Asian export sword guard

75 x 72mm x 6mm


107 grams


Possibly Vietnam
Probably made for the Chinese market
Later adjusted for Japanese use


Iron, gold, copper


17th century


Has been mounted

Price €800, -

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A large imported "Canton" sword guard with paired dragons chasing a jewel. The rectangular plate for the tang aperture or seppa-dai is typical for saber of the early to mid Qing dynasty.

The relaxed openwork of the waves lacks the elegance and complexity of many Qing Sino-Tibetan guards, as well as the fastidious craftsmanship typical of Japanese Nanban-Eikyo (influence) work. The dragons only have two claws per foot, in contrast to the three to five claws that Chinese dragons usually have. The archaic design has a heraldic feeling, perhaps not made in China but perhaps in mainland southeast Asia, with a Chinese market in mind.

The later added aperture for the kogai, a spike for arranging hair, appears to be evidence of later adaptation to Japanese use. The tang aperture also seems chiseled out to fit a different blade than it was intended for. If originally intended for the Chinese market, the edge would point down so the dragons' heads are on top in the typical edge-down way of carrying sabers in the Qing.

Charles R. Boxer wrote that Nanban tsuba were worn by physicians and tea-masters, presumably the less formal Sencha, introduced to Japan from China. The size of the guard and its tang aperture would indicate that it was mounted not on the short wakizashi that anyone could wear, but on a katana, which could only have been worn by samurai, ronin, or one of the many Japanese pirates that roamed the seas.

A large and impressive imported sword guard, in the general style of 17th-century Chinese work but with workmanship suggesting it was produced elsewhere. The large size suggests it was mounted on a big sword, that could only be worn by the warrior class in Japan, or outlaws.



Additional item content
Asian export sword guard
Asian export sword guard

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I might be interested in buying it.

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It has a narrow but sturdy blade with a springy temper.


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


A beautiful signed Japanese ferrule and pommel plate.


Description A rather unusual Vi


Of very good quality for this type of weapon.


A large circular Asian export sword guard with elaborate decor carved in relief on both sides.

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