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Mei

Mei (銘)

Japanese word for inscription
Yasuchika elephant tsuba

Yasuchika elephant tsuba

A 19th-century copy of an important cultural art object.
Hawk and pine tsuba logo

Hawk and pine tsuba

Carved out of copper alloy with details highlighted in gold.
Unusual alphabet tsuba logo

Early tsuba with alphabet

Curious early tsuba with the beginning of the Western alphabet inscribed into it.
late-chinese-pierced-guard-logo

Small Chinese saber guard

Of pierced iron, elaborately cut with lotus petal border.
Aoi gata tsuba with foreigners logo

Thick Aoi gata tsuba with foreigners

With fine golden overlays, even on the thick rim.
Asian export sword guard with foreigners logo

Aoi-gata tsuba with foreigners

Unusual tsuba with foreign figures and Chinese auspicious symbols.
Nanban ship tsuba logo

Iron nanban ship tsuba

Pierced and chiseled showing an 18th century European vessel.
Hirado Kunishige fuchi logo

Hirado Kunishige fuchi

One of his classic designs, signed by the maker.
asian-export-lobed-guard-with-western-portraits

Curious lobed sword guard

Modeled after a smallsword guard, with carvings of Western figures.
Unusual nanban tsuba

Unusual nanban tsuba

Very finely carved with designs reminiscent of export wares.
17th century Chinese saber guard

17th century Chinese saber guard

With the swirling arabesque motifs that are typical for this period.
Chinese openwork sword guard

Southern Chinese openwork sword guard

In the style of northern work of the 16th and 17th centuries
Lotus border tsuba logo

Assymetric dragon tsuba

Chinese work for the Japanese market.
28 jewel canton tsuba

Canton tsuba with 28 "jewels"

Canton work for the Japanese market, with 28 metal balls in separate compartments.
Early Canton tsuba

Early Canton tsuba

Made in Canton, China, for the Japanese market.
Lobed Canton tsuba logo

Lobed Canton tsuba

Made in Canton, China, for the Japanese market.
Canton ship tsuba logo

Canton tsuba with ship

Made in Canton, China, for the Japanese market.
Five dragon Canton tsuba logo

Five dragon Canton tsuba

Made in Canton, China, for the Japanese market.
Water caltrop Canton tsuba logo

Water caltrop Canton tsuba

Made in Canton, China, for the Japanese market.
Canton tsuba logo

Facing dragon Canton tsuba

Made in Canton, China, for the Japanese market.
Canton group of Asian export sword guards logo

Nanban tsuba, a Canton group

Introduction

Among the genre generally classified as Nanban tsuba there is a distinct group with cha

Signed nanban tsuba logo

Signed "nanban tsuba"

Among the work classified as "nanban", signed work is very rare. Here are some examples of signed works in the style.
Yagami school nanban tsuba

Yagami school nanban tsuba

A masterpiece of the genre. The Yagami school were excellent carvers of iron.
Hirado Kunishige tsuba logo

Enamelled Hirado Kunishige tsuba

Fine work and one of the very few enamelled tsuba by this maker.
Hirado Kunishige logo

Hirado Kunishige (平戸市國重)

A group of Japanese sword fitting makers working on the island of Hirado.
Chinese yidao guard logo

Yidao guard

Exceptionally large pierced iron guard for a Chinese yidao; "virtuous saber".
Three wise monkeys tsuba logo

Three wise monkeys tsuba

Japanese sword guard depicting three wise monkeys conveying the message see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.
Winged dragon tsuba

Winged dragon tsuba

A fine and unusually large tsuba. Attributed to Hizen by the NBTHK.
Kinai tsuba logo

Fine Kinai dragon tsuba

Made by the Kinai group of Echizen, who originated as horimono carvers.
Nanban style ship tsuba signed Hishu Kanesada logo

Signed nanban style ship tsuba

Signed by an artist named Kanesada from Higo.
Tetsugendo Seiryuken Eiji tsuba

Seiryūken Eiju dragon tsuba

Tetsugendo school. Round plate with discoid cross-section, chiseled with dragons.
Peony karakusa tsuba

Peony karakusa tsuba

Executed in "nanban style" openwork with chiseled and gold-encrusted peonies.
Sawasa style guard logo

Sawasa style iron guard

Unusual piece with depiction of a foreign figure.
Chysanthemum tsuba

Iron chrysanthemum tsuba

Large example with gold and silver overlay.
Dragon gate guard logo

Unusual dragon gate guard

Asian sword guard of unknown origin, modified in Japan.
Canton tsuba

Japanese tsuba in Canton style

Also known as Kwanto-gata, with two facing dragon chasing a pearl.
Daruma tsuba logo

Daruma tsuba

A peculiar tsuba with a depiction of Bodhidharma and two dragon chasing a pearl.
Kunihiro wan-gata tsuba

Wan-gata tsuba by Kunihiro

Its outer surface is decorated with interlocking swastikas and family crests.
Compass rose guard logo

Cast iron compass rose guard

A peculiar cast iron sword guard, probably from the South China Seas area.
Tsuba logo

Tsuba (鍔 / 鐔)

Japanese name for a sword guard.
Chinese loukong export guard

Chinese lòukōng sword guard

The archetypical Chinese sword guard that gave rise to the Japanese genre of "nanban tsuba".
Chinese pierced sword guard logo

Qing openwork saber guard

A very rare Chinese saber guard dating from the height of the Qing dynasty.
Qing om a hum mantra saber guard

Chinese hùshǒu with lantsa script

A Chinese sword guard from the 18th century with a Buddhist mantra in lantsa script.
Qing hozon papers logo

Chinese sword guards in Japan

The Chinese saber guard is called dāo hūshǒu (刀護手), or hùshǒu pán (護手盤) in Chinese. This literally translates to "saber handguard" or "disc handguard". At some point, the Japanese got quite a taste for them. Over the years a number of them have turned up from Japanese sources that exhibit alterations that indicate they were used by Japanese on their swords.
Sword guard

"South China Sea Guard"

Most likely used by the multi-cultural crews of pirate fleets that roamed the South China seas.
tachi-mokko-gata

Tachi-mokkō-gata (太刀木瓜形)

Japanese term for a cross-shaped tsuba often used on tachi swords.
Aoi-gata tsuba

Aoi-gata (葵形)

Japanese word for a sword guard shape. Literelly "hollyhock shape".
Kiyou Toujin tsuba

Kiyou-Toujin Tsuba

A Japanese style sword guard made in 17th century Nagasaki Chinatown.
Nanban steel tsuba

Tachi tsuba of nanban tetsu

A rare 17th-century sword guard made of foreign steel.