Chinese "Canton style" export sword guard | Mandarin Mansion

Chinese "Canton style" export sword guard

Height & width: 76 x 72mm
Thickness: 5.5mm
Weight: 102 grams

Origin: Probably Chinese, with export to Japan in mind. Adjusted for Japanese use.
Materials: Iron, gold.
Proposed dating: Probably 17th to early 18th century.
Use: Has been mounted.

Very complex iron openwork guard two dragons chasing a flaming pearl. The wiry flames on the pearl as well as the spread of the claws of the dragon suggest it probably dates from the late 17th century to 18th centuries. It is of a Sino-Tibetan style that was sold in the port of Canton, therefore becoming known as "Canton tsuba" among collectors of Japanese sword guard, while they were probably made elsewhere in China. The style was particularly in vogue in Beijing, where there was a large Tibetan population and such ironwork was made for the court.

A later Japanese addition is the aperture for a Japanese kogatana, a small knife often worn in the Japanese scabbard alongside the sword. The aperture is lined with a copper / gold alloy called shakudo that was patinated to a deep dark blue, resembling lacquer.

The bottom of the design has a very simplified character in seal script, often it represents 嵩, the name of a holy mountain in Henan. The character is probably an alternative to the actual depiction of rocks in such a scene called qunshan, in the form of three mountain-peaks rising above the waves, representing the unity of the people under the protection of the Emperor.

The scrollwork is very complex, with no less than ten undercut tendrils. The shape of the plate for the tang aperture, plus the attempt to make an aperture on one side (that is not big enough for Japanese use) hints towards this guard being made abroad but probably with export in mind.

A nice and early nanban tsuba, made in a style typical for the 17th century. It may represent one of the earlier pieces made in China with export to Japan in mind.

€ 750,-

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