A very rare Chinese saber guard dating from the height of the Qing dynasty.
Strung tip-tip: 161 cm
Unstrung tip-tip: 176 cm
Unstrung nock-nock: 164 cm
Brace height: 19 cm
40 - 50 pounds
Bow: Horn, sinew, bamboo, birch bark, peach bark, pigment, wood, cork, ray-skin
Arrows: Wood, ray-skin, feathers, peach bark, sinew, steel
String: Silk, cotton
Late 19th to early 20th century
O.L. Simpson, while stationed in China during WW2.
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An antique Manchu bow from the famous Changxing workshop in Chengdu, in remarkable condition, and with an interesting provenance.
The ears are nice and slender, typical for Changxing work. The belly of the bow is covered with black water buffalo horn, polished to a silky gloss. The back is covered with sinew which in turn is covered with birch bark, with applied designs of stylized bats and longevity characters. The ears are covered with white ray-skin, and the nocks are made of wood, lacquered red. The grip is covered with cork, and on either side of the grip is ray-skin where the arrow passes. It is still in good enough condition to be strung and comes with an antique string. It may not be its original string because it seems just a tad too long.
The bow comes with a set of four arrows, three of which retain their feathers. The arrows have small broadheads of a type described by Etienne Zie as being used for the imperial examinations. (See: Pratique des examens militaires en chine). The current arrows may have been made for that purpose as well, the examinations continued until as late as 1908.
The Changxing workshop
The ears bear a black lozenge of peach bark. This is the secret mark of the Changxing workshop in Chengdu. This particular workshop was the subject of Tan Danjiong's (T'an Tan-Chiung) "Investigative Report on Bow and Arrow Manufacture in Chengdu" published in Academia Sinica Language and History Review, Taipei, 1951, and then again by the Society of Archer-Antiquaries in 1984. Stephen Selby managed to locate Wu Yonghua, the daughter of Wu Shusen, the owner of the shop, in Chengdu and interviewed her on April 6th, 2000. The interview is published online at ATARN.ORG.
The information that was gathered by Tan Danjiong and Stephen Selby has been of great importance to our understanding of the production of such bows, and it is no exaggeration to say that the craft managed to survive for a large part due the preservation of the information coming from this exact shop, through the two accounts mentioned above.
As a Manchu bow enthusiast and horn bow shooter myself, it is very exciting to have this bow in my hands and study it like I studied the publications on the workshop that made it.
Ear of this bow with to the right the secret mark of the Changxing workshop.
According to Tan Danjiong, by the 1930s, Changxing and Ju Yuan Hao were the only two bow making shops that were still in operation. Both seized production in the late 1960s under the pressure of the Red Guards during the Cultural Revolution. This particular bow could have been made anywhere from the late 19th century to the 1940's. The style and workmanship is much more like 19th-century bows than the 20th-century bows of Ju Yuan Hao were, but with so few Changxing bows surviving it is hard to put an accurate date on this particular bow as I am currently lacking a clear timeline of the development of their style.
The bow was acquired by US airforce pilot O. L. Simpson who was stationed in China with the “Flying Tigers” during the Second World War. The bow was reputedly given to him by a befriended Chinese officer. I purchased the bow from his son.
Personnel of the Flying Tigers.
This bow has quality, condition, pedigree, and provenance. The collector's dream! It was a joy to take care of it for a while.
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I might be interested in buying it.Contact me
With markings attributing it to the Tongzhou incident and a Japanese surrender tag.
Of classic shape, with a leaf-shaped blade on a socket, connected by a cast bronze base.
Built around an imported blade, with a human head shaped pommel.
A standard pattern Qing military saber, but with the rare addition of a label in Manchu.
A robust and heavy example, crafted with care.