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-   -   A curious Japanese? sword (http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showthread.php?t=27041)

Philip 16th June 2021 06:09 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Bryce (Post 263525)
G'day Norman,
The new photos of the blade you posted don't prove the blade is Japanese, but on the other hand they don't rule it out either. If you can see a hamon then that makes it more likely to be Japanese (or maybe Korean?).
Cheers,
Bryce

I've polished a number of Burmese dha which have very prominent and well-controlled hamons, many with nice bands of snowy crystallization along the delineation (the Japanese term escapes me at moment). Also the effect is strongly evident and well-executed on some wootz saber blades from Iran. So there's nothing specifically Japanese about the concept. I see hints of it on fine late medieval and Renaissance European blades (although a full polish is out of the question on such a blade since doing so will kill its market value).

You might be interested to know that Mohammed ibn Ahmad al-Bīrunī, a medieval Persian polymath, wrote a treatis "On Iron" in the 11th cent., in which he mentions that in India, craftsmen "coat the broadside [i.e. full width] of the sword with suitable clay, cow dung, and salt in the form of a paste and test [mark out] the place of quenching at two fingers from the two sides of the cutting edges. They then heat it by blowing [the hearth], the paste boils, and they quench it and cleanse its surface of the coating on it with the result that the nature [jauhar, a visible pattern] appears..." The translator and editor, Robert Hoyland and Brian Gilmour ( Medieval Islamic Swords and Swordmaking,2006), add a comment that the reference to "test" implies scraping off the paste in the appropriate area prior to quench.

Philip 16th June 2021 06:18 PM

1 Attachment(s)
Quote:

Originally Posted by Bryce (Post 263475)
G'day Norman,
The non-aligning hamachi and munemachi (notches) is a classic Chinese trait.
Cheers,
Bryce

In a Chinese context, the notches, or shoulders, aren't supposed to align. On the contrary, they are ideally quite far apart because the sleeve at the base of the blade (tunkou) takes an asymmetric form and in fact is totally unrelated to the Japanese habaki. Here is a typical Chinese example from a saber dating to the late 17th or first half 18th;

On a related note: it may be worth noting also that as this pic shows, the typical method of fastening hilt to blade on most Chinese sabers and swords is via a tang that emerges at the pommel where it is peened over. It is identical in concept to the method typically found in Europe from the Middle Ages onward. And practically unique in East Asia, where besides Tibet and Bhutan, the norm is to use a blind tang and cross pin(s) as in Japan and Korea, or a blind tang anchored by adhesives as is the case of India, mainland SE Asia, and the Malay Archipelago.

Philip 16th June 2021 06:26 PM

2 Attachment(s)
To further show the disconnect between tunkou and habaki, here are earlier examples demonstrating that the Chinese version is of Inner Asian origin. The left image is of a Khazar saber, 9th-11th cent. AD, of a form encountered in a wide expanse of western Asia and eastern Europe. The right one is from a Seljuk saber blade, 11th-12th cent., found in Iran. The feature lived on stylistically (chiseled into the blade, not a separate sleeve) into Mamlūk times (15th cent. Egypt). The tunkou does not appear on Chinese sabers until the end of the 16th cent. at earliest and started to fade from popularity in the 19th.

Norman McCormick 17th June 2021 02:44 PM

Hi Philip,
Many thanks for your continued interest in this sword. With your suggestion that Korea may be worth investigating I wrote to Mr E.Lee of swordsofkorea and today I received this answer.

Hello Norman,

I believe the sword to be mostly Korean. The blade is Korean based on the shape and the tang. The handle also appears to be Korean made but Korean swords usually always have two hangers (like a Tachi). Few may have no hangers but hardly with a single hanger like this one. The scabbard reminds me more of a Gunto sword. The tsuba is bit unusual and probably more Korean than Japanese. The scabbard hardware is rather plain except for the tsuba so it probably had better and more stylistically correct mounts In the past.

This would not be a government issued sword (for a soldier) in the present form but most likely an individual that assembled it based on parts he had access to.

Regards,
E. Lee

I have replied to him with some further questions but I would think this is proof enough of the the origins of this sword.

My Regards,
Norman.

ariel 17th June 2021 04:28 PM

Which proves an important lesson: two experts,- three opinions:-)

Philip 18th June 2021 12:49 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Norman McCormick (Post 263648)
Hi Philip,
Many thanks for your continued interest in this sword. With your suggestion that Korea may be worth investigating I wrote to Mr E.Lee of swordsofkorea

My Regards,
Norman.

You're most welcome, am glad that thanks to Mr Lee you have corroborating information that will help to better appreciate this piece. And not have to write it off as a knockoff or wallhanger!

I recall from the catalog of a museum exhibit of such weapons that the name for this style of sword (actually a saber due to its curved s.e. blade) is byeolwung'geom (please forgive the spelling, I may have missed a letter since Korean is about as alien to me as Hungarian!)

Even if your example is not in the princely class of Korean swords as you can see in the University Museum in Seoul, the Volkenkunden in Leiden, or the Smithsonian, you are very fortunate to have any Korean sword in your collection. They are quite scarce, as are polearms, armor, and matchlocks. The "Hermit Kingdom" was always of small-to-middling population even by European standards, never engaged in imperial expansion, and was extensively disarmed under Japanese colonial occupation (1910-45), not to mention the losses inflicted during the Korean War in the following decade.

Thanks for sharing what has turned out to be quite an interesting sword, and have enjoyed the lively discussion that it has engendered.

Norman McCormick 18th June 2021 02:08 PM

Hi Philip,
I am delighted to have such an unusual piece in my collection although it is not of the courtly variety. I think that ordinary pieces have an extraordinary story to tell if we could only prise their history from them. I have sent more detailed photographs and had further correspondence with Mr Lee and he is of the opinion that the blade is 18th/19thC and it and the guard did not start life in the present mounts. He has also confirmed that he has seen single ring scabbard mounts although they are not common.
My Regards,
Norman.

Norman McCormick 18th June 2021 07:26 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by ariel (Post 263483)
I do not know much about Korean sword; thus, I have to rely fully on the chapter by Park Je Gwang, a curator of the War Memorial of Korea. This was published in a book titled "History of steel in Eastern Asia", a catalogue of the Macao exhibition. The main physical difference was the attachment of the handle to the tang: in Japan the mekugi was easily removable, in Korea they had a true rivet, that prevented any disassembly.

Hi,
Also from the above publication.

'Another method used a cooper pin like the Mekugi just above the sword guard, and a tube inserted into a hole in the handle, to which a tassel was attached.'

This could possibly account for the two holes in the tang of my blade as it is reasonably evident the blade is not original to the current mounts. I presume the 'cooper pin' is a typo and is intended to be a copper pin.
Regards,
Norman.

Peter Andeweg 22nd June 2021 06:03 PM

I agree with the mentioned above, many characteristics compared to the Korean swords I have seen. Its a nice one, some are rather crudely made even by governmental manufacturers.

Here is an interesting website, of which one had been mine for a while.

http://www.swordsofkorea.com/swords.htm

Best regard, Peter

Norman McCormick 22nd June 2021 08:06 PM

Hi Peter,
Thanks for your insight on this sword. While searching for images of Korean swords I think I came across the one you had.
My Regards,
Norman.

ausjulius 24th June 2021 09:30 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Philip (Post 263625)
To further show the disconnect between tunkou and habaki, here are earlier examples demonstrating that the Chinese version is of Inner Asian origin. The left image is of a Khazar saber, 9th-11th cent. AD, of a form encountered in a wide expanse of western Asia and eastern Europe. The right one is from a Seljuk saber blade, 11th-12th cent., found in Iran. The feature lived on stylistically (chiseled into the blade, not a separate sleeve) into Mamlūk times (15th cent. Egypt). The tunkou does not appear on Chinese sabers until the end of the 16th cent. at earliest and started to fade from popularity in the 19th.

on the chinese sword with rat tail tangs the blade collar is a vestigial decoration. comming from the mongol and turkic nomads swords... the Middle Easterners disguarded the collar as the swords became more and more curved withthe appearence of firearms and decline of heavy armor.
the functions of tuese swords blade collars for mounted nomads was probably to improve sheath retention and i suspect by the long blades.. some found are over 120cm blades.. . narrow guards and canted grips. that they were grasping around the guard in their mounted thrusts... (some blades have even reinforced tips for gamberson and mail peircing) if i was a guessing man it may well be where europeans even gone t the idea to grasp the ricasso with the index finger. i cant find any artworks of the time showing nomads doing this and you dont need the blade collar to do it just a blunt ricasso. but then who did the pictures of those times.. it wasnt nomads.. .

on the japanese sword the blade collar has a differebt function.. the swird is shimmed and pegged togeather and a soft metal adjustable shock obsorbing metal is needed thatis wider than the blade. this collar hols the guard steady abd can be used with shims between it abd the guard to make the fit tighter.. it also can hold the blade in the sheath but for a different reason.. to avoide sheath contact with the blade.. to protect the polish.

Philip 24th June 2021 05:23 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by ausjulius (Post 263821)
it may well be where europeans even gone t the idea to grasp the ricasso with the index finger.

That was the case with the talwar used by the Mughals. As you know, many of these sabers have quite small grips. Whereas the talwar was a traditional weapon in the Muslim-influenced northern part of India, and many of the people are quite large in stature. This may explain the so-called Indian ricasso, which of course is blunt but also tends to be slightly wider than the cutting area of the blade. Holding a talwar with the index finger over this ricasso makes it more comfortable to hold, and stabilizes the weapon very well in the hand, allowing excellent control The potential for injury was not a problem since Indian swordsmanship calls for a buckler or a cattar in the left hand for parrying.

This manner of holding the talwar is often depicted in Mughal battle scenes.

Norman McCormick 1st July 2021 07:33 PM

3 Attachment(s)
Hi,
An example of similar utility fittings on another Korean sword.
Regards,
Norman.

Norman McCormick 1st July 2021 07:34 PM

1 Attachment(s)
Hi,
An example of double hilt fixing on a Korean sword. The pommel cap is missing but it looks as if it could have been of a similar variety to mine and the sword in the previous post.
Regards,
Norman.

Philip 1st July 2021 07:42 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Norman McCormick (Post 264001)
Hi,
An example of similar utility fittings on another Korean sword.
Regards,
Norman.

This is a typical rank-and-file military sword (saber, actually) of the late Joseon period (ending 1910). It is called hwando. Not all types of Korean hilts were made with cord wrapping on the grip but this variety generally had braid wrap as seen here; note that the material was wider and knotted differently than the Japanese pattern which it superficially resembles.

On [Ihwando[/I], of which there are several subtypes, there is a combo of Japanese and Chinese design elements. The grip wrap and the habaki are representative of the former, and the suspension system of two bands and a perforated bar along the dorsal edge of the scabbard is Chinese. Some hilts had a flaring oval "mandarin hat" pommel in the Qing fashion. Blades, depending on subtype, are a blend of stylistic traditions. This scabbard is covered with a coarse fabric which is lacquered-over, this is typically Korean manufacture.


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