Asian export sword guard

78 x 75 x 6.5 mm


150 grams


Probably Chinese or Vietnamese,
adjusted for Japanese use.


Iron, gold, copper


Probably 17th century

Price €480, -

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Rounded square form guard with a very thick and heavy rim. Its decor consists of paired slender "water dragons" or chilong in openwork tendrils, with a flaming jewel on top. The dragons are not chasing the jewel, however, but are depicted casually around the center. At the bottom of the design is a peculiar feature that may be a stylized vajra, a ritual object used in tantric Buddhism.

Just under the thick rim are damascened in gold a large number of triangular dots. These represent lotus petals and are a variation of the double rim found on some early imperial Qing saber guards. The washer seat, however, reminds of the shape of some guards produced in Tonkin, present-day North Vietnam.

The rounded square shape of this guard might allow us to date it to the early Qing period (1644-1700) during which this shape was popular. The informal directness of the carving does not feel Japanese. This is probably one of the guards brought to Japan by Chinese or Dutch merchants to be used in the complex gift-exchange rituals required by their business associates or by Japanese government officials.


A robust Chinese or Vietnamese sword guard of rare form, probably imported into Japan by Dutch or Chinese merchants and subsequently adjusted for Japanese use.


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From approximately the 5th to 3rd century B.C.


Presented by the local Dai nobility to a British customs officer in 1936.


With designs of four dragons in scrollwork around a "wish-granting-jewel"


A fine Chinese straightsword blade, of typical Qing form with a rather wide profile.


A rather well-made example of its type.


Products of Asian maritime trade in the 17th-18th centuries.

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