The Art of the Chinese Sword

October 11th, 2010

The Art of the Chinese Sword

Philip Tom

The medieval Chinese dynasties saw great advances in metallurgy. Some,
like the ability to produce cast iron, were far ahead of such technology
in the Europe. Others, like the mastery of efficient, large-scale steel
production, enabled the Tang and Song dynasties to become major military
powers in east Asia.

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Three Rare Korean Sabers

October 11th, 2010

Three Rare Korean Sabers

Reprinted from "Sword & Brush" exhibiton catalog

D-027 KOREAN SABER

Blade length 27 1/2 in.
19th century

The heavy blade of qiangang construction, with a marked taper, deep fullers, and short backedge, fitted with a Japanese-inspired collar at forte, mounted with a short tapering grip whose design shows Japanese influence. The octagonal guard as well as all other fittings of iron, decorated with encrusted silver designs. The scabbard of Chinese form, covered with dyed and polished shagreen.

This type of weapon was intended for combat use by a military officer. In general, Korean sabers follow Japanese prototypes whereas the straight swords are very Chinese in appearance. This saber is unusual in that it combines elements from both cultures. Of particular interest is the pommel. Although generally similar to Chinese saber pommels, this specimen’s proportions and shape are also reminiscent of those on the Central Asian and Siberian sabers carried by Mongol forces in the 13th-14th centuries.

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Pages from Shaolin Monk Cheng Chongdou’s Dandao Manual of 1678

October 11th, 2010

Pages from Shaolin Monk Cheng Chongdou’s Dandao Manual of 1678

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Historical Illustrations of the Ming Military

October 11th, 2010

Historical Illustrations of the Ming Military

 
Ming Governor

A Ming governor in scale armor vest carrying a jian

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Myths about Chinese swordsmanship

October 11th, 2010

Myths about Chinese swordsmanship

Picture of chinese jian with dual rows of huawen [flowery figured] Damascus steel with lamelae of twists running obliquely toward the point on either side of the median ridge.
Chinese jian with dual rows of huawen
Damascus steel with lamelae of twists running obliquely toward the point on
either side of the median ridge.

Preface

There are many widely-held misconceptions about Chinese swords. I have
selected five of the most commonly repeated. I will attempt to dispel them.

Most of the stories have been passed down from generation-to-generation
by the Chinese themselves. These stories are based on “fairy-tales”.
Indeed, frequently these stories are repeated by people who have never handled
an antique sword and who know nothing about Chinese swords, or about metallurgy
or about the art of the swordsmith.

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Qing Parade Armor Types

October 11th, 2010
  Qing
Parade Armor Types

During the reign of the Emperor Qianlong, a multi-volume Illustrated
text was put together to standardize all paraphernalia for use within
the Imperial house hold and Empire. The first edition, dated 1759, contains
over 6000 objects. In 1766, a Palace Edition of these regulations was
printed from wood blocks of which six chapters deal with armor, weaponry
and the trappings of war. This HuangChiao LiQi DuShih (Illustrated Regulations
for the Ceremonial Regalia of the Imperial Court) maybe used as a guide
to identifying grades of Qing parade armor. From the information provided
I divided the various types of armor into categories based on color &
fabric design. The most obvious difference between the various ranks being
their color (it should be noted that while these suits are presented as
‘armor’, they are in fact for parade and do not contain any actual armor
plate; by Qianlong’s reign, 1736-1796, the widespread use of matchlocks
and cannon made armor increasing obsolete). The descriptions for each
rank are given in the order they are in the HuangChiao LiQi DuShih:

Huang Di Da Yue Jia Yi, Er- Emperor’s Grand Review Armor One , Two:
Very elaborate, of Imperial (Golden) Yellow with the Five Clawed Dragon.
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Historical Illustrations of the Qing Military

October 11th, 2010

A Fourth Rank Qing Military Officer wearing a jacket with the Tiger adorned badge of his rank, probably Kangxi period. Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Qing Archers in Beijing

Qing soldiers practicing archery on the street in Beijing, 1894.

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Knives of the Taiwan Aborigines

October 11th, 2010

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Knives
of the Taiwan Aborigines

By Sherrod V. Anderson & Philip Tom

Hints of the history
of a people can often be discerned as we more closely examine the weapons
of their culture. These are forged and dressed with care, for not only are
they a man’s most constant companions, but are also his major implements
for survival in a hostile world of physical challenges and supernatural
threat. The blades and mountings of the knives of the Baiwan people offer
many clues to a dynamic and intriguing cultural heritage.

Firearms and Artillery in Pre-Colonial Vietnam

October 11th, 2010

FIREARMS AND ARTILLERY IN PRE-COLONIAL VIETNAM: An Introduction
By Philip Tom

The adoption and use of gunpowder-actuated weapons by the Vietnamese
reflect the patterns of cultural influences that have shaped their civilization
as a whole. Study of this subject by modern scholars has been hampered
by the relative inaccessibility of source materials, and the loss of many
artifacts during the country’s turbulent history. What little that remains
suggests that the Dai Viet people, like the Japanese, showed considerable
talent for adaptation, but little proclivity for innovation in this field.

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Vietnamese Swords

October 11th, 2010

Vietnamese Swords

Nineteenth Century Vietnamese Kiem,
Private Collection.

Swords of Vietnam are a beautiful and interesting cross
of Chinese, Japanese, Thai and in later designs, French influences. Vietnamese
smiths employed sophisticated methods of inlaying precious metals and
excellent chased silver for the fittings of their weapons that are unique
to the region. Finer examples of both types of swords are often mounted
with ivory elephant handles. These grips are either made of the tip of
an tusk elephant or of sections of elephant molars.

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