A very rare Chinese saber guard dating from the height of the Qing dynasty.
Silk 31 mm
Leather backing 16 mm
Silk 2 mm
Entire belt 4.5 mm
Hook 68 x 29.5 mm
Suspension mounts 28 x 30 mm
Rings 51 x 28 mm
All mounts 4 mm thick
China, Qing dynasty
Silk, leather, linen, copper alloy, gold
18th or 19th century
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During the Qing dynasty, a warrior's bowcase, quiver, and saber were typically suspended from a special type of reinforced belt.
Here is a good example of such a belt. It is made of very, high-quality thick woven silk. Notice how the belt was not simply cut from a length of thick silk ribbon. It was woven as a belt from the beginning, this is especially apparent where it loops into itself on the far left.
It is mounted with eight heavy gilt copper alloy mounts. The patination currently makes it look like brass, but when one looks closely you can see the red copper exposed here and there by wear on the high spots, and the brass-looking material is a layer of tarnished gold.
Each mount is engraved with eternal knot designs, representing the endless cycle of life and death and the eternal wisdom of the Buddha.
The already strong silk is reinforced with a strip of leather through which all mounts are riveted. It once had bright red linen inside lining.
To the right of the belt are three fittings with holes, these would have held straps to suspend and balance the quiver. The bowcase would be suspended from a single mount left of these.
A saber would be suspended from the belt by means of a hook and was typically carried behind the bowcase when not in the heat of action.
The hook to the far right would hook into one of three rings on the far left.
Representation of the belt in use, with the bowcase, quiver and saber in black and white.
I've often wondered, why were there three rings that were spaced so far from one another? Winter was the campaigning season, so most Manchu officers are depicted with their winter robe and hat. These portraits invariably show the belt hooked into the last ring. I wonder whether the other rings were used perhaps for spring / fall and summer.
Manchu officer Janggimboo, Qing war hero, wearing his archer's belt.
Portrait dated 1760. Metropolitan Museum accession number 1986.206.
Silk is in very good condition with only minor damage. It was probably once a brighter red. Leather still supple. The bright red fabric backing now mostly gone. Mounts in good, patinated condition.
A rare archer's belt as worn by the elite Bannermen of the Qing armies. It has substantial gilt copper mounts and the silk survived in almost perfect condition.
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Of classic shape, with a leaf-shaped blade on a socket, connected by a cast bronze base.
A standard pattern Qing military saber, but with the rare addition of a label in Manchu.
A robust and heavy example, crafted with care.
Unusual Chinese duanjian with fine gilt mounts and a blade of non-Chinese origin.
The hilt is in the typical Marwari Rajput style, made by Ram Namar in 1857 A.D.