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Old 13th July 2021, 10:09 PM   #1
Yvain
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Default Mystery sabre

Hi everyone !

I'm emptying my room at my parent's house and I found this big sabre that I bought when I was a teenager (most likely because it looked cool and old). It doesn't really fit my collection nowadays, but I still am curious to learn more about it. Is it just a (very) large and fancy tourist item or maybe something else ?


If I should guess, I could see some resemblance with the Vietnamese guom but not much more. It was obviously not made to be used : extremely heavy and unbalanced, the blade shows no distal taper and was most likely cut from a steel sheet, as well as the guard. The hilt and scabbard are made of white wood painted black, the fitting are made out of brass sheets soldered with tin (I think), the whole blade is acid etched with Arabian script (coranic ?) but isn't particularly neat. Overall, it looks impressive from a distance, but is rather cheaply made.



Total length is 138cm, blade length is 108cm



Any information is welcome ! My main area of knowledge is Africa and I'm quite stumped here ... Feel free to ask if you have any question or need more info ! (And sorry for the poor pictures, the house is badly lit)
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Old 13th July 2021, 10:28 PM   #2
David R
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I will just say WOW and wait for the more informed to post... But yeah, a nice interesting piece whatever it is.
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Old 14th July 2021, 02:35 AM   #3
Battara
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I would guess that this is a Javanese pedang. Not only does the hilt look Javanese, but it would explain the Arabic writing, possibly in Jawi.

And yes the letters were acid etched. I recognize the name "Allah" a couple of times on one side of the blade.
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Old 14th July 2021, 06:36 AM   #4
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It looks Javanese to my eyes but let us see what others have to say.
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Old 14th July 2021, 05:26 PM   #5
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Sorry Jose and Marius, nothing at this sword looks Javanese to my eyes!

Regards,
Detlef
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Old 14th July 2021, 05:51 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sajen View Post
Sorry Jose and Marius, nothing at this sword looks Javanese to my eyes!

Regards,
Detlef
Agreed. I've never seen anything from Java like this.
The only thing that I've seen similar is that some modern tourist items have acid etched Arabic on the blades (see attached examples). I believe these are made in Borneo, but occasionally you see this style on something like a modern tourist kujang.

Thanks,
Leif
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Old 14th July 2021, 09:39 PM   #7
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Well I did not expect it to be such a tricky question!


Regardless of the origin (though it is obviously very important), what was the purpose of this thing in your opinion? Very big tourist souvenir or something else?



And thanks to all of you for your help! 🙂
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Old 16th July 2021, 08:30 AM   #8
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very odd sword.. whatever it is its strange.. if somebody can read the etching would help becuse it made have some grammatic clues in it..

maybe its just me but it looks VERY chinese.. the handle with the ring for a tassel.. weird guard.. the sheath. the chape..
maybe from an area with a chinese muslim population.. burma.. yunnan ect
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Old 16th July 2021, 12:52 PM   #9
Jim McDougall
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ausjulius View Post
very odd sword.. whatever it is its strange.. if somebody can read the etching would help becuse it made have some grammatic clues in it..

maybe its just me but it looks VERY chinese.. the handle with the ring for a tassel.. weird guard.. the sheath. the chape..
maybe from an area with a chinese muslim population.. burma.. yunnan ect

I am very much with you on this MOST fascinating anomaly!
It does have a very Chinese sense to it, possibly as the hilt resembles the Manchu 'horse hoof' types used in the 19th c. on their dao sabers.
This is not a distinct comparison, but more a styling gestalt.

Your suggestion of the possibility of a Chinese Muslim population pretty much 'rang a bell' as there is an Islamic character in this script, recalling the acid etched calligraphy in other ethnic situations, such as in Sudan (an analogy , not comparison).

Also, the character of this weapon recalls certain examples of similar types which I have seen attributed to Tibet, though probably produced in Chinese border regions either by Tibetan craftsmen or highly influenced in accord with Tibetan decoration and styling. Again, by gestalt, not direct similarity.

In regions of the Taklamakan Desert in the Tarim Basin (basically Xinjiang), are the Uyghur people (much in the news of late ). These are a Chinese ethnic minority of Turkic-Mongol origins and have been primarily Muslim since c. 10th c.
They seem to have become situated primarily in the regions of Urumchi, which is where the notable "Mummies of Urumchi" were discovered early in the 20th century, and had distinct Caucasian character.

Apparently the Uyghur people have three dialects of their language which is a Turkic form, and uses four types of alphabetic script, basically Perso-Arabic.
I am certainly no linguist, but this may account for the elusive character of this particular decorative script on the blade.
It is noted that of the three dialects, the 'Central' is that spoken by 90% of the Uyghur population.

The Uyghur men have typically worn a type of knife called a 'pichaq' as a symbolic accoutrement of masculinity traditionally, and these handcrafted knives are produced in Yengisar in the Uyghur Autonomous regions.
Possibly this example, clearly of larger proportion, may be a more ceremonial or dress weapon that might have been created in this convention under Tibetan influences which would exist with that source in their history.

I would look forward to Philip's attention on this, and would of course consider his opinion most important on this theory.
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Old 16th July 2021, 05:23 PM   #10
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Something else I just noticed, on the chape of the scabbard, the strange crenellated surround (perhaps 'dragon'(?) oriented) as well the the relief image of what appears to be the 'yin and yang' symbol. Perhaps another influence reflecting the Chinese situation?
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Old 17th July 2021, 12:27 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Yvain View Post
If I should guess, I could see some resemblance with the Vietnamese guom but not much more.
I also noticed some similarities between this sword and Vietnamese items.
A significant part of the Cham people in Vietnam are Muslims. But I have never seen items from Vietnam decorated with Arabic graphics.
I know that the Chams kept in touch with the language-related Muslims of the Malay Peninsula. Perhaps it is worth looking in the sultanates of the Malay Federation? It has very strong Muslim traditions and has a long history of home to many Chinese artisans.
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Old 17th July 2021, 11:59 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ren Ren View Post
I also noticed some similarities between this sword and Vietnamese items.
A significant part of the Cham people in Vietnam are Muslims. But I have never seen items from Vietnam decorated with Arabic graphics.
I know that the Chams kept in touch with the language-related Muslims of the Malay Peninsula. Perhaps it is worth looking in the sultanates of the Malay Federation? It has very strong Muslim traditions and has a long history of home to many Chinese artisans.
I agree it looks like a Viet sword decorated in the Malay world
Or a Malay blade mounted on a Guom in Vietnam / Indochine for Yvain
Viet swords were influenced by Chinese weapons, so it is normal to see some links.
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Old 17th July 2021, 07:01 PM   #13
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Well I didn't expect it to be such a riddle! All of the suggestions here were very interesting to read, thanks a lot Jim for your thoughtful comment! Kubur, I do see a lot of similarities between this sword and some guoms, mostly the overall shape.



To be perfectly honest, as I am emptying my old room and since it don't really fit my current collection (mostly african weapons), I was considering selling it, but I think I'm going to hang onto it for a little bit, at least until I have a clearer idea of what it is and why it was created!
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Old 17th July 2021, 11:47 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ren Ren View Post
I also noticed some similarities between this sword and Vietnamese items.
A significant part of the Cham people in Vietnam are Muslims. But I have never seen items from Vietnam decorated with Arabic graphics.
I know that the Chams kept in touch with the language-related Muslims of the Malay Peninsula. Perhaps it is worth looking in the sultanates of the Malay Federation? It has very strong Muslim traditions and has a long history of home to many Chinese artisans.
Good observation as re physical characteristics. The guard reminds me of an abbreviated version of the full knucklebow as seen on later (Nguyen Dynasty) sabers. Same for the scabbard profile, the tiny loose-ring for carrying mounted on the throat fitting (instead of on a separate band or sleeve as with most saber scabbards from other cultures including Chinese), and the flame motif on the chape. However, on Vietnamese officials' regalia sabers, the flames mostly appear on the dorsal side of the throat and suspension fittings; their location on the chape must be quite an impediment to wearing the saber at the belt since the little prongs can easily catch on clothing, or whatever.

The Cham people have an interesting history. Immigrating from south India early in the medieval period, establishing a flourishing civilization based on piracy and trade in central and southern Vietnam, introducing a Sanskrit based writing system to the area thanks to their Hindu faith, leaving behind some impressive architectural and sculptural achievements, and finally being conquered and (largely) dispersed through conquest by the Vietnamese in the 15th cent. Their islamicization seems to have occurred post-conquest. The remaining Cham in Vietnam are a minority which is rural and Muslim.

This saber could well be from the Cham community, in a locality somewhere in "Indochina" or Malaya because of the inscriptions and the design of the mountings. There is quite a spillover of influences in arms design in the traditional weaponry between the various parts of mainland SE Asia (not to mention foreign stylistic elements from China, Japan, and France) so trying to separate the sheep from the goats can end up being quite an exercise.
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Old 18th July 2021, 01:07 AM   #15
Jim McDougall
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Philip, thank you so much for the great insights on this interesting sword, and it looks like the instincts the guys have noted here on these regional characteristics are well placed. My idea was a bit of a long shot but I placed it anyway, and your explanation is as always, outstanding and thorough.,
The best thing in these discussions is learning!
Yvain thank you for posting this!
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Old 20th July 2021, 08:10 AM   #16
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yeah its an odd one.. id say its very recent.
"folk souvenir" like man for musli.m customers by makers of trinkets.. such cheap islamic theemed bladed "items" egypt, north african states..india, uzbekistan, iran. palestine... syria.. ect in markets and in areas sellin islamic items. many such items have a "pan islamic" feel to them.. mixes of several things that dont regularly combine. . yatagan or pala blade.. or a generic khanjar dagger shape.. but from strip steel and unsharpened.. zulfikir blade on a hunting knife shaped brazed metal handle with faux jewellery adorning it. some green or red velvet lined case for it.. lots of acid etching.

. they are ushally made by makers of metal products.

the product is definatly not a uyghur product. and.. dosnt have any features associated with them.
although the uyghurs do makealot of islamic kitch souvenirs in the same style as the uzbeks and tajiks... brazed pitch filled metal handles. false gems.. tacky 3mm thick mirror finished kilij blades with lots of islamic etching.. uyghur swords are identical to uzbek weapons on any account.

i dont know about the cham currently.. .. in cambodia the items they make were now identical to cambodian ones.. there is an youtube channel with a blacksmith making all manner of things "amazing kk daily' is the name, filmed in a cham kampong in cambodia.. as many blacksmith are cham there.but the seem to make cambodian items. ..
in vietnam they are so oppressed i really dont know what they now make. but their 19th century arms are a malay, cambodian and vietnamese mixture.. metal handled kris and such.. dahb with large curved handles and big pommels ect.. it could very well be their creation.. although nothing on the knife gives me any clues to that.
i think we need a good cham thread to discuss their arms and to investigate if and are still made .

i still think its chinese Hui.. either made in china or burma. made as a religious souvinir.
infact now im almost positive it is.. i feel some place ive seen an exact sword of the type in china some place.. but its vague in my memory.

but the flaming ying yang is a dead give away on that sheath.. as hui are fond of all these type of things..... being chinese they mix these things in with islamic themes. .
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Old 21st July 2021, 11:32 AM   #17
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Has anyone noticed the ornament along the edge? It seemed familiar to me and I did my little research.
This ornamental motif is called Parang Rusak - "Broken Sword" and is originally present on batik textiles in Central and North-West Java.
According to legend, it was created by Sultan Agung, ruler of Mataram in 1613-1645. He was inspired by the picture of huge sea waves crashing against a high rocky coast. This ornament has become a symbol of wisdom, fortitude and courage of the ruler, as well as responsibility to the people, ancestors and God. At that time, clothes with motif Parang Rusak could only be worn by the Sultan himself and the closest members of his family, for the rest it was a "forbidden pattern". Now, of course, direct prohibitions no longer exist, but respect is still there.
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Old 21st July 2021, 03:24 PM   #18
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I do not see it. (the similarity) Apart from a S shape.
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Old 21st July 2021, 05:36 PM   #19
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I like the idea of RenRen. The motif of the incoming waves is visible. Just that the ornament on the fabric is distributed over the area , and on the blade in one line. But it looks very much like the main element is one and the same.
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Old 27th July 2021, 05:06 PM   #20
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It really looks similar to a Javanese approach to etching and decoration along the blade. Many small souvenir shops all over Java have been selling a variety of blade types with exactly this type of magical Arabic etching for a long time. The influences come from all over, and a crude Tao symbol, roughly cast with flames around it would not be out of place. These are souvenir swords, and are often fanciful designs made to look a little bit old. Overall, the saber looks like a "spiced up" pedang. The handle, guard, and blade are not that different from examples outside the realm of souvenirs.

I could be off, because I am trying to squeeze something I have not seen before into a category I with which I am familiar, but I would not be surprised to see something like this in a roadside antique stand.
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Old 30th July 2021, 06:13 PM   #21
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Sorry for not commenting earlier in the thread, very busy week.


Again, thanks to everyone for their help ! Philip, your Cham theory is extremely interesting and I'll see if I can find more information by following this lead; nevertheless, this is a very solid proposition considering the general guom style and the muslim etchnigs.


To answer your questioning, I don't think it was ever meant to be carried, it is really long, heavy, and unbalanced. In my opinion, it was made from the start for display (be it simply for decoration or with a religious intention).


Ausjulius, I will also give a shot at the Hui theory. In any case, you are most certainly correct that this was made rather cheaply for display, most likely as a religious souvenir (though way less practical than a medal from Lourdes !).

Regarding the javanese influence, and considering the mix of different styles on this piece, I wouldn't be surprised either that the blade was etched somewhere, then mounted in another place.
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Old 9th August 2021, 03:06 PM   #22
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The inscriptions are the Ayat al-Kursi, or the Throne Verse, which is Qur'an 2:255, perhaps the most frequently inscribed Qur'aicn verse. There is also an Arabic prayer beginning "O God, we ask you for well-being in religion, for bodily health etc" which is too large to give in full here and in any case it is not shown in its entirety on the photos. In large letters is the phrase


لا حول ولا قوة الا بالله

"There is no power or strength save through God"
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Old 19th September 2021, 09:12 AM   #23
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https://www.medieval-shop.co.uk/blog...ans-sword.html
chinese stainless steel factory made sword of a similar style.. probably from longquan.. shape, handle . guard ect are approximately the same.
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Old 19th September 2021, 10:23 AM   #24
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couldnt find much on hui swords.. but i have seen etched chinese type swords with arabic text from the hui for their martial arts performances https://freewechat.com/a/MzA3NDU5NDY0NQ==/402876671/3
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