Place of Origin: KOREA
Date: Choson Dynasty (18th - 19th Century)
This is a well-made and unusual example of a Korean eating set known as a eunjangdo (literally meaning “silver knife”). Eunjangdo usually employ silver as their primary material and are worn by both men and women, sometimes with chopsticks – much like the eating knives from China which feature in this exhibition.
The simple, functional blade is typical for these knives, being straight with a single cutting edge. On one face, however, the blade has been engraved with a scrolling dragon, behind which are Chinese characters (now illegible) enclosed within a square. The hexagonal hilt is made from orange-brown stone which has been carved and polished to produce an attractive translucent glow, as well as a silver band and collar. The scabbard is decorated en suite, with the silver encasing formed into a gently undulating pattern that extends along the greater part of its length, one three-tiered hexagonal band interrupting the pattern and a further attached just before the scabbard’s base which flares out slightly. An applied block with a loop for suspension and further faceted attachments feature on the reverse face of the scabbard.
A faceted silver pickle spear with black soapstone handles slides into the scabbard alongside the knife and is surmounted with an intricately engraved button in the form of a chrysanthemum flower.
It is difficult to find a similarly decorated example to our own. However, another knife (M.16SHEAT-1928), preserved at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London and carved out of jade to depict an openwork floral arrangement, goes some way to demonstrating both the quality and diverse decoration of these sets.