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Lobed guards study group

Three lobed sword guards.

Introduction

Lobed guards are found across Asia, also among Chinese and Japanese guards. In Japan, it's called mokkō-gata, depending on the amount of lobes it has a number is added. An eight lobed guard is thus called "yatsu-mokkō-gata". But although they are found in both cultures, they are somewhat uncommon. The one place where lobed guards seem to have been popular for a very long time is Vietnam.


Three excavated southeast Asian dha type swords with lobed guards. Probably from the region of present-day Vietnam or Cambodia, and dating to the 10th-14th century.


Two Vietnamese pole arms, modelled after Japanese naginata in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam. The set used to belong to Dutch naval commander Cornelis Tromp, who got it from a friend in 1680. Notice their lobed guards.


A Vietnamese bronze guard from my personal collection, exhibiting a lobed form. Note the hitsu-ana that is reduced to just a small ornamental opening. The feature was once copied from the Japanese, but the Vietnamese at some point stopped using the by-knives and had no use for it anymore. As a result, it got smaller and smaller in subsequent designs but never really disappeared.

Here I present three interesting lobed guards, and a set of handle mounts, to be sold as a set.




1. Eight lobed guard



Height & width: 72 x 71 mm
Thickness: 4 mm
Weight: 107 grams

Origin: Possibly Vietnam
Materials: Iron, copper
Dating: 16th - 18th century
Use: Has been mounted


A lobed Asian export sword guard
A lobed Asian export sword guard

Description
An interesting sword guard of unusual form. It is an eight lobed design like most Vietnamese guards of this shape tend to be. The washer seat is of typical Japanese form, but this form was also copied in Vietnam, mostly in the 17th century. It has an opening for a by-knife, but again such by-knives (cite>kogatana in Japanese) were also adopted in Vietnam.

-The reason for this strong Japanese influence on Vietnamese arms was considerable immigration from Japan to Vietnam due to social unrest in Japan. The Japanese were not welcome in China, where they were regarded as pirates, so those who were good enough sailors pressed on to Vietnam where they settled and started new lives. Some masterless samurai found jobs employed by the Dutch VOC and other European traders.-

Around the washer seat is a five-pointed blazing star, then a stippled background made with a round dot-punch, and the very border consists of eight shapes best described as drawer handles reminiscent of European work. These can also be extremely stylized clouds in the Chinese fashion. The whole effect of the decoration feels like it is mimicking tooled leather.

A very interesting piece, worthy of further study.




2. Five-lobed guard



Height & width: 69 x 68 mm
Thickness: 6 mm
Weight: 116 grams

Origin: Possibly Vietnam
Materials: Iron, gold, copper
Dating: Probably 16th - 18th century
Use: Has been mounted


A lobed Asian export sword guard
A lobed Asian export sword guard

Description
A six-lobed guard, a form called roku-mokkō-gata in Japanese, with some remarkable similarities to the preceding piece: Again the drawer-handle shapes elements in each lobe, over a stippled background. Instead of the blazing star, this guard fills its inner space with stylized waves in a form commonly found in the washer seat of Asian export sword guards.

On either side, the waves are inlaid with tiny golden plugs. Seven on one side, nine on the other. I initially thought they were to represents shining drops of sea water, but they are so oddly and unevenly spread that I am starting to think they might be constellations. Especially the spread of four of the seven stars remind strongly of the big dipper, as they form the dipper, while the others form the handle.

The big dipper is a significant constellation in Asian thought, but also an important constellation for naval navigation.




3. Lobed guard



Height & width: 72 x 72 mm
Thickness: 6 mm
Weight: 125 grams

Origin: Probably Japanese
Materials: Iron, copper
Dating: Probably 16th - 18th century
Use: Has been mounted


A lobed Asian export sword guard
A lobed Asian export sword guard

Description
Lastly, a a five-lobed guard, a form called go-mokkō-gata in Japan.

The washer seat area is not a demarcated oval shape, but extends to over both openings (hitsu-ana and takes a five lobed shape, just like the outline of the piece. Again we see a mimicking of a different material here, in this case not a tooled leather look but a simulation of rattan basketwork.

Such simulations are seen more often on Japanese sword fittings. The Bushu-Ito school was also known to work in such a basket weave style. See also this wonderful tsuba from the Nara school.

To complement this sword guard, I have found a set of matching fuchi and kashira with the exact same basket work simulation. This set is executed in a copper alloy that was patinated a nice black.

A lobed Asian export sword guard

This type of basketwork used on handles goes back an incredibly long time. It is found for example on the handle of a toso (刀子), a small knife, in the famous 8th century treasure house, Shōsōin. That piece is dated to the 8th century, and may be a Chinese import:

Toso of the Japanese Imperial Repository
See Jiro Harada; Catalogue of Treasures in the Imperial Repository Shōsōin, Imperial Household Museum, Tokyo, 1932. Plate LVI.



Price of grouping:

€ 1500,-



Interested? Questions?
Contact peter@mandarinmansion.com




A lobed Asian export sword guard

A lobed Asian export sword guard

A lobed Asian export sword guard

A lobed Asian export sword guard

A lobed Asian export sword guard

A lobed Asian export sword guard

A lobed Asian export sword guard

A lobed Asian export sword guard

A lobed Asian export sword guard

A lobed Asian export sword guard

Three lobed sword guards.




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