Late qing saber
Overall length

74.5 cm

Blade length

59.7 cm

Blade thickness

forte 7 mm

middle 5.5 mm

near tip 3 mm

Blade width

forte 34 mm

middle 29 mm

tip 18 mm

Weight

630 grams

Point of balance

14 cm from guard

Origin

Southern China

Materials

Steel, iron, brass, wood, ray-skin, silk

Dating

Second half 19th century

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A nice quality Chinese saber with typical southern blade; wide at the base and then tapering strongly to a narrow point, at the same time retaining quite some thickness in the spine throughout.

It has two narrow grooves that end near the tip to make way for a well-defined false backedge that helps reduce weight at the tip. At its base is a brass tunkou, also of a more typical southern form with smooth lines.

The blade, in recent polish, is of very nice quality. It is of jiagang construction with a high-carbon edge plate forged into softer layers of iron and steel. The body exhibits a tight forging with a grainy structure that's typical of the use of traditional straw-ash as flux to help bind the layers.

Grooves and bevels are sharp and crisp. The most spectacular aspect of the blade is the differential heat-treatment, creating a cloudy crystalline effect along the edge. The casing of the very tip is hardened in its entirety, making that section extra cloudy due to the formation of crystals, forming lines that follow the wood grain pattern of the steel. The blade quality reminds of a very good late Ming, early Qing saber we've had some time ago.

A Chinese southern saber with fine blade
Top: This saber Bottom: Blade portion of a Ming-Qing transition period saber.

This is not to say they are from the same period, the blade form of this saber is very typical 19th-century work. It does show that similar construction methods were still used, albeit more rarely in the 19th century.

Mounted in the so-called "round style" (yuanshi) or "round dress" (yuanzhuang), with oval cross-section hilt and scabbard. It comes fitted in a set of brass mounts, cast and chiseled for extra details. The decoration consists of archaic dragons and scrollwork that were in vogue under military officials and the emperor from the mid 18th century onwards. This specific style is encountered from around the 1850s onwards.

The wooden grip retains its original grip wrap, done in very dark blue silk, and the scabbard is covered with fine black ray-skin.

Condition

Condition-wise, antique Chinese sabers rarely come any better than this. Almost all the ray-skin is intact, with only minor losses at the bottom of the scabbard. Grip wrap entirely intact. Guard tight, some minor play in the pommel. The blade is in good condition, with only minor speckles of pitting remaining.

Attribution

The saber is quite close in style to larger military sabers with markings attributing them to the Chinese bannermen of the Hanjun. Differences are that it's shorter, and with superior quality blade and mounts.

A Chinese southern bannerman saber
A Southern saber of the Hanjun of the Bordered Yellow Banner. (Sold.)

A Chinese southern saber
The saber currently discussed.
Notice the similar overall blade form, and shape of the collar piece (tunkou)

While soldiers were issued their sabers by the state, officers got paid a certain amount to purchase their own equipment. This piece was most likely a private purchase, either commissioned by an officer or a wealthy civilian that had a reason to carry a saber. The black scabbard and dark blue grip wrap were appropriate for officer ranks.

Conclusion

A very nice southern Chinese saber from the late Qing. This is a period of decline of the sword maker's art, but this saber shows that good work was still produced if one was willing to pay for quality.

A good Chinese saber, complete and in excellent condition.

A Chinese southern saber with fine blade

A Chinese southern saber with fine blade

A Chinese southern saber with fine blade

A Chinese southern saber with fine blade

A Chinese southern saber with fine blade

A Chinese southern saber with fine blade

A Chinese southern saber with fine blade

A Chinese southern saber with fine blade

A Chinese southern saber with fine blade

A Chinese southern saber with fine blade

A Chinese southern saber with fine blade

A Chinese southern saber with fine blade

A Chinese southern saber with fine blade

A Chinese southern saber with fine blade

A Chinese southern saber with fine blade

A Chinese southern saber with fine blade

A Chinese southern saber with fine blade

A Chinese southern saber with fine blade

A Chinese southern saber with fine blade

A Chinese southern saber with fine blade

A Chinese southern saber with fine blade

A Chinese southern saber with fine blade

A Chinese southern saber with fine blade

A Chinese southern saber with fine blade

A Chinese southern saber with fine blade

A Chinese southern saber with fine blade

A Chinese southern saber with fine blade

A Chinese southern saber with fine blade

A Chinese southern saber with fine blade

A Chinese southern saber with fine blade

Additional item content

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Built around a beautifully forged blade, in full polish, revealing a burl grain pattern.

€3400,-

A fine Chinese straightsword blade, of typical Qing form with a rather wide profile.

€5000,-

A rather well-made example of its type.

€1500,-

Used to move imperial orders from the emperor’s quarters to the recipient.

Price on request

Made of heavy silk with gilt copper alloy mounts.

€2000,-

With staghorn grip finely carved with plum blossoms.

€1500,-
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