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Old 9th November 2021, 10:51 PM   #1
RobT
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Default Da Dao Translation & Info Requested

Hi All,

It was a scene with all the earmarks of disaster. The flea market seller's table was replete with fake Chinese, Japanese, and Tibetan edged weapons. Fresh from my faux klewang/faux pas, I was looking them over with a jaundiced eye when I spotted a rust covered da dao. It was at the very back of the table, buried under a pile of dubious (to say the least) Japanese katana. I idly picked it up, fully expecting to see an obvious fake. Dang, the thing looked good! From what could be seen under the rust, the lines and proportions looked good. The fullers looked reasonably well cut. I asked the seller about about it and, with heavily accented English, he said that it was "from the north". I asked if he thought it could be from WWII and he looked at me blankly but his significant other said "Japanese Invasion". I thanked them both and walked away. I was still smarting from my recent "educational experience" and didn't want another so soon (or, if I could help it, ever). After all, what are the odds that a table like that could have a genuine item? I continued walking through the market but the look of the blade kept bugging me so I went back and really started to give it a thorough going over. Ok blade, here's your chance to prove to me that you are what you purport to be. What sold me was the smooth distal taper of the spine from 11/32" (8.73125 mm) at the guard to 1/8" (3.175mm). I paid very little for the blade, took it home, and spent four days removing the rust. The cleaned blade revealed a mechanical damascus pattern of longitudinal stripes running from guard to tip. The stripes follow the curve of the blade. (They are hard to photograph and partially to fully obliterated in areas of corrosion.) The blade is 22.5" (57.1cm) long, 3.5" (8.9cm) at the widest point, and 1.75" (4.5cm) where it meets the guard. The guard is a two part brass casting with Chinese characters stamped inside a rectangle. The characters on one side differ from those on the other. I know it's a long shot, but could anybody provide a translation? I would also be grateful for any other information anybody has.
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Old 10th November 2021, 12:23 AM   #2
David R
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It looks righteous, the WW2 ones were often made out of old rail track, ripped up in front of the advancing Japanese. I look forward to developments.
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Old 10th November 2021, 01:38 AM   #3
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Default I'm Really Sure it's Ok

David R,

Thanks for your response, I can't wait for input from forum members either. Hopefully Peter Dekker will weigh in. Its dubious place of sale notwithstanding, I'm really sure that the piece is authentic. If it isn't, somebody spent a lot of time and skilled effort to make it look real (for very little monetary return) and they certainly have me convinced.

Sincerely,
Rob
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Old 11th November 2021, 09:36 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RobT View Post
Hi All,
The characters on one side differ from those on the other. I know it's a long shot, but could anybody provide a translation?
It is quite possible to translate Chinese characters. But you need high-quality photos in daylight or professional lighting in a photo studio.
Now I can understand 1/3 of the characters, unfortunately
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Old 12th November 2021, 12:31 AM   #5
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Default I'll See What I Can Do

Ren Ren,

I do know a professional photographer and will see if he is willing to take a shot of each side. It may take some time. Does the third you know make any sense?

Sincerely,
RobT
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Old 12th November 2021, 12:51 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RobT View Post
Does the third you know make any sense?
Yes, it makes some sense

[]红[]工中國 - []red[]work/labor China

[][]八十[] - [][]80[]
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Old 12th November 2021, 04:17 PM   #7
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Default Thanks, Better Photos To Come

Ren Ren,

I see that my photos were taken upside down. Many thanks for giving me what is legible thus far. It fits with what I had hoped for because it strengthens my suspicion that the sword is of Chinese Communist manufacture and, as such, probably dates from somewhere around the second Sino Japanese war. I will see if I can get better photos for a full translation.

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RobT
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Old 12th November 2021, 04:56 PM   #8
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The inscriptions
第十八中國工農紅軍 = Chinese Troop of Industrial and Agriculture Red Army. The title the communist military forces called themselves.路軍 = The 18th Army, a title given by the Nationalist Government.

Suspicion
The inscriptions are suspecious - In formal occasions, the communist led army used the National Government title 國民革命軍第十八集團軍 The 18th National Revolutional Army Group. In most occasions, the Army called themselves The 8th Army 八路軍 and they were more willing to call themselves so. They didn't call themselves The 18th Army but The 8th Army. The two incriptions represented completely opposite political blocs. Now they show on the same saber.
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Old 12th November 2021, 05:34 PM   #9
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Bravo, koto!
I give you a standing ovation!
This is a great job!
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Old 17th November 2021, 04:15 AM   #10
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Default No Suspicions & Clarification

Hi Ren Ren and koto,

Apologies for my tardy response to your efforts but I felt that I needed to research the matter further to clarify the inscriptions and to address koto's suspicions. I was greatly helped by a friend who understands Chinese characters and who did most of the "heavy lifting" for this project.

As you know, Chinese text is typically read in columns from the top down. In the past, multicolumn documents were frequently started with the rightmost column, with the column immediately to the left being the next to be read. Although there are no columns on the guard stampings, the right to left order is followed. This is why Ren Ren translated the number as 80 and koto translated it as 18.

The six character stamping is: 軍紅農工國中
Read right to left, the English translation is: 中國 (China [literally: Middle Kingdom]), 工 (Worker) , 農 (Peasant), 紅 (Red), 軍 Army
This agrees with koto's translation and Ren Ren's partial translation.

The five character stamping is: 軍師八十第
Read right to left, the English translation is: 第 (Ordinal prefix [for the number eighteen to make it eighteenth]), Eighteen (十八), Group (師), Army (軍)
koto translated the number correctly.

koto found it suspicious that the six character stamping refers to the Red (Communist) Army but the five character stamp uses the Nationalist 18th army name instead of the Communist 8th army name.
Wikipedia states that the formal name of the 8th army was "the 18th Group Army of the National Revolutionary Army of the Republic of China" but the Communists preferred to call it the 8th Army. Wikipedia further states that "The Eighth Route army wore Nationalist uniforms and flew the flag of the Republic of China".
I don't at all find it suspicious that a Communist led army that wore Nationalist uniforms and flew the Nationalist flag would stamp an item with the Nationalist army name. This military struggle was a collaboration of two foes against a common enemy so compromises were undoubtedly made. It may very well have gone something like this, "you guys get your stamp on one side and we get our stamp on the other". After all, their preferences notwithstanding, the formal name that both sides agreed to was the 18th Group Army. Furthermore, it is very likely that the factories making these blades had workers that were members of both factions. Given all the above, finding stamps catering to both sides on the same blade doesn't seem at all implausible.

Sincerely,
RobT
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Old 20th November 2021, 09:38 AM   #11
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Probably wielded by a double agent - showing the 18th Army side when hanging with the Nationalists, Red Army Communists, and spinning like a top when both show!
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Old 20th November 2021, 04:56 PM   #12
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Default Downplaying Politics

koto,

You have taken the term "spin doctoring" to a whole new level and, all kidding aside, your comment may have some serious merit. At the time, Western nations were not at all receptive to Communism (or even Socialism for that matter) so the Chinese Communists may well have felt that it would be more politically correct to downplay their ideology until the Japanese were driven out of China. Appearing openly as the "Red Menace" wouldn't fly well with the "Free World" which was fully united against the threat that Japanese imperialism posed to Western territorial/colonial holdings in Asia/Pacific and at the same time, also very nervous about any future "Yellow Menace" that could arise to threaten those Asia/Pacific holdings. I can imagine that the Chinese Communists considered it prudent to keep a low profile outside of China. This could also be the reason that the 8th Army wore Nationalist uniforms and flew the Nationalist flag.

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RobT
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