Ming militia jian
Overall length

68 cm

Blade length

53.5 cm

Blade thickness

Base 10mm
Middle 6.5mm
Near tip 4.5mm

Blade width

Base 37mm
Middle 31mm
Near tip 26mm


887 grams

Point of balance

12.5 cm from handle side of the guard


China, Ming dynasty


Iron, steel


Probably 16th or 17th century


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An early Chinese militia jiàn most likely dating from the Ming dynasty (1368-1644). These were probably used by ah-hoc defense armies such as rural militias. For an introduction on this type of weapon, see my glossary article: Chinese militia jiàn


Of fairly standard size and weight for a 16th to 17th-century militia jiàn, it has a thick and heavy blade that is of sanmei construction with a high-carbon hardened edge plate between protective layers of tougher steel. The blade has obviously seen action, with several cuts made into the tougher steel by another weapon.


Its most unusual feature is the asymmetrical crossguard, with one end pointing slightly up and the other pointing slightly down. The same effect is seen on a saber carried by a northern huntsman on a 15th-century painting in the Freer and Sackler gallery. Crossguards were common on Chinese and steppe weapons well into the Ming dynasty, mostly on sabers but also seen on jiàn. They were supplanted gradually by discoid guards and more elaborate zoomorphic guards on later jiàn.


A practical fighting jiàn of the late Ming, exhibiting a rarer early form of crossguard.


Ming militia jian
Ming militia jian
Ming militia jian
Ming militia jian
Ming militia jian

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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 rather well-made example of its type.


A purely Chinese guard and not a very orn


Most likely used by the multi-cultural crews of pirate fleets that roamed the South China seas.


With heavy pierced silver mounts in with archaic dragon designs.