Exceptionally large pierced iron guard for a Chinese yidao; "virtuous saber".
58.8 cm / 23.1 inch
42.3 cm / 16.7 inch
forte 8 mm
middle 5 mm
near tip 4.5 mm
forte 29 mm
middle 31 mm
near tip 26 mm
Iron, steel, wood.
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The Manchu rulers of the Qing dynasty (1644 - 1912) originated in northeast China where their ancestors lived mainly off hunting, gathering and limited agriculture. The Manchus saw the hunt as practice for warfare and their military was organized much like they would be for large scale ring hunts.
This lifestyle also reflected in their weapons; their armies were equipped with a rather short range heavy hitting bow that was mainly designed for the large game hunt. Their elite units would use other large game hunting tools like tiger spears, and their vanguard units were issued large hunting knives, or shùndāo (順刀), called seleme in Manchu. These were probably used as outdoor knives for hunting, to clear areas for tents, etc. but would serve just as well in close combat.
The Huangchao Liqi Tushi (皇朝禮器圖式), or "Illustrated Regulations on the Ceremonial Paraphernalia of the Dynasty", a 1766 text of imperial commissioned regulations lists two shùndāo in use by the elite Eight Banners Vanguard, one for the left wing and one for the right wing.1 Here are the regulations for the left wing:
Vanguard Left Wing Shundao
"According to the regulations of the dynasty:
Made of forged iron. I has a sharp tip, and a ridged cross-section shaped like a Chinese straightsword.
Overall 1 chi 2 cun long. The blade is 8 cun long and 1 cun wide. (Approx 42 cm / 16.5 inch long with 28 cm / 11 inch blade.)
The handle is 4 cun long, oiled, and made of wood, It has an iron pommel.
The scabbard is 9 cun long and covered with leather. It has iron fittings on both sides and two iron bands in the middle.
Notes to introduction
1. Pu Jiang et al., eds., Huangchao Liqi Tushi (皇朝禮器圖式), or "Illustrated Regulations on the Ceremonial Paraphernalia of the Dynasty", Palace Edition of 1766 (British Library, 15300.e.1). This version is based on a manuscript of 1759.
A Manchu hunting knife or seleme. Strictly utilitarian but well-made. It's larger than the version issued to the Eight Banners Vanguard, but otherwise of similar form and construction. The blade has two narrow grooves and the tip is double edged, like the regulations describe. The handle consists of two wooden plates riveted to the full tang, the pommel plate is integrated into the tang. In original, unrestored condition. There is some play in the handle plates.
A large practical hunting / outdoor knife, very similar to those issued to the Manchu Vanguard of the Eight Banners. Such knives are getting increasingly hard to find, especially in original, untouched condition.
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