An unusual dha
Overall length

81.6 cm / 32.1 inch

Blade length

53 cm / 21 inch

Blade thickness

forte 7 mm
middle 3.5 mm

Blade width

widest part 32 mm

Weight

854 grams

Dating

18th or early 19th century

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The dha is the national sword of Myanmar (a.k.a. Burma), but is also found widely among Tai (Shan) and Tibeto-Burman ethnic groups, including many peoples of mainland Southeast Asia including Vietnam, Cambodia, and Yunnan.

Dha come in various shapes and sizes. They usually have handles of round cross-section and long, curved single-edged blades.

Most of them have no guard or a very small guard, but exceptions exist such as this one.

Scabbards often start off with an oval cross-section and get increasingly flattened nearing the tip.

This example

Presented is an unusual dha that is probably from the border region of present-day Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam and the Chinese province of Yunnan.

It has a well-made, gently widening blade with accelerating curve near the tip. Blade in bright polish shows signs of forge folding and an inserted high carbon edge plate. The blade has a single nick, probably from impact from another edged weapon.

Long handle of round cross-section, of one piece of seamless hardwood. It has heavy cast bronze fittings of a highly geometric form. The ferrule has a bulge that you also see on some longer Vietnamese arms. The heavy, solid pommel is of the shape of a closed lotus bud. This shape is common on pommels from Myanmar (Burma) and Yunnan but those are often of thin silver sheet and hollow. Solid ones like these -that can be useful in close combat- are seldom seen and the feature makes me wonder whether this is perhaps a rather early example. All mounts have a thick, deep patina from age throughout.

It is unusual for these to even have a guard, and this guard is very interesting. It consists of a four-lobed plate with designs in relief. There are traces of silver around the raised designs. It has two cutouts, simulating the kozuka hitsu ana and kogai hitsu ana found on Japanese sword guards, or tsuba. These are holes that were originally meant to accomodate the kogai and kozuka, a pin and knife that fit into the scabbard of Japanese swords. These guards were widely copied in Vietnam, where these two holes were also imitated regardless of the fact that they did not accommodate tools like the Japanese guards did.

The decor is floral, which is the custom on Vietnamese swords. You also see this reflected in the engravings on Vietnamese sword blades, such as this set of dao truòng or the signed guőm we have for sale on this site. In addition, the decor contains a total number of eight "wheels", some with flowers in them and others with four spokes. Such wheels, dharmachakra are significant Buddhist symbols. Usually eight spoked, the rarer four spoked wheels resemble the "Four Noble Truths" of the Buddha: 1. The truth of suffering (dukkha) 2. The truth of the cause of suffering (samudaya) 3. The truth of the end of suffering (nirhodha) 4. The truth of the path that frees us from suffering (magga)


Conclusion

A very rare and unusual dha. A well-balanced practical fighting piece with substantial fittings, a good quality fighting blade, and a Vietnamese guard of rather nice workmanship. It may be a pretty early piece.

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A large Kachin style square-ended dha in Shan style mountings.

€1500,-

Presented by the local Dai nobility to a British customs officer in 1936.

€3200,-

It has a narrow but sturdy blade with a springy temper.

€2600,-

Description A rather unusual Vi

€1100,-

Of very good quality for this type of weapon.

€950,-

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

€480,-
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