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Thread: Are these Far Eastern pole arms?

  1. #1

    Are these Far Eastern pole arms?

    Hi,

    With reference to the attached picture, can anyone tell me anything about these pole arms?
    Many thanks in advance!

    Regs
    B
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  2. #2
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    Chinese without a doubt. The dead giveaway is the decoration below the blade.

  3. #3
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    Vietnamese, I thin. David, I've seen Vietnamese examples with similar decoration on the socket, e.g., http://www.oriental-arms.com/photos.php?id=1740

    The overall shape of the heads looks Vietnamese to me.

    Probably 19th century. Parade/guard polearms, to make the bearer look more impressive. Some are functional weapons - you might give your guards at the door fancy flamboyant polearms to show off, but you still want it to be functional. Parade weapons don't need to be functional.
    "In addition to being efficient, all pole arms were quite nice to look at." - Cherney Berg, A hideous history of weapons, Collier 1963.

  4. #4
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    The Royal Armouries in Leeds has a rack of them on display, and another in private store. They are pretty certain they are Chinese.

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    The RA ones might well be Chinese. Just because a style of decoration was used in (northern) Vietnam doesn't mean it wasn't used in (southern) China. Lots of Chinese influence on northern Vietnamese weapons.

    That said, it isn't unusual to see Vietnamese polearms described as Chinese.

    This style of cylindrical ornament:

    is very common on Vietnamese polearms, and not something I've on verified-as-Chinese ones. Note the similarity with the ornamentation on the ones in the OP (although there, it's flush with the rest of the socket, not on a raised cylindrical piece). This cylindrical ornament looks like a Vietnamese version of the common Chinese polyhedral ornament/nut:

    (from http://www.oriental-arms.com/item.php?id=6026 )

    I've seen the flush version as in the OP on Vietnamese polearms and on described-as-Chinese polearms (other than the RA ones). Assuming it appears on Chinese polearms, RA XXVIL.111, XXVIL.108, and XXVIL.61 are such that, judging by appearance, they could be either Vietnamese or Chinese. For these, if provenance is known, the question is answered. It comes down to whether the donors knew that these came from China, or whether they (or somebody else) guessed that they came from China.
    https://collections.royalarmouries.o...ject-1809.html
    https://collections.royalarmouries.o...ject-1807.html
    https://collections.royalarmouries.o...ect-36994.html

    More Vietnamese polearms, 2 with faceted cylindrical collars, at http://www.swordforum.com/forums/sho...on-of-polearms
    "In addition to being efficient, all pole arms were quite nice to look at." - Cherney Berg, A hideous history of weapons, Collier 1963.

  6. #6
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    Most Chinese stuff in UK collections came in as a result of British Imperial campaigns in China, the Opium Wars, Boxer Rebellion and etc. To the best of my knowledge Burma was as close as we got to Vietnam which was mainly a French area of operations during the relevant period.

  7. #7
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    RA got them in the mid-1950s, long after imperial adventures were done. They came from private donors. The question is where those donors got them. Europe has plenty of Vietnamese weapons, courtesy of the French. From there, they get around. (Both donors gave definitely Chinese polearms as well.)

    Unlike typical Boxer souvenir weapons, these ones (both in the OP and the RA ones) aren't Qing army weapons, or typical Boxer weapons. Probably not battlefield weapons.
    "In addition to being efficient, all pole arms were quite nice to look at." - Cherney Berg, A hideous history of weapons, Collier 1963.

  8. #8
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    I just had an answer from one of the curators at the R.A. He is positive that some or most of what I referred to are originally Chinese, from a temple in Nankin (Nanjing). Some are copies made pre war, the originals lost to bombing. Some of the pole weapons on display definitely Boxer Rebellion bring backs. If you give me an email address I can copy the original from him over to you. I don't cut and paste here because I have not asked his permission to do so, and for professional reasons he rarely involves himself in internet discussion.

  9. #9
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    Most of the RA Chinese polearms are definitely Chinese. For example, some of them are known to be copies of older ones from Guandong/Canton (and are described as such), and many of them have Chinese-style hafts. One head might be a Japanese naginata blade, but the haft is Chinese.

    Somewhat irrelevant anyway, since there are Vietnamese examples in a similar style to the polearms in the OP. If the RA ones are definitely (or probably) Chinese, then all we can say about the OP's polearms is that they're either Vietnamese or Chinese.

    If the curator has definite info about the origins of RA XXVIL.111, XXVIL.108, and XXVIL.61, that would be interesting.

    (I only looked at the ones with photos. Perhaps there are other ones.)
    "In addition to being efficient, all pole arms were quite nice to look at." - Cherney Berg, A hideous history of weapons, Collier 1963.

  10. #10
    I agree that's it's hard to see the difference sometimes. At some point part of Vietnam was a Chinese province so styles especially in northern Vietnam can get very close to Chinese.

    Often, but not always, Vietnamese pole-arms have floral engravings on the blades. Another give-away is that they tend to have a tanged construction, with a -often ribbed- brass sleeve covering the end of the shaft whereas Chinese pole-arms tend to have a socketed construction. (The double forked pole-arm posted is a case in point exhibiting both typical Vietnamese construction methods.)

    There are exceptions like the Chinese yanyuedao (a.k.a. guandao) that is always tanged and with a sleeve, and often engraved even in China, and there are Vietnamese pole-arms that lean much more towards Chinese construction.

    The Royal Armories isn't free of mistakes on Chinese and Vietnamese arms. To name an example: There is a Vietnamese straightsword (kiem) labeled as Chinese in one of their cabinets, and a late Qing curio saber is marked "18th century Qianlong period". That said, if there's a solid Chinese provenance to these pole-arms like you say, they're likely to be Chinese.

    The fairly plain nature of them would also sway me towards Chinese. A picture of the part where the tip connects to the shaft would help.

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