Lobed guards
Height & width

1: 72 x 71 mm

2: 69 x 68 mm

Thickness

1: 4mm

2: 6mm

Weight

1: 107 grams

2: 116 grams

Origin

1: Possibly Vietnam

2: Possibly Vietnam

Materials

1: Iron, copper.

2: Iron, gold, copper.

Dating

Probably 17th - 18th century

Use

Both have been mounted

Price €1100, -

Interested?
Anything similar for sale?

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Introduction

Lobed guards are found across Asia, also among Chinese and Japanese guards. In Japan, it's called mokkō-gata. Depending on the number of lobes, a number is added. An eight lobed guard is thus called "yatsu-mokkō-gata". But although they are found in both cultures, they are somewhat uncommon. The one place where lobed guards seem to have been popular for a very long time is Vietnam.


Three excavated southeast Asian dha type swords with lobed guards.
Probably from the region of present-day Vietnam or Cambodia, estimated 12th-14th century.


Two Vietnamese pole arms, modelled after Japanese naginata in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.
Sent to Dutch naval commander Cornelis Tromp in 1679. Notice their lobed guards.


A Vietnamese bronze guard from my personal collection, exhibiting a lobed form.

On the last guard, notice how the hitsu-ana is reduced to just a small ornamental opening. The feature was once copied from the Japanese, but the Vietnamese at some point stopped using the by-knives and had no use for it anymore. As a result, it got smaller and smaller in subsequent designs.

Here I present two interesting lobed guards, and a set of handle mounts, to be sold as a set.
 

1. Eight lobed guard

A lobed Asian export sword guard
A lobed Asian export sword guard

Description

An interesting sword guard of unusual form. It is an eight-lobed design like most Vietnamese guards of this shape tend to be. The washer seat is of typical Japanese form, but this form was also copied in Vietnam, mostly in the 17th century. It has an opening for a by-knife, but again such by-knives (kogatana in Japanese) were also briefly adopted in Vietnam.

The reason for this strong Japanese influence on Vietnamese arms was considerable immigration from Japan to Vietnam due to social unrest in Japan. The Japanese were not welcome in China, where they were regarded as pirates, so those who were good enough sailors pressed on to Vietnam where they settled and started new lives. Some masterless samurai found jobs employed by the Dutch VOC and other European traders.

Around the washer seat is a five-pointed blazing star, then a stippled background made with a round dot-punch, a technique seen predominantly in Vietnam and China. (Japanese stippling tends to be many times finer.) The very border consists of eight shapes best described as drawer handles reminiscent of European work on for example smallsword guards. These can also be extremely stylized clouds in Chinese fashion. The whole effect of the decoration feels like it is mimicking tooled leather.

A very interesting piece, worthy of further study.

 

2. Six-lobed guard

A lobed Asian export sword guard
A lobed Asian export sword guard

Description

A six-lobed guard, a form called roku-mokkō-gata in Japanese, with some remarkable similarities to the preceding piece: Again the elements of the drawer-handle shape in each lobe, over a stippled background. Instead of the blazing star, this guard fills its inner space with stylized waves in a form commonly found in the washer seat of Asian export sword guards.

On either side, the waves are inlaid with tiny golden plugs. Seven on one side, nine on the other. I initially thought they were to represent shining drops of seawater, but they are so oddly and unevenly spread that I am starting to think they might be constellations. Especially the spread of four of the seven stars remind strongly of the big dipper.

The big dipper is a significant constellation in Asian thought, but also an important constellation for naval navigation.

3. Lobed guard


 

 

A lobed Asian export sword guard

A lobed Asian export sword guard

A lobed Asian export sword guard

 

A lobed Asian export sword guard

Do you have anything for sale?

I might be interested in buying it.

Contact me

Products of Asian maritime trade in the 17th-18th centuries.

€1000,-

A beautiful signed Japanese ferrule and pommel plate.

€750,-

A large circular Asian export sword guard with elaborate decor carved in relief on both sides.

€2500,-

A chiseled iron sword guard depicting a Dutch ship with a figure on its stern.

€650,-

This guard, at first sight, appears very

€1500,-

A robust Chinese or Vietnamese sword guard of rare form, probably imported into Japan by Dutch or Chinese merchants.

€480,-
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