Late Qing southern saber | Mandarin Mansion

Late Qing southern saber

A Chinese southern saber with fine blade

Overall length: 74.5 cm
Blade length: 59.7 cm
Blade thickness: Base 7 mm, middle 5.5 mm, near tip 3 mm
Blade width: Base: 34 mm, middle 29 mm, tip 18 mm
Weight: 630 grams
Point of balance: 14 cm from guard

Origin: China
Materials: Steel, iron, brass, wood, ray-skin, silk
Dating: Second half 19th century


Description

A nice quality Chinese saber, its blade has a typical southern form, wide at the base and then tapering strongly to a very narrow point, at the same time retaining quite some thickness in the spine throughout. It has two narrow grooves that make way for a well-defined false backedge that helps reduce weight at the tip. At its base is a brass tunkou, also of typical southern form with smooth lines.

The blade, in recent polish, is of nice quality. It is of jiagang construction with a high-carbon edge plate forged into softer layers of iron and steel. The body exhibits a tight forging with a grainy structure that's typical of the use of traditional straw-ash as flux to help bind the layers.

Grooves and bevels are sharp and crisp. The most spectacular aspect of the blade is the differential heat-treatment, creating a cloudy crystalline effect along the edge. The casing of the very tip is hardened in its entirety, making that section extra cloudy due to the formation of crystals, forming lines that follow the wood grain pattern of the steel. The blade quality reminds of a very good late Ming, early Qing saber we've had some time ago.


A Chinese southern saber with fine blade
Top: This saber Bottom: Blade portion of a Ming-Qing transition period yanmaodao

This is not to say they are from the same period, the blade form of this saber is very typical 19th century work. It does show that similar construction methods were still used, albeit more rarely in the 19th century.

Mounted in the so-called "round style" (yuanshi) or "round dress" (yuanzhuang), with oval cross-section hilt and scabbard. It comes fitted in a set of brass mounts, cast and chiseled for extra details. The decoration consists of archaic dragons and scrollwork that were in vogue under military officials and the emperor from the mid 18th century onwards. This specific style is encountered from around the 1850's onwards.

The wooden grip retains its original grip wrap, done in very dark blue silk, and the scabbard is covered with fine black ray-skin.



Condition
Condition-wise, antique Chinese sabers rarely come any better than this. Almost all the ray-skin is intact, with only minor losses at the bottom of the scabbard. Grip wrap entirely intact. Guard tight, some minor play in the pommel. The blade is in good condition, with only minor speckles of pitting remaining.



Attribution
The saber is quite close in style to larger military sabers with markings attributing them to the Chinese bannermen of the Hanjun. Differences are that it's shorter, and with superior quality blade and mounts.

A Chinese southern bannerman saber
A Southern saber of the Hanjun of the Bordered Yellow Banner. (Sold.)

A Chinese southern saber
The saber currently discussed.
Notice the similar overall blade form, and shape of the collar piece (tunkou)

While soldiers were issued their sabers by the state, officers got paid a certain amount to purchase their own equipment. This piece was most likely a private purchase, either commissioned by an officer or a wealthy civilian that had a reason to carry a saber. The black scabbard and dark blue grip wrap were appropriate for officer ranks.



Conclusion
A very nice southern Chinese saber from the late Qing. Its tightly forged blade with dramatic heat treatment effects attests to the fact that there were still good swordsmiths around until the end and one was willing to pay for quality, quality could still be produced.

A good Chinese saber, complete and in excellent condition.

SOLD



Interested? Questions?
Contact peter@mandarinmansion.com

A Chinese southern saber with fine blade

A Chinese southern saber with fine blade

A Chinese southern saber with fine blade

A Chinese southern saber with fine blade

A Chinese southern saber with fine blade

A Chinese southern saber with fine blade

A Chinese southern saber with fine blade

A Chinese southern saber with fine blade

A Chinese southern saber with fine blade

A Chinese southern saber with fine blade

A Chinese southern saber with fine blade

A Chinese southern saber with fine blade

A Chinese southern saber with fine blade

A Chinese southern saber with fine blade

A Chinese southern saber with fine blade

A Chinese southern saber with fine blade

A Chinese southern saber with fine blade

A Chinese southern saber with fine blade

A Chinese southern saber with fine blade

A Chinese southern saber with fine blade

A Chinese southern saber with fine blade

A Chinese southern saber with fine blade

A Chinese southern saber with fine blade

A Chinese southern saber with fine blade

A Chinese southern saber with fine blade

A Chinese southern saber with fine blade

A Chinese southern saber with fine blade

A Chinese southern saber with fine blade

A Chinese southern saber with fine blade

A Chinese southern saber with fine blade


Like it? Share!