Asian export sword guard
Measurements

78 x 75 x 6.5 mm
 

Weight

150 grams

Origin

Probably Chinese or Vietnamese,
adjusted for Japanese use.

Materials

Iron, gold, copper

Dating

Probably 17th century

Price €480, -

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Description

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.

Conclusion

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.


 

Additional item content

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