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Thread: Sword ID: Jian - Help needed to figure out this sword

  1. #1

    Sword ID: Jian - Help needed to figure out this sword

    Hello all,

    I recently purchased this Jian at an online auction. I didn't pay very much and I had low expectations, thinking it to be a fake/repro but good fun to have. However, when I received the sword it actually looked "better" than I thought it would. Since I have no experience with old Chinese swords (and not that much experience with swords period) I need some help figuring this weapon out. I'll provide as much info and pictures as possible. Curiosity aside I was planning on cleaning up the dirt and corrosion a bit, but before I do anything to the sword I want to make sure that I haven't stumbled on an actual antique, it would be tragic if I ruined a genuine item through my ignorance.

    The sword is 102 cm long (without the scabbard).
    It weighs 1240 grams (sword only).
    The blade clearly have an edge but is not razor sharp.

    The seller admitted to have no evidence regarding the swords age. He claimed to have owned it for 6-7 years. He also said the "collector" who sold it to him had guessed its age at from 1890-1905 but that he had no particular reason to believe this. When I received the weapon the blade was covered in some old wax or grease, presumably to protect it. I cleaned most of it off (that's the only thing I have done to the sword) to get a good look at the metal. The blade shows what I assume to be signs of pattern welding (may be fake, I can't really tell the difference, looks real to me though). It shows fairly well in the pictures.

    The proportions seems a bit odd to me. The blade is clearly diamond shaped and rather thick. However, the thickness does not taper towards the point and so the Point Of Balance is about 18 cm from the hilt, which seems very blade-heavy to me. The blade have an edge but is not extremely sharp. Also I can easily get 2 hands on the hilt but the blade length seems more consistent with one-handed Jian. The weight, proportions and POB leads me to believe this is a display item rather than a practical weapon, but as I said I know where little about Jians so maybe I am wrong about all my assumptions.

    As you can see in the pictures there is some corrosion. Also the guard, pommel and fittings seems to be plated with something gold-like (though presumably not actual gold) and it is coming off. The lacquer on the hilt and scabbard is covered in a web of fine cracks. I tried to get this to show in the pictures. They look genuinely old to me but again, might be fake. There are some scratches on the blade (seems like steel wool or a brush, someone being too heavy handed in cleaning off rust, I believe) and some minor pitting from rust.

    If any other information or pictures are required to ID this sword I am of course happy to provide them. Any help figuring this out would be very much appreciated.

    High resolution pictures: http://imgur.com/a/KyUkI#0

    Thanks,
    Steve


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  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2009
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    Brisbane, Australia
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    Modern repro/fake (if it's sold as an antique, it's a fake; otherwise it's just a repro). Could be late 20th century, but probably not older than that.

    These vary in quality. Sometimes the blades are good, sometimes the blades aren't heat-treated (so are too soft). Sometimes the folded steel pattern is real, and sometimes it's a fake etched pattern (yours looks real). I can't tell if the tang is peened at the end of the pommel, or if that's a nut. If it's a nut, you might be able to remove it and have a look at the tang and inside of the grip.

    It's rather heavy (the heavy end of the common historical range for jian of this size is about 1 to 1.1 kg; this isn't ridiculously overweight, but a bit). For a lighter jian, a point of balance at 18cm might be OK, but at this weight, it probably makes it sluggish. Having the thickness of the blade taper towards the point would be better.
    "In addition to being efficient, all pole arms were quite nice to look at." - Cherney Berg, A hideous history of weapons, Collier 1963.

  3. #3
    Thanks.
    The tang is peened. And yes the handling is sluggish indeed.
    So, then safe to assume that the cracked lacquer and corrosion/flaked plating are faked signs of age? (In which case I wouldn't ruin anything if I polish it up a bit)

    Steve

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2009
    Location
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    The crackle lacquer isn't necessarily fake aging. Sometimes the point of crackle lacquer is to look old, but it's common enough on stuff that's new and looks new. The flaked plating might just be because it's a cheap & nasty plating/painting job. The corrosion on the blade is probably just accidental.

    I have a fake antique two-handed jian with similar finish (attached). It's a fake TIbetan monster sword (the originals were sometimes made in Tibet, sometimes in China).

    Clean and polish to your heart's content.
    Attached Images Attached Images  
    "In addition to being efficient, all pole arms were quite nice to look at." - Cherney Berg, A hideous history of weapons, Collier 1963.

  5. #5
    Interesting.

    Many thanks for your insights.
    I'm happy with the sword regardless, not a bad way to get started with Chinese blades really (i.e. it was cheap and I can't mess anything up).

  6. #6
    Join Date
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    Location
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    Btw, the shape of the fittings is a Qing/Republic style. Guards of that shape were used in the Qing, and are maybe the standard shape for Republic jian (early-mid 20th century).
    "In addition to being efficient, all pole arms were quite nice to look at." - Cherney Berg, A hideous history of weapons, Collier 1963.

  7. #7
    The fittings are modern. A friend of mine got me two sets of these fittings to put on modern made jians, one by Rick Barrett. The fittings run about $200.00 USD and are pretty good quality reproductions made in Longquan. If the sword was selling for $200.00 or so I would have bought it to take the fittings off.

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