Rare set of Vietnamese pellet bows and string board
Strings and board

String board 149.4 x 6.6 x 1 cm

Strings 128.8 cm each

Nock to nock over belly

Bow brown grip 133.5 cm

Bow black grip 130 cm

Bows

Bow brown grip 142.4 cm

Bow black grip 140 cm

Materials

Wood, mother of pearl, rattan, lacquer, cotton, horn, iron, white metal

Origin

Vietnam

Dating

19th century

Provenance

From a British collection

Price €6000, -

Interested?
Anything similar for sale?

Contact me

Introduction

Antique Vietnamese bows are incredibly rare, and very few can be found even in established collections.

A rare set of two short bows with 1679 provenance is in the Dutch Rijksmuseum, accession numbers NG-NM-6093-A and NG-NM-6093-B, formerly in the collection of Dutch Naval commander Cornelis Tromp. They came as part of a Northern Vietnamese arms rack that was sent to him from Batavia by Cornelis Wemans.

No other bows turned up from the region, until the late 19th century. A broken bow is in the Ethnographic Museum in Leiden under accession number RV-391-12. It was purchased in 1883 and represents the earliest of those.

Three others were brought back from the C.W. Rosset Expedition into the Vietnamese interior in 1887.1 One ended up in the Pitt Rivers Museum, number 1890.41.1.1. The museum also kept the peculiar striped pellets that were used with it, to be found under numbers 1890.41.1.2-4. Two others and their string board ended up in the British Museum, accession numbers As,+.4787 & As,+.4788. The string board holder is kept under accession number As,+.4786.a-b.

 

Vietnamese pellet bow in British Museum

Vietnamese pellet bow from the C.W. Rosset expedition.
British Museum, accession number As,+.4787.

 

British Museum Vietnamese pellet bow string holder

Vietnamese pellet bow string holder with strings.
British Museum, accession number As,+.4786.a-b.

 

Notes
I have found two articles by Rosset about these exploits: The Wild Peoples of Farther India in the  Journal of the American Geographical Society of New York, 1893, and Die Hinterindischen Volksstämme, published in the Mitteilungen der Kaiserlich-Königlichen Geographischen Gesellschaft in Wien, 1896. Pages 113-139. Neither mentions these bows.

 

 

This set

I am happy to offer this very interesting and exceedingly rare set of a pair of Vietnamese pellet bows together with their strings and a string board. The string board is entirely inlaid with fine mother-of-pearl work and far exceeds the quality of the only other known example of such a board.

The strings appear to be made of rattan, as they lack the nodes normally seen on bamboo. They hold small turned horn cups to insert the pellets. A separate string loop is tied to each side of them.

 

Vietnamese pellet bow stringVietnamese pellet bows string loop

 

The bows appear to be made of wood, lacquered black. They have narrow, upturned nocks and the same peculiar bent grips as the museum examples. The bow with the brown handle once had two metal strips at either side of the grip, one lost. Its limbs are shaped in a peculiar way, asymmetrically, with an offset ridge on the belly side. The black grip bow has more conventionally shaped limbs with the ridge running down the center of the bellies. 

Offset belly on bowLimb on bow

This bow has copper wrapping near one nock, possibly a reinforcement or repair. Both grips have a metal loop protruding from one side.

 

Reinforcement on nock

 

The purpose of the hardwood string board was probably to keep the rattan strings nice and straight. They are kept fairly tight and can only come off when you bend the board. One can be taken off easily; the other has fragile loops so I left it in place.

 

Can they be strung?

I often get this question when selling antique bows. One may find it tempting to string one of the bows for display, but I would strongly advise against it. These materials are from a very humid climate and have now had over a century to dry out and become brittle. The strings are very likely to snap without warning at an attempt to string one of the bows.

 

Conclusion

A remarkable set of two rare Vietnamese pellet bows, together with their mother-of-pearl inlaid string board. Similar bows have been collected from Vietnam in the 19th century, and are now in the British Museum, Pitt Rivers Museum, and Dutch Ethnographic Museum in Leiden.

Rare set of Vietnamese pellet bows with string
Rare set of Vietnamese pellet bows with string
Rare set of Vietnamese pellet bows with string
Rare set of Vietnamese pellet bows with string
Rare set of Vietnamese pellet bows with string
Rare set of Vietnamese pellet bows with string
Rare set of Vietnamese pellet bows with string
Rare set of Vietnamese pellet bows with string
Rare set of Vietnamese pellet bows with string
Rare set of Vietnamese pellet bows with string
Rare set of Vietnamese pellet bows with string
Rare set of Vietnamese pellet bows with string
Rare set of Vietnamese pellet bows with string
Rare set of Vietnamese pellet bows with string
Rare set of Vietnamese pellet bows with string
Rare set of Vietnamese pellet bows with string
Rare set of Vietnamese pellet bows with string
Rare set of Vietnamese pellet bows with string
Rare set of Vietnamese pellet bows with string
Rare set of Vietnamese pellet bows with string

Do you have anything for sale?

I might be interested in buying it.

Contact me

A very rare ceremonial variety with copper scabbard inlaid with different alloys, and a brass blade.

€6000,-

With forward swept iron guard and swollen grip.

€1300,-

Broad bladed example with horn hilt and engraved blade.

€900,-

Collected by a Russian prince from the hill peoples of central Vietnam in 1892.

€1800,-

Description A rather unusual Vi

€1100,-

This peculiar sword was used by the Garo people of Assam for fighting, clearing the jungle, and animal…

€1800,-