Description A rather unusual Vi
Base 7.5 mm
Middle 6 mm
Near tip 3 mm
Base 30 mm
Middle 27 mm
Near tip 12 mm
28 mm from guard
Iron, steel, brass, bone, pig leather.
North Vietnam or Yunnan
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Several variations of fighting knives like this with pigskin scabbards were in use all over southern China. Some of the most famous types among collectors and martial artists are the húdiédāo (蝴蝶刀) that still remain in use in Southern martial arts.
Among antiques, we also frequently encounter a smaller type dagger, usually carried along in its scabbard although double variations of this knife are also known.
A fighting knife with thick, single-edge blade that tapers to a sharp point. It has a small hexagonal guard with filed and drilled decoration. Two long ferrules hold the bone grip. The pommel is shaped and decorated much like the guard.
In many ways this seems like a typical example of a Chinese fighting knife. But subtleties in its manufacture point towards northern Vietnam instead. It is mainly in the profile of the blade that reminds strongly of Vietnamese and Khmer pole-arms. Also the type of decoration done on guard and pommel is more typical for Yunnanese ethnic minorities and people of Vietnam than they are for Chinese work. Chinese examples tend to have more angular profiled blades, and often mounts that remain undecorated.
In "as found" condition, still very sharp. blade in near excellent condition. Comes with its original pigskin scabbard.
Dating and attribution
Many of these knives turn up in France, some with provenance to French troops serving in Indochina in the late 19th century. Some were said to be taken from the Black Flags after battles like the Siege of Tuyên Quang in 1884-1885. The Black flags were mostly composed of people from the Zhuang ethnic minority.
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Called sung hoả mai in Vietnamese, with baitong lock.
Constructed out of dense hardwood and with fine mother-of-pearl inlays in the Vietnamese fashion.
Collected by a Russian prince from the hill peoples of central Vietnam in 1892.
It has a narrow but sturdy blade with a springy temper.
An outstanding example with very fine silver and moth-of-pearl work.