Short Sword (Duan Jian)

  • Dated: circa 4th–1st century B.C.E.
  • Place of Origin: Xinjiang
  • Culture: Eastern Central Asian
  • Medium: steel, bronze, gold
  • Measurements: L. 26 3/8 in. (67 cm)

From its inception in the third millennium B.C.E., the sword served equally as a weapon and as a symbol of social status and power. During the first millennium B.C.E., in the hands of the nomadic peoples of the Eurasian steppes, it became, along with the bow, one of the primary cavalry weapons of the ancient world. Groups such as the Scythians, the Yuezhi, the Xiongnu, and the Xianbei achieved a succession of federations and kingdoms in Eurasia by combining the use of sword and bow with an unparalleled skill in horsemanship.

Archaeological investigations of burial sites have established the importance of the sword both as a valued possession and a sign of rank in various nomadic societies. While burial context has made it possible to identify some types of swords with specific nomadic peoples, others, like this example, are difficult to attribute with certainty.

The complex techniques required for the manufacture of this sword, the combined use of bronze and steel, and the presence of gold decoration all indicate its origin in a society with advanced metalworking skills and a relatively high level of material wealth. Swords similar to this one have been found in Yunan in southwestern China and in Ningxia in the northwest. The Ningxia finds also include many other examples of similarly advanced metalworking, suggesting that this sword may have originated in that region, perhaps around the time of the late Warring States period.

Source: Copyright 2014 © The Metropolitan Museum of Art


Chinese Short Sword

  • Medium: steel, jade, silver, cloisonne, turquoise, jasper
  • Measurements: overall length 25 inches, blade length 19 1/2 inch

The sword has a straight double edged single fuller blade set onto a 1 9/10 inch wide, 1/5th inch thick round jade guard - white/green in color with silver panels at front and rear. The grip is smooth round jade, light green with darker green streaked accents fitted with a three inch long silver collar with a floral shaped border along the bottom, and a round pommel cap, both of which are both over 90% covered in attractive multi-colored wireless cloisonne enamel.

The collar is showing an extensive vinework in yellow, blue, green and brown radiating from a green, yellow and gray floral bloom. This also has additional floral designs on the edge and a light blue background. There are also similar vines around the side of the cap with a single blooming flower covering the bottom.

Similar decoration is present on the scabbard, with the addition of a number of green and red stone (possibly turquoise and jasper) accents, with a 2 7/8 inch long silver throat decorated with raised cloisonne accented Eastern dragons, including a large 3-dimensional horned dragon head consuming the sun (a reference to the ancient mythology of the cause of solar eclipses).

The latter doubles as the base for two suspension rings, 12 individual rings of white/green jade, between 5/8 to 3/4 inch long each, with 11 floral cloisonne and stone decorated silver bands between them. There’s a silver tip with additional raised dragon designs and wire outlined stone accents and finally a green jade endcap with a silver flower on the flared end.

Source: Copyright © 2014 Rock Island Auctions