Chinese jade handled dagger | Mandarin Mansion

Chinese jade handled dagger

Antique Chinese knife in Mongolian style with double edged blade and jade handle

Introduction

Many Mongols, the Khalkas in particular, had close ties with the Manchu ruling elite during the Qing dynasty. As allies that helped overthrow the Ming, many Mongol families remained serving under the Mongolian Eight Banners, and fought the front line expansion wars alongside the Manchu Bannermen. Some Mongolian men even attained very high military or even Manchu noble ranks. Places like Beijing, but also other Banner garrison towns had sizeable Mongolian populations, where Mongolian heavily Tibetan inspired design aesthetics mixed with Chinese designs.

A report by Dr. Edward Bedloe, Consul of Amoy, explains the market for such luxury goods in Amoy (Xiamen) in 1892:

"Few collectors in the United States are aware of the wealth of China in all sorts of oddities and curios. There is an army of connoisseurs among the rich Mongolians, but they display little or no energy is accumulating art treasures. If they see something that strikes their fancy and they are satisfied with the price, they take it without a murmur. If it be 10 cents beyond what they regard as a fair limit, they walk off in high dudgeon. As a consequence, the curio market has few ups and downs. Nevertheless, it does an immense business the year through. The best patrons are naturally wealthy natives. Then come some European collectors and experts. Ship captains and missionaries are also buyers of considerable importance. Last and least are the collectors of the United States."

From Dr. Edward Bedloe, "Consular Reports on Commerce, Manufacturing, Etc.
No. 147" December, 1892. US Congress: Washington DC.
Read the complete account on ChineseMartialStudies.com


This example

Overall length sheated: 34 cm
Overall length knife: 31.6 cm
Blade length: 21.7 cm
Blade thickness: 3.5 mm (forte), 3.5 mm (middle), 3 mm (near tip)
Blade width: 16.5 mm (forte), 15.5 mm (middle), 12 mm (at tip)
Weight without scabbard: 91 grams

Culture: Mongolian. Possibly made in China for that market.
Materials: Iron, steel, jade, silver, malachite, coral (Corallium rubrum), pigment.
Dating: Late 19th century.


Description

A Chinese dagger of rare double edged form. It has a solid pale green jade hilt that is fitted to a silver collar-piece. The knife has no tang, so the beauty of the translucent jade can be enjoyed in full and without a shadowy obstruction from a tang. The scabbard is entirely made of silver, finely engraved with floral motifs. It is beset with malachite and Mediterranean coral (corallium rubrum), a prized material which has been exported from there to Asia since ancient times.


Attribution

The piece is a mix of styles and expensive materials. It was most likely made in the late 19th century for an audience with either Tibetan or Mongolian taste. As Dr. Edward Bedloe noted, there were quite a lot of Mongolian connoisseurs at the time buying in places as far from home as southern China. William Fales noted in 1892 that: "Unlike us at home, new weapons cost more than old. Antiques can be secured for a third and a fourth of brand-new reproductions.", indicating an immense popularity of handicrafts of that period, even over older work. I believe this piece, and a group of similar items, is part of that era. Alternatively, it could have been made as a presentation piece to someone from the Tibetan or Mongolian cultural sphere.


Condition

Some wear and pitting to the blade. Some of the coral and malachite missing, see pictures. Jade handle and silver scabbard otherwise without damage.


Conclusion

A rather rare type of dagger that was probably made in China in the late 19th century, aimed towards an audience with Tibetan or Mongolian aesthetics. It combines typical Chinese styles and workmanship with expensive materials, and corals and stones inlaid in a very Tibetan / Mongolian fashion.



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Contact peter@mandarinmansion.com

Antique Chinese knife in Mongolian style with double edged blade and jade handle

Antique Chinese knife in Mongolian style with double edged blade and jade handle

Antique Chinese knife in Mongolian style with double edged blade and jade handle

Antique Chinese knife in Mongolian style with double edged blade and jade handle

Antique Chinese knife in Mongolian style with double edged blade and jade handle

Antique Chinese knife in Mongolian style with double edged blade and jade handle

Antique Chinese knife in Mongolian style with double edged blade and jade handle

Antique Chinese knife in Mongolian style with double edged blade and jade handle

Antique Chinese knife in Mongolian style with double edged blade and jade handle

Antique Chinese knife in Mongolian style with double edged blade and jade handle

Antique Chinese knife in Mongolian style with double edged blade and jade handle

Antique Chinese knife in Mongolian style with double edged blade and jade handle

Antique Chinese knife in Mongolian style with double edged blade and jade handle

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