Place of Origin: China, Qing Dynasty
Date: 19th Century
Overall Length: 1280mm
The Yongzheng Emperor decreed in 1727 that “The Imperial Army’s standard-issue musket (niaoqiang—literally, ‘bird-spear’) is capable of penetrating armour with sharp projectiles. It is most convenient. On the flat terrains of the interior provinces, the bow and arrow are to be used. In the coastal and border provinces, with their high mountains and dense provinces, the musket is to be used. In the interior provinces, every thousand soldiers are to be given three hundred muskets. In the coastal and border provinces, every thousand soldiers are to be given four hundred muskets.”
Lianming, in his article An Overview of Qing-Dynasty Guns, states that in some strategically important provinces, the numbers of muskets and soldiers even reached parity—evidence of the importance of firearms to Qing rulers.
This example is of typical Qing form, having a slightly curved wooden stock, and a long iron barrel with flared muzzle set with front and rear sights. The stock has two belt rings (one being a later replacement) for attaching a shoulder sling. To fire the gun the barrel was first loaded with gunpowder and a lead ball was rammed tightly on top using a ramrod. The pan was then primed with gunpowder. Next, a match (a thin rope previously soaked with saltpeter, then dried) was placed in the match holder. The end of this match was lit, which then smouldered until it was lowered into the pan by squeezing the trigger. The match then lit the priming charge, which in turn ignited the main charge situated in the breech via the touch hole. As the gunpowder burned instantly (exploded) a huge volume of gas was produced which fired the lead ball from the barrel. The original leather match cover is still attached to the stock, and is testimony to the high state of preservation of this musket, the bright red cinnabar lacquer being a striking feature of this rare survivor from Chinese military history.
Lianming (Sotheby’s catalogue: Supreme Number One: A superb imperial matchlock musket, 2016), An Overview of Qing-Dynasty Guns, p.29.