Fine Qing matchlock musket
Length

143 cm

Barrel

Length 115.2 cm

Caliber 10 mm

Weight

3163 grams

Materials

Iron, steel, wood, bone, gold

Origin

Beijing, China

Qing dynasty

Dating

Circa 1800

Provenance

A Scandinavian private collection

Price €17500, -

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Description

Presented is a very good Qing dynasty matchlock musket. It has a three-stage barrel with an octagonal breech section that becomes round, and then flaring out slightly at the muzzle which is octagonal again. The muzzle is damascened in gold with interlocking swastika symbols.

The lock is of the Indo-Portuguese snapping type, where the trigger releases a spring-loaded serpentine holding the fuse. This type of lock is typically found on the more luxurious Qing guns. The rank and file had to do with a simpler S-shaped serpentine that was a single, pivoting piece with the trigger. 

The lock is also damascened in gold with interlocking swastika symbols, just like the muzzle. A stylized longevity symbol, shòu () is overlaid in gold on the spring plate.

The stock is a single piece of wood, with a pistol-shaped butt. The butt has an opening through which the fuse could pass, inlaid with bone. The opening for the trigger and end of the stock are also reinforced with bone, the end carved into a cloud collar that precisely fits the wooden stock.

 

Condition/restorations

Gun in good condition with minor wear to the gold overlay at the muzzle and some minor damage to the wooden stock. The original priming pan was missing, so I had one made by Gotscha Lagidse to complete the gun. Lock in working order, with the gold on the lock almost 100% intact.

 

Dating/attribution

Guns of this quality were typically only seen in Beijing, where the Emperor and his elite Capital Bannermen resided. 

The earliest dated gun of this exact form that I am aware of is in the Palace Museum collection and was used by the Jiaqing Emperor, who ruled from 1796 to 1820. The gun is inscribed with a poem commemorating an autumn deer hunt, and a date corresponding to 1802.

Another, in the same collection, was used by Prince Chun (1840-1891), a Manchu nobleman of the house of Aisin Gioro, who was the 7th son of the Daoguang emperor and father of the Guangxu Emperor.

See 故宫博物院藏文物珍品全集 56: 清宫武备 
(Gugong Bowuyuan Cang Wenwu Zhenpin Quanji 56: Qing gong Wubei
or "The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum, Beijing 56: Armaments and Military Provisions"
Palace Museum, Beijing. Published Hong Kong 2008.
Catalog numbers 230 & 231, pages 219-220.

 

Prince Chun

A young Prince Chun and two of his guards.
Unknown photographer.
Palace Museum Collection.

 

Thomas Child - Imperial Guard Beijing

Musketeer of the Beiing Imperial Guard.
Thomas Child (1841–1898).

 

Manchu Soldier North China

Manchu soldier, North China.
John Thompson (1837-1921)
Wellcome Collection.

 

The above two photos show Manchu Bannermen with their similar muskets. Thomas Child spent from 1870 to 1889 in Beijing, and John Thompson traveled in northern China from circa 1869 to 1872. By this time period, observers noticed that soldiers were often equipped with older, antique guns. I tend to date this type to circa 1800 to the 1860s, keeping in mind that the later ones may have been a few decades old by then.

For a gun of the same form, but with a very rare percussion cap lock, see Pitt Rivers Museum, accession number 1884.27.46. It was collected prior to 1874.

 

Conclusion

A very rare type of Qing musket of a type that was used by the imperial family and their elite soldiers in Beijing. It has the more luxurious snapping mechanism and fine, seldom-seen gold overlay on lock and muzzle.

Fine Qing matchlock musket of the Beijing Eight Banners
Fine Qing matchlock musket of the Beijing Eight Banners
Fine Qing matchlock musket of the Beijing Eight Banners
Fine Qing matchlock musket of the Beijing Eight Banners
Fine Qing matchlock musket of the Beijing Eight Banners
Fine Qing matchlock musket of the Beijing Eight Banners
Fine Qing matchlock musket of the Beijing Eight Banners
Fine Qing matchlock musket of the Beijing Eight Banners
Fine Qing matchlock musket of the Beijing Eight Banners
Fine Qing matchlock musket of the Beijing Eight Banners
Fine Qing matchlock musket of the Beijing Eight Banners
Fine Qing matchlock musket of the Beijing Eight Banners
Fine Qing matchlock musket of the Beijing Eight Banners

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