a grip on Chinese swords. The scabbard is lacquered black, with a spiral groove in the lacquer that once held a metal wire, now gone. Such wire-wrapped scabbards became popular in the late Qing and remained in use in the early Republican period.
The sword is mounted in a very nice en-suite set of brass mounts. Each of them is engraved with Chinese auspicious designs from both Buddhism and Daoism. The hilt is rather striking in that the pommel follows more of an earlier Ming form, and the very substantial guard is shaped like a stylized bat, pronounced fú in Mandarin which is a pun for "luck".
The words "龍泉" (Lóngquán) appear on the upper scabbard suspension mount.
The lower one is adorned with a 螭龍 (chīlóng), a mythical subspecies of dragon.
Chīlóng on the scabbard mount.
Bat shaped guard and early style pommel.
The workmanship on all mounts is a lot better than was the norm in this period.
While the fittings seem consistent with earlier periods, the ricasso and wire-wrapped scabbard are both features that emerged only in the late Qing. I believe the sword is probably made circa 1900, give or take a decade.
Blade in good shape, some minor edge damage and signs of sharpening but otherwise healthy. No pitting or forging flaws. Some play in hilt due to shrinkage of the grip, as usual with these. Scabbard structurally sound, some damage to lacquer, two small splits, wire wrap lost. All fittings are complete and in good shape.
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With markings attributing it to the Tongzhou incident and a Japanese surrender tag.
A fine and unusually large tsuba. Attributed to Hizen by the NBTHK.
A robust and heavy example, crafted with care.
Built around an imported blade, with a human head shaped pommel.
Silk horse mask from the Xianbei ruled dynasty which ruled northern China from 386 to 534 A.D.