Vietnamese ceremonial saber, guom | Mandarin Mansion

Vietnamese ceremonial saber, guom

General introduction
Ornate Vietnamese guom (narrow-bladed sabers) were carried by officers of the Nguyễn dynasty (1802 - 1945). They were carried in processions by the handle, with the tip pointing up. Their general style is usually a mix native Vietnamese, Chinese and European decorative elements. The hilts have a large knucklebow type guard and a lion head pommel inspired by Western swords. The scabbards on the other hand often end with a pointy chape that reminds strongly of the Chinese sabers carried in the Mig. Handles and scabbard fittings and surfaces are often decorated with a mix of Vietnamese vegetal motifs, creatures and objects from Chinese mythology, along with Chinese auspicious symbols. This may be due to early Nguyễn emperor Minh Mang (ruled 1820 – 1841) who claimed a Chinese legacy and sinicized his subjects, introducing Chinese clothing and an orthodox Confucianist model of state.

Such guom are mostly known -and collected- for their exquisite mother of pearl inlay work, in which Vietnamese craftsmen set world-class standards. Fittings are often silver, skilfully chased and chiseled. Handles vary from carved ivory to precious woods, to metal inlaid with other metals: Often copper handles with silver inlays or vice versa.


This example

Overall length in scabbard: 94.8 cm / 37.3 inch
Overall length of saber: 84.6 cm / 33.3 inch
Blade length: 63.3 / 24.9 inch
Weight: 540 grams

A high quality Vietnamese officer's saber or guom with finely chased silver mounts, bone handle and hardwood scabbard. Blade is typical for these, relatively thin and non-functional. The fullering is of some interest: Two fullers become three at some point. Such fullering is also found on Russian shashkas, Polish sabers and I years ago I even once had a Chinese saber with such fullers. The pommel chiseled with dragons, in detailed with executed in very high relief. It has a stylized Chinese "shou" longevity symbol at the back. The guard is covered with pierced sheet silver depicting dragons amongst clouds, some losses to the plate, see pics. It also has a period repair on the chape, see pics.

Vietnamese ceremonial officer swords are well-known for the high degree of skill of the mother of pearl inlaid ornamentation they usually have on their scabbards. This particular piece stands out with the flamboyant and detailed execution of these. Notice the thinness of those vines, how many there are, and the brilliant sparkle of the quality mother of pearl used for the piece. One panel remains completely intact, some losses to the other panels. It may be restorable by a highly skilled furniture restorer or instrument maker.

A beautiful Vietnamese guom that exhibits the exceptional levels of workmanship that these could have in the execution of the mother of pearl inlays.


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