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Old 21st August 2020, 06:31 PM   #1
kronckew
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Default Hmong Knife

Acquired these two upper class Hmong knives today, no dimensions yet. They tick off a box on my bucket list. Probably made in Thailand according to a friend.
Listed by vendor as 'a pair of Indian ceremonial dress daggers'.
Comments appreciated.

Thanks,
Wayne
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Old 21st August 2020, 09:45 PM   #2
Ian
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Nice pair of recently made knives. Your friend is correct. They are definitely of Thai manufacture, with typical "S" markings on the blade and the "turtle" stamp near the hilt. These marks started appearing in the late 1960s and apparently don't have any significance other than for decorative purposes. They show up a lot on pieces brought back to the U.S. by soldiers returning from the Vietnam War.
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Old 22nd August 2020, 12:24 AM   #3
Battara
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Never seen Hmong pieces before of any age. Thank you for posting these. Very interesting.
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Old 22nd August 2020, 07:11 AM   #4
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I've been told the Hmong (aka 'Montanyards') actually buy these too for themselves, some come with aluminium guards. They do not like them & remove the guards. Not sure if mine are Al yet.

Back story: with photo examples for battara

Himalayan imports has a 'Cantina' section for open discussion of just about anything legal and non-porn. One member is Vietnamese, about 20 years ago he saw a hmong knife from a village chief, but couldn't buy it, so he himself made one just like it. He posted it in the Cantina. It was so well liked HI was cajoled into making a few that were much like it. I saw it there and put it on my bucket list. Being human, in the decades that followed it has mutated and now comes in a khukuri type scabbard, the blade now has a cylindrical grip with brass bands and is not nearly as pointy as it started out. The original HI is the one in the horn scabbard below. The thai enep is ubiquitous in the SEA area, It's the thai version of a khukuri and comes in many sizes. Used in the kitchen, garden, hunting, self defence.

I've got 2, the one with a basket scabbard below is smaller than the one in the wood scabbard. Those two are also wickedly sharp.
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Old 22nd August 2020, 07:51 AM   #5
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...and the current HI mutation, the Hmong Friendship knife. Don't care for this version.
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Old 22nd August 2020, 08:33 PM   #6
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So what I gather is that the Hmong knife forms shown are not indigenous?
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Old 23rd August 2020, 12:19 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Battara
... the Hmong knife forms shown are not indigenous?
That's mostly correct Jose. After talking with several Hmong informants in Minneapolis, they tell me that Hmong knives are basic work knives that were adapted for other purposes. Most resemble the Thai enap knives with a wide belly (similar to the middle and bottom knives Wayne has posted in #4 of this topic), while others are more influenced by Chinese shapes such as the "river pirate" knives (somewhat similar to the top knife Wayne has posted in #4 of this topic). They come in various sizes. Wide-mouthed rectangular wooden scabbards are the norm. Their swords are long handled, similar to those of other Montagnard tribal groups and probably based on earlier Lao forms. My SEA swords and knives are not easily accessible at the moment but when I have more time I'll post some typical Hmong examples.

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Old 23rd August 2020, 09:29 AM   #8
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Here are two Hmong knives from my collection.
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Old 5th September 2020, 02:08 PM   #9
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Pair of knives finally arrived. I love 'em. 126 grams inc. scabbard, knife on its own is 91 grams. Length 28 cm. overall, 18 cm. x 2.5 cm. blade, 5*mm. thick at guard, distal tapering down to a very pointy point, very sharp too. Grips appear to be a very dense dark wood. Scabbards are the same wood. Guards are a silver coloured non-ferrous metal that doesn't look like aluminium, no whitish oxide on it, just a splotchy brownish patination. All tight and ship shape. One unusual thing, they each have a latching hook of flat sheet samrit or brass that swivels on a small steel screw that can latch over a small protrusion on the right side of the guard to retain the knife in the scabbard. The yellow metal bands on the grip and scabbard appear to be samrit, held in place with mall steel tacks.
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Old 5th September 2020, 05:10 PM   #10
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While this topic is admittedly outside my fields of study, it is fascinating and I did at one time enter into some research. With familiarity with the Viet Nam war in recollections of that time in service ('65) the awareness of this SE Asian country became profound in the next decade of course. What most do not realize is that there was a great deal of activity there prior to first combat troops deployed there in '65 after the 'Tonkin' matter.

Montagnard is of course a collective term used to describe about 30 tribes in mountainous or hill regions of Viet Nam, Laos and Cambodia. The Hmong were but one of these tribes. These people had been working with the French in various allied actions hence the French term. As US forces began to enter Viet Nam in late 50s, early 60s as advisors to South Vietnamese forces, the Montagnard again became important guerilla fighters allied to them.

These people were not considered integral to other Vietnamese people as they were tribal and mostly remote and rurally situated, and linguistically they spoke thier own dialects. They were often called 'moi' (=savages) by the Vietnamese population, in the manner of pejoratives such as 'hillbiilly' etc.

I recall getting a dha years ago, which was most interesting and set me on research into this apparently Viet Nam 'bring back' from 60s. Though not having access at the moment to notes etc. I remember working with a professor of ethnology in Calif. who had done extensive research and written a book on the Hmong and several of these tribes. I sent her photos of the dha, and she took them to a council of tribal elders who immediately recognized the dha as 'one of thier own' and gave some explanation of some of the markings. I think one said, the sword will return to its owner, or to that effect. What was key was that the markings had deeper meaning that simply aesthetic.

I spoke also with an Army officer who was well known and decorated, and who had been among advisors in Viet Nam in '62. He too recognized the dha in form etc.

The professor and her tribal contacts if I recall identified the dha to a tribe and village region in Laos.

Though all of this is of course anecdotal, I just wanted to add what I could about the Montagnards, and how many of these weapons ended up being bring backs from Viet Nam. Rather than trophies they were probably symbolically presented to our military in the alliance shared. As the war ended finally in '75, a small number of Montagnards were brought to the US, mostly North Carolina, however I know numbers of them were in Calif.
The rest, sadly were left to their own as Viet Nam was ended.

I will add any material I can find to augment this once available.
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Old 5th September 2020, 07:41 PM   #11
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I would like to think the sword did indeed make it's way back to its family to whom it meant so much.
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Old 5th September 2020, 10:20 PM   #12
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One of my daily walking buddies is a retired colonel with the 82nd; he also spent the early years of the war in the highlands interdicting supplies coming down from the North. He made over 200 jumps during his career and my favorite quote from him is: " There are no atheists during a mortar attack."
Later in his career he was a member of JSOC at the Pentagon. He always speaks of the Hmong with great respect and praised their fighting abilities, loyalty, bravery and warm friendliness toward Americans. He spent a lot of time there being where he was "not supposed to be" during his tour in Vietnam.
Here's a link to Hmong culture:
https://com207-hmong.weebly.com/communication.html
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Old 8th September 2020, 10:02 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim McDougall


These people were not considered integral to other Vietnamese people as they were tribal and mostly remote and rurally situated, and linguistically they spoke thier own dialects. They were often called 'moi' (=savages) by the Vietnamese population, in the manner of pejoratives such as 'hillbiilly' etc.

As the war ended finally in '75, a small number of Montagnards were brought to the US, mostly North Carolina, however I know numbers of them were in Calif.


Great intro to the subject, Jim. Hmong are just one of a number of tribes inhabiting the Vietnam / Laos / Cambodia border areas and as you say are ethnically and therefore linguistically distinct from surrounding populations. Anthropologists have determined that some groups are related to indigenous peoples in Burma, south China, Taiwan, and even Borneo. Many of their languages had no written forms until relatively recent times.

There are a good number of Hmong living in California. There is a community in Long Beach, but most notable are those in the central valley, around Fresno, who have made a name for themselves as vegetable farmers, producing high-quality specialty crops sold at farmers' markets and to restaurants all over the state. Similar to how Vietnamese fleeing their country after 1975 got into the shrimp fishing industry in the Gulf states.
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