The only set of its type known to me in both private and museum collections.
Sheathed 19.5 cm
Copper alloy, steel, silver, gold
Anything similar for sale?
Jangdo (장도 / 粧刀) literally means "short knife." It was a small knife or dagger carried by men and women. These smaller ones are generally thought to have been worn by women as utility knives, for self-defense, or to take their own life when they felt they had no other option.
"Jangdo were recognized for their rare and precious value and Joseon missions carried jangdo as gifts to the Ming Dynasty. Later, after the Japanese invasions (1592-98) and the Manchu invasion (1636) of Joseon, the jangdo became a symbol of women’s chastity. In ruling class families of Joseon jangdo were given to girls aged 12 to 13, who were taught fidelity and honor, and they were passed down from mother to daughter."
"Different types and shapes of jangdo crafted by artisans were viewed as rare and precious handcrafts and were used to effect in diplomacy."
-Encyclopedia of Korean culture
A fine jangdo in unusual, black patinated copper alloy hilt and scabbard. The material reminds of other Asian copper-gold alloys like Japanese shakudō and Chinese wu tong. This practice goes back to at least the 17th century in Korea.1
It is finely inlaid with Chinese characters in pure gold. The inlay work represents the finest example of such work I have seen so far. The characters remain well-shaped even when viewed with a microscope.
The characters retain their precision even under high magnification.
The ballpoint ball is 1 mm in diameter.
The small blade has a tip that seems deliberately broken, probably done during the Japanese occupation when the Korean people were thoroughly disarmed or in Japan following the second World War. It came from a Japanese collection.
The scabbard is further fitted with silver mounts.
1. Paul Craddock, Maickel van Bellegem, Philip Fletcher, Richard Blurton, and Susan La Niece; The Black Bronzes of Asia. Published in J. Mei and Th. Rehren (editors); Metallurgy and Civilisation: Eurasia and Beyond. Archetype, London 2009. The practice in Korea is described in the 17th-century Imwon Simyukji written by Seo Yu-gu. In today's Korea, tobacco pipes using this material are still made in the Imsil and Anseong regions.
Writings on mounts
I have spent some time working out the writings on this knife, and almost all characters seem to be segments of old Chinese poems, all have to do with swords.
From "Wuchang Bronze Sword Song" (武昌銅劍歌)
Written by Sūshì (苏轼), a Song dynasty poet who lived between 1037-1101 A.D.
Pèi zhī shǐ wǒ wú xiéxīn
"Carrying it makes me innocent at heart."
A sentence from "Sharp Sword" (利劍),
Written by Han Yu (韓愈), a Tang dynasty poet who lived between 768 - 824 A.D.
There are also a few extra characters that don't seem to belong in these poems which are worthy of further investigation. Among which the curious sentence:
In Chinese it would read "The nameless guard of Tianjin Country". But in Chinese there is no such country. Its possibly classical Korean, and worthy of further research.
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