Place of Origin: Eastern Tibet, Kham Region
Date: 18th to 19th Century
Overall Length: 780mm
This particular type of Tibetan sword comes from Eastern Tibet’s Kham region. It is categorised by the hilt which has a lozenge-shaped cross section, and by the attached iron pommel inlaid across the front with three narrow bands of different coloured copper alloy. Three short, cone-shaped iron protrusions sit on top of the pommel. The grip is made of wood, waisted in the middle, and covered in ray skin which has several large white nodules and is wrapped with a single leather cord in an open spiral. The guard is a round dish of heavy gauge iron with a hollow interior. A leather pad attached on the underside of the guard is painted cinnabar red, and ensures a cushioned seat for the scabbard mouth when the sword is sheathed.
The blade is straight and single-edged with an oblique tip. The pattern welding lines are faint but there appears to be five dark and four light bands, indicating two hairpin rods of darker iron alternating with two hairpin rods of lighter iron, with a single rod of darker iron in the centre.
The wooden scabbard is fitted with a U-shaped iron bottom mount of Bhutanese type, with a copper reinforcment at the center extending more than halfway up the scabbard. At the rear, this extension is iron. The leather within the exposed areas is dyed green and probably comes from the belly of a donkey or an ass. The upper half of the scabbard is covered with a separate leather sleeve.
The Metropolitan Museum, New York, has an extremely similar sword without a scabbard (acc.no. 36.25.1460) and La Rocca(1) points out another similar example in the National Museum of Natural History, Washington, with provenance stating it was made in Poyal, once part of the Kingdom of Derge and now part of the Ganzi Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in western Sichuan province.
(1) LaRocca, Warriors of the Himalayas, 2006, p.164-165, cat.no.68.