Tibetan dpa'dam or backsword [SOLD] | Mandarin Mansion

Tibetan dpa'dam or backsword [SOLD]

Overall length: 86 cm / 34 inch
Blade length: 74 cm
Weight without scabbard: about 660 grams

Although at first glance this would appear a typical Western Tibetan sword, of a type referred to as dpa'dam in Tibetan or zhibeidao in Chinese. But close inspection by a trained eye reveals that all details are a few steps up from the regular. It probably belonged to a local chieftain or otherwise a man of rank and status.

Long and unusually high quality blade, etched to accentuate the hairpin folding style that is so typical of this style of sword. The forging itself is many times more refined than is usually the case on Tibetan swords on which forging flaws are common due to the fact that forges in the Himalayas couldn't attain the high heats of those situated in lower lands because of a lack of sufficient oxygen at these heights. That this blade does not exhibit such flaws, nor the typical pockets generated by the use of straw-ash as flux but rather seems to be forged using borax introduced to Asia by the Dutch or Portuguese, may mean that the blade was made in a city outside of Tibet, but commissioned in Tibetan style, or otherwise made by an expert bladesmith in Tibet who managed to work around the challenges his geographical location posed.

Its scabbard is covered with onager skin, a wild Tibetan donkey known for its aggressiveness and the danger it posed to hunters because of its strong kicks. A prized hunting trophy in its day, it was used only on some of the best quality weapons. (A beautiful twist-core dpa'dam owned by befriended collectors in Beijing springs to my mind.) Today onagers are almost extinct and the leather has become unobtainable. The silver scabbard chape features delicate braidwork in silver strips and is adorned with turquoise and coral. As Tibet is about as far from the sea as one could possibly get, coral was a prized possession there. The handle is made of two plates of an unidentified type of horn. Simple iron pommel, with a hole that probably once held a semi-precious stone or coral. Overall in excellent condition.

Original condition throughout.