Unusual set of paired Chinese maces of good workmanship.
A: 58.3 cm
B: 58 cm
A: 42.1 cm
B: 42.1 cm
A: forte 17.5 mm, middle 14 mm
B: forte 18 mm, middle 14 mm
A: 122 mm x 22 mm
B: 123.5 mm x 21.5 mm
(width x max blade width)
A: 1063 grams
B: 1141 grams
A: 7.5 cm from guard
B: 7.7 cm from guard
Iron, steel, cotton cord.
18th or 19th century
From a German source
Anything similar for sale?
Chinese martial arts are famously known for the use of a wide array of weapons. Some weapons are peculiar to a certain region, some may even be peculiar to a single martial art. Not surprisingly, perhaps, considering the size of China, that every once in a while a unique weapon turns up that eludes classification.
Today we have another such weapon, or rather, a set of weapons.
The overall shape resembles the chāi (釵), a Chinese weapon that spread to Okinawa and got known there as the "sai" which has the same handle with a fork-like guard, with a long central bar. Like many chāi, the rods have an octagonal cross-section and taper gradually in thickness. The substantial guards have a rectangular cross-section and marked taper towards the ends of their quillons.
A significant departure from conventional chāi design is that at the very tip of each of the bars here is a large crescent moon with semi-sharp edges. Overall workmanship is pretty good for this type of weapon.
The handles are wrapped with cord, retaining the original wrappings that are still tight.
The pommels are iron truncated cubes. Both pommels are slightly offset from the alignment of the guard and moon tips, but both in the exact same way so it is most likely deliberate.
Some stabilized corrosion here and there. Pretty good condition.
The thrust is considered the most lethal attack of an edged weapon and the crescent moons minimize the effect of exactly that. Therefore I get the impression that the weapons are designed for a style that sought to avoid dealing lethal damage by accident. Instead, the set probably served to catch an incoming weapon with one hand and strike the attacking arm with the other, rendering the opponent harmless.
The hook formed on either side of the crescent moons could be used to hook a weapon or limb, and in the worst case, it could be used to deliver a very damaging strike with one of its tips.
Many martial artists made an occasional living by working as security guards for important people or travelers. In the best case, they would immobilize an attacker but would avoid doing too much damage, so they wouldn't get in trouble with local authorities. It seems that this weapon would suit such a purpose very well.
I've sold one rather similar, but more stubby set in 2019. At the time no others were known to me so I suspected it was perhaps a custom set made to order. By a stroke of luck, this second set was offered to me this year indicating that it was a class of weapons, albeit a very rare class.
This set (left) compared to a set I sold previously (right).
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With markings attributing it to the Tongzhou incident and a Japanese surrender tag.
A fine and unusually large tsuba. Attributed to Hizen by the NBTHK.
A robust and heavy example, crafted with care.
Built around an imported blade, with a human head shaped pommel.
Silk horse mask from the Xianbei ruled dynasty which ruled northern China from 386 to 534 A.D.