Language: Mandarin Chinese
Source: Antique object
Zi Qín Jì (子勤記) is found chiseled on the spine of a very well-made niúwěidāo (牛尾刀) or "oxtail saber", along with a Guangxu reign mark corresponding to 1895.
It is the only Chinese sword known to me with a shop name chiseled in the blade.
The reign mark on this weapon is also unusual, and suggest that this was a designated shop that was appointed to also do work for the court. The superior finish of this sword compared to most edged weapons of the time, including late 19th century military sabers that were often of careless workmanship, indicate it stood well above the rest in terms of quality in this period.
On either side of the blade are chiseled in very fine lines a dragon chasing a pearl. These are common motifs on swords and sabers of the period but most of them have three-clawed dragons that have no imperial association whatsoever and are purely decorative. This example has four clawed dragons, a motif that was originally designated for certain princes and the higher ranks of the Qing administration.
It must be noted though, that by the end of the 19th century imperial standards slid and lower ranks were known to wear insignia that made them appear higher in rank than they were. Thus, the four-clawed dragon on this piece does not bear as much weight as such dragons would on an earlier piece.