Early Canton tsuba

75 x 70 x 6.3 mm




Iron, gold, yellow metal alloy


Canton, China

For the Japanese market


17th - early 18th century

Price €500, -

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Among Nanban tsuba there is a genre that is best described as "Asian export sword guards," and among those, there is a distinct group that was made in China, for the Japanese market. The production center was most likely Canton.

For more information, see my article: Nanban tsuba, a Canton group.


This example

Somewhat unusual among the group for having a more conventional shaped seppa-dai (area around the tang opening). in this case it is chiseled with designs of rolling clouds.

The openwork area is thicker,  less focused on a multitude of round holes and its designs more flowing than what is normally seen. The tendrils themselves also have carved decoration. The whole is more skillful, more artistic than most. There are five areas of undercutting.

The design is a single, large dragon that creeps through the vines toward a sacred jewel, this time not cut loose from its surroundings but firmly embedded in the design. It has a ridged and beaded rim.

The hitsu-ana was opened at a later stage in Japan, and a yellow metal strip was added. Punch marks on the seppa-dai indicate it has been mounted.

I believe this is a rather early example of the Canton-made export tsuba, probably 17th to early 18th century.



Early Canton tsubaEarly Canton tsuba





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Of pierced iron, elaborately cut with lotus petal border.


Unusual tsuba with foreign figures and Chinese auspicious symbols.


Pierced and chiseled showing an 18th century European vessel.


Very finely carved with designs reminiscent of export wares.


In the style of northern work of the 16th and 17th centuries


Chinese work for the Japanese market.