DescriptionAn old Chinese conical helmet of a ty
Sheathed 82 cm
Saber 81.2 cm
Base 10 mm
Ahead of tunkou 7 mm
Middle 6.5 mm
5 cm from tip 4 mm
Base 40 mm
Ahead of tunkou 37 mm
Middle 30.5 mm
5 cm from tip 19 mm
14.3 cm from guard
Iron, steel, wood, leather, brass, silk, cotton
Mid 19th century
European antique art market
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The Hànjūn (漢軍), or "Chinese Martial" was a hereditary Chinese warrior class during the Qing dynasty. They originated when Chinese soldiers joined the Qing in the Ming-Qing wars that overthrew the Ming and established the Qing as the rulers of China. In 1631 the first separate Han artillery corps was formed, and by 1642 the Eight Hànjūn Banners were established, two years before the conquest of Beijing in 1644.
Manchus customarily fought from horseback with lance and bows and arrows, which made them superior in the field at the time but of limited use against fortifications or in rougher terrain. This is where Hànjūn came in. More adept with firearms, they typically operated muskets and artillery to aid the Manchus in their sieges.
They enjoyed many privileges similar to the Manchu and Mongol Bannermen and after the fall of the Qing, all families under the Hànjūn were considered to be Manchu because they were part of the Eight Banners.
A typical example of a Southern Chinese military saber. Like many Southern weapons these tend to be substantial and well-made and this one is no exception: The blade is thick and wide at the base, narrowing to a slender tip. Its strong distal taper in width provides good balance to this hefty saber.
The blade geometry includes a tūnkǒu (刀吞口) that is chiseled from the blade's base, a dimple somewhat further up the blade, and then two grooves following the spine. The upper groove stops short of a long back bevel, while the lower groove runs a little further.
Blade in "as found" condition but already exhibiting hints of its forge folded construction and high-carbon plate exposed at the edge, as this type always tends to have.
Hilt & scabbard
The ferrule and pommel are decorated with coin motifs. The guard is in a stylized coin shape with bamboo-sectioned rim. Wooden grip section is wrapped with black cord, partially lost near the ferrule.
The scabbard is made of thick pigskin, much in the style of those typically seen on húdiédāo (蝴蝶刀) from the same general area. It has leather appliques that echo the shape of metal fittings on conventional Chinese wooden scabbards. Its surface is lacquered to offer protection against the local humidity.
The sword doesn't fit entirely in the scabbard, which is otherwise perfectly shaped to accommodate this blade. Shrinking of the leather possibly caused this.
The blade is marked on the left side:
Hàn zhèng hóng
"Han Plain Red"
On the right side:
The marking indicates that this saber was used by the Hànjūn (漢軍), Chinese Eight Banner forces. Like the Manchu Eight Banners, the Han eight Banners were divided under eight banners, each with their own colors. This saber is attributed to the Plain Red Banner.
The shēng mark can have several meanings, including "superior" but also "able to bear" and "victory". It was most likely a quality proof-mark, possibly stamped on the blade after the blade passed a certain test.
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Probably of Southern origin, with a straight blade and flaring tip.
In the style of northern work of the 16th and 17th centuries
Made of solid silver, in Qing court style. With 19th-century European import marks.
Made of iron, shaped as a gourd, with silver overlay.
A simple utilitarian weapon, probably made for rural martial artists or militia.