Late qing duanjian
Overall length

51.5 cm

Blade length

37.7 cm

Blade thickness

forte 5 mm

middle 3.7 mm

near tip 3 mm

Blade width

forte 24 mm

middle 21.5 mm,

tip 17.5 mm

Weight

286 grams

Point of balance

50 mm from handle side of guard

Origin

China

Materials

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

Dating

Early 20th century.

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Description

An unusual piece: Jian with these mountings are usually of the long type, often with a soft steel blade with a ricasso and etchings on the forte. (See for example our Green Dragon Jian. Such weapons were usually solely martial arts training weapons. Those with good, serviceable blades are encountered from time to time, but are quite rare.

This little shortsword or duanjian (短劍) utilizes a mounting style that I believe is very late Qing to very early republic. All fittings are of sturdy brass, simple but well executed, and protected by a thin film of lacquer. The scabbard is covered with green, polished ray skin. The handle is rougher ray-skin for added grip. The pommel is secured not with peening but with a threaded nut. This is something rarely seen on Chinese swords, which are usually peened, but there are some Chinese sabers from the late 18th century and 19th century that also had this feature.

The most surprising part is the blade, which is of excellent quality manufacture. It is of layered sanmei construction with a high-carbon edge plate that is exposed from softer layers on either side of the blade and point. The body is forge folded steel, with a fine and subtle straight wood grain. The countours, ridges and bevels are very even. It came to me in a very fine, bright polish. The photos don't really do the steel justice. In real life you can also make out some cloudy effects of through hardening.

Near the tip is a “forging opening” where there was some space between two layers that’s filled with gold. This is a somewhat rarer feature, but I've seen it more often on quality swords from China and Japan. Gold was probably used because it could be applied without heating the steel too much.

The balance is pretty close to the guard, giving it somewhat less slashing power but making it ideal for precise thrusting.

Conclusion

A very nice example of an early 20th century shortsword that was still made for the fight. A rarity in this period, where most swords were made strictly for forms practice with light, floppy blades of soft steel.

A Chinese shortsword with fine blade

A Chinese shortsword with fine blade

A Chinese shortsword with fine blade

A Chinese shortsword with fine blade

A Chinese shortsword with fine blade

A Chinese shortsword with fine blade

A Chinese shortsword with fine blade

A Chinese shortsword with fine blade

A Chinese shortsword with fine blade

A Chinese shortsword with fine blade

A Chinese shortsword with fine blade

A Chinese shortsword with fine blade

A Chinese shortsword with fine blade

A Chinese shortsword with fine blade

A Chinese shortsword with fine blade

A Chinese shortsword with fine blade

A Chinese shortsword with fine blade

A Chinese shortsword with fine blade

A Chinese shortsword with fine blade

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I might be interested in buying it.

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