A signed Vietnamese fighting saber
Overall length

72 cm / 30.3 inch

Blade length

54.5 cm / 16.3 inch

Blade thickness

forte 6.5 mm
middle 4 mm
near tip 2.5 mm

Blade width

forte 39 mm

Weight

567 grams

Sold

Interested?
Anything similar for sale?

Contact me

Presented in this article is a somewhat rare example of a purely practical Vietnamese fighting saber, engraved with initials and a date: 1887. This is the year that the French completely conquered Vietnam and founded French Indochina.
 

Practical fighting guom

The sword is rather handy in the hand and the relatively short blade would have helped its use in dense jungle or urban environments. You can see it has been used, numerous cuts from other edged weapons are visible on both sides of the blade. It is engraved with the typical floral motifs found on Vietnamese weapons, but incorporated in these engravings are what appear to be the letters "C.J" on the left side and the year 1887 on the other side.

The handle is comprised of a simple piece of hardwood with a pommel consisting of a cap of horn. The iron ferrule is quite nicely made for such a simple, practical piece with some attention to the detail of its geometry. The simple iron guard is bent in the middle, perhaps by being hit repeatedly. As is common on Vietnamese swords, it has washers known as "seppa" from Japanese swords, an influence of Japanese presence in the area.

Historical background

Vietnam of the 19th century was the stage of various wars, many with the French colonists. When the Taiping rebellion was crushed by the Qing army in 1864, one of its self-proclaimed princes, Liu Yongfu, fled into Upper Tonkin part of the Empire of Annam (present-day Vietnam) with his Black Flag Army. There, backed up by the regular army of Annam they fought the French, which escalated into the Sino-French War of 1884 - 1885. The Black Flags officially disbanded in 1885 although its former members continued to harass the French in the region. In 1886 the French started the long Pacification of Tonkin which lasted until 1896. In 1887, the year we see on the blade, French Indochina was founded.

This sword, which turned up in France, is probably used during these conflicts. A battle trophy after the Sino-French war is the most straightforward explanation, with markings added at the end of a war. Although, it is a bit puzzling that the decoration seems to be done at the same time as the markings, giving rise to the idea that it might have been made with the initials and date, and then used in battle. The French military were not the only European men-at-arms active in the region. It is known that under the Black Flags were many soldiers of fortune who fought for the Taiping, and later the Black Flag's cause. It is conceivable that the sword belonged to one of those fighters, who perhaps returned home with it after the disbanding of his army.


 

Do you have anything for sale?

I might be interested in buying it.

Contact me

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

€3200,-

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

€2600,-

With carved stone handles and superb workmanship in silver and mother-of-pearl.

€7800,-

An outstanding example with very fine silver and moth-of-pearl work.

€3400,-

A rare example with pattern welded blade, retaining its original scabbard.

€1500,-

With narrow blade and all brass mounts.

€300,-
ARTICLE
Chinese long sabers of the Qing dynasty
In the late Ming dynasty, Chinese coasts were raided by Japanese pi...
Read the article
ARTICLE
Military sabers of the Qing dynasty
According to Chinese symbolism, the strength and martial spirit of ...
Read the article
ARTICLE
Nanban tsuba & Asian export sword guards
For long, "nanban tsuba" literally "Southern barbarian sword-guards...
Read the article
ARTICLE
Qing dynasty saber mounts, fangshi & yuanshi
Among sabers of the Qing dynasty, we encounter two basic types of m...
Read the article