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Old 17th April 2021, 08:44 PM   #14
Jim McDougall
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Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Route 66
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Again, while I cannot speak with any sort of authority on these Chinese weapons, I do have what might be considered a 'working knowledge' of them from researches many times over the years.

I will say there seems to be a notable presence of 'souvenir' items in circulation, many of which do have notable age in that they were acquired in the 19th into early 20th c. Obviously China has restricted the trade or export of their antiquities for many years, so authentic items would have had to circumvent the normal channels (uh, not that this could not happen).

What I am wondering is, in all areas of production of material culture items and goods, is it not feasible that there were varying degrees of quality in items? With this being the case, perhaps makers with lesser skills tried to copy the work of other artisans in a kind of 'underground' setting.

If I have understood correctly, there were considerable restrictions upon civilians toward owning weapons, considering the constant presence of prospective insurgency, i.e. secret societies against the Qing rulers.
I have often heard of jian regarded as 'students' and that for some reason these individuals were allowed them, for reasons I do not know.

Regarding the example discussed from OP, it does not seem to me that Buddha was depicted in the elements of swords, and the pommel on this seems atypical. There seems to be a ferrule or some sort of element that should be under it to correspond to the one at the grip base.
It would seem that rayskin would be unusual to place on a weapon intended for commercial (souvenir) traffic. There are types of faux rayskin used in Europe since early 19thc. but this does not seem feasible for use when cheaper more effective materials would be available.

I have a saber which has an unusual tortoise shell material not commonly seen on Chinese swords, but it has been deemed authentically mounted, but likely for use as a gift possibly for diplomatic presentation. This may be a consideration here as well. The suggestion of Tibetan styling involved, as well as the presence of the Buddha, could indicate Tibetan production, and again, as I have understood, Tibetan artisans in border regions often produced weapons for Chinese overlords in a 'tribute' type arrangement.

Consideration of 'age' is also quite relative, and it seems there is a good volume of Chinese and Tibetan items which were acquired during the colonial occupations and travel in late 19th into 20th c. (1930s).

I think these factors are important to consider as we look at items such as this. To me, even souvenir items have some degree of legitimacy in the actual items or culture they represent. This jian has distinct character even with perhaps some flaws in its elements.
Just my perspective, and I look forward to same from those far more experienced in this field.

The 'butterfly knives' (shuangian=double jians) were not popular until early 1820s, but by end of 19th c. were used notably by so called 'river pirates' who were Chinese martial artists often employed as 'security' forces. At the end of 19th c. during occupation of China by European legations they were among the many types of weapon acquired by people there. Constant displays of martial arts using 'exotic' weapons intrigued the Europeans so they sought them for display in thier parlors.

Last edited by Jim McDougall; 17th April 2021 at 08:58 PM.
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