A Bhutanese "churi chemn" sword | Peter Dekker's Mandarin Mansion: Antique Arms & Armor

A Bhutanese "churi chemn" sword

A Bhutanese patag sword with churi chemn patterned scabbard

Introduction

The national sword of Bhutan is the patag, a straight, single edged sword that is worn on the right hip. There were many gradations in quality, and some were reserved for a certain purpose. Those entirely clad in silver represent the highest quality of Bhutanese swords. From the times of Ugyen Wangchuck onwards, silver-clade Bhutanese patag with a scabbard midsection with wavy patterns called churi chenm are in particular associated with the king himself. They were not exclusively worn by kings though, Ugyen Wangchuck's most trusted advisor also wore one. At the same time, we can see people as close to the king as the king's father, would wear a much simpler scabbard.


This Example

Overall length: 81.3 cm / 32 inch
Blade length: 66.5 cm / 26.2 inch
Blade thickness: 7.5 mm (forte), 5.5 mm (middle), 4 mm (near tip)
Blade width: 42 mm (forte), 42 mm (middle), 41 mm (widest at tip)
Weight without scabbard: 895 grams
P.o.b.: 18.5 cm from guard

Origin: Kingdom of Bhutan
Materials: Iron, steel, wood, cotton. Scabbard: Iron, wood, brass, leather, lacquer.
Dating: Late 19th to early 20th century.

Inventory number: BH17001


Description

This Bhutanese patag is built around a fine, pattern welded blade. Hollow-ground on both sides, it has a prominent inserted high-carbon edge plate and even the cloudy effect of a differential heat-treatment is visible. It is made with incredible precision, straight lines and crisp bevels, and rings with a high-pitched sound when struck. There is good weight and balance to it, and it feels rather lively in hand.

Although the profile is typical for these, the construction and finish of this blade is most unusual for this type of sword. They tend to come with Tibetan style forged blades exhibiting hairpin forging. In Bhutanese fashion, the hairpin forging is often accentuated by grooves following the pattern and then burnished to a bright finish.

The archetypical blade style found on Bhutanese swords
The common blade style found on these.

A Bhutanese patag sword with churi chemn patterned scabbard
Blade of this example.

The hilt follows the typical design for high-end Bhutanese swords, with a fluted and waisted grip, wrapped with braided silver wire held in place with red lacquer in either side. It has a beautiful gilt silver openwork pommel with scrollwork on the front and top, and a geometric honeycomb design on the back. The front and top carry symbols referring to Vajray─üna (Tantric) Buddhism, the main religion in Bhutan. This includes a vase flanked left and right by a fish and conch shell. On the back the dharmachakra or "Wheel of the Dharma".

The Conch Shell refers to the Buddha's teaching spreading in all directions like the sound of the conch trumpet, awakening his subjects from the deep slumber of ignorance. The Vase of Treasure symbolizes long life, wealth and prosperity and all the benefits of this world and liberation. The fish symbolizes moving freely and spontaneously, without fear of drowning in the ocean of suffering. The dharmachakra represents the dharma, the teachings that lead to nirvana.

The scabbard is completely clad in silver, with a slightly more reddish alloy used for the mid-section. It retains its original leather carrying strap. The mid-section is also chased and chiseled with three W patterns, called churi chemn ("wavy pattern"), with remains of gold. The pattern is said to resemble a splashing and meandering river. The workmanship on these is often superb, and it is considered by the Bhutanese to be their height of sword scabbard decoration. Such scabbards were worn by Bhutanese rulers from Ugyen Wangchuck onwards. They were also worn by the ruler's changap, the chief attendant.

For more information on this type of sword, see my description of "a notable Bhutanese sword" sold in 2016.



Condition
Scabbard has been subject to a lot of cleaning over the years, somewhat rounding the chiseled work and most of the gold is by now lost. There is one ding on the lower portion of the scabbard. Otherwise the scabbard is in good condition, with the usual minor wear and tear from years of use. The scabbard is a very precise fit to the blade. The pommel is still crisp, but with considerable loss of gold. Some scuffing to the red lacquered cord on the handle. The blade is in excellent condition, no nicks, pits or portions of excessive polishing.


Conclusion

A very nice example of a high quality Bhutanese sword with the prized churi chemn type scabbard and unusual, high quality blade.



SOLD



Interested? Questions?
Contact peter@mandarinmansion.com

A Bhutanese patag sword with churi chemn patterned scabbard

A Bhutanese patag sword with churi chemn patterned scabbard

A Bhutanese patag sword with churi chemn patterned scabbard

A Bhutanese patag sword with churi chemn patterned scabbard

A Bhutanese patag sword with churi chemn patterned scabbard

A Bhutanese patag sword with churi chemn patterned scabbard

A Bhutanese patag sword with churi chemn patterned scabbard

A Bhutanese patag sword with churi chemn patterned scabbard

A Bhutanese patag sword with churi chemn patterned scabbard

A Bhutanese patag sword with churi chemn patterned scabbard

A Bhutanese patag sword with churi chemn patterned scabbard

A Bhutanese patag sword with churi chemn patterned scabbard

A Bhutanese patag sword with churi chemn patterned scabbard

A Bhutanese patag sword with churi chemn patterned scabbard

A Bhutanese patag sword with churi chemn patterned scabbard

A Bhutanese patag sword with churi chemn patterned scabbard

A Bhutanese patag sword with churi chemn patterned scabbard

A Bhutanese patag sword with churi chemn patterned scabbard

A Bhutanese patag sword with churi chemn patterned scabbard

A Bhutanese patag sword with churi chemn patterned scabbard

A Bhutanese patag sword with churi chemn patterned scabbard

A Bhutanese patag sword with churi chemn patterned scabbard

A Bhutanese patag sword with churi chemn patterned scabbard

A Bhutanese patag sword with churi chemn patterned scabbard

A Bhutanese patag sword with churi chemn patterned scabbard

A Bhutanese patag sword with churi chemn patterned scabbard

A Bhutanese patag sword with churi chemn patterned scabbard

A Bhutanese patag sword with churi chemn patterned scabbard

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