Chinese Chāi mace
Region: South China
Period: Qing Dynasty, 19th century
Materials: Iron, Fabric cord
The ‘Sai’ truncheon appears in East Asia, including China, Okinawa and Indonesia. While the Japanese term for ‘Sai’ means ‘hairpin’, the Chinese word for hairpin is ‘chāi’ (釵) or sometimes referred to as: ‘鐵尺’ which stands for ‘iron ruler’. In Indonesia, a wide variety of terms is used including ‘tekpi’ and ‘chabang’. The ‘Sai’ is a trident inspired weapon created for constabulary forces to disarm and control and later on preferred among martial arts practitioners. They come in several varieties, the regular trident shape with two bars pointing forward functioning as guard. The other, like this example, is generally referred to as the ‘manji sai’ which points to the swastika symbolism integrated in the guard. One bar pointing forward, the other pointing backwards which at the same time functions as a knuckle bow. The cross section of the rods are often segmented, octagonal or round and both bronze as iron was used.
A well patinated example which dates from the early to mid 19th century and of Chinese manufacture. The typical octagonal rod tapers towards the tip and the riveted ‘manji’ shaped guard tapers towards the ends of the quillon featuring a small curve which functions as sword catcher. The pommel has a truncated cube form and is riveted to the bar. The grip consists of the same iron bar and is wrapped in red cord, with interlooping brown cord. This traditional style of hilt wrapping was commonly found on Chinese arms and was done by Peter Dekker. besides providing a firm grip, the red colour is associated with battle and power which was meant as auspicious intention.
Condition: Very good, patinated iron rod with restored traditional wrapped cord.
Hilt length: 11.8cm
Rod length: 39.8cm
Rod spine thickness: 28mm
Total length: 54cm
Provenance: Belgian art market
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