Nanban Shishi and Ryu tsuba
Over centuries, many sailors, merchants and colonial dignitaries crossed the oceans to trade with Asian countries. The cross-cultural influence is an interesting part of this period of war and trade. The word ‘Nanban’, or also spelled ‘Namban’ can be literary translated as: ‘Western Barbarian’, a term the Japanese locally used when they spoke of traders from Europe and other continents. The tsuba (sword guards) are a typical fitting of the Japanese sword. Since the trade began, an influence of different cultures and religion were mangled with the Japanese examples. Besides manufacturing in their own country, sword guards were often made in Vietnam, China, Korea and even Sri-lanka.
The general outlines of the tsuba are quite typical, slightly oval and the ‘nakago-ana’ is decorated with a cartouche. The outlines of the cartouche are gilded, including the ‘kozuka hitsu ana’ and the ‘kogai hitsu ana’. The bottom depicts a ‘Tera’ (寺) a Japanese temple. The background shows an chiseled iron ‘arabesque’ or ‘Karakusa’ pattern, which stands for prosperity and longevity.
Decorated with a fierce ‘Shishi’ (temple dog) which is a Buddhist auspicious symbol of protection against evil. The sides feature two ‘Shishi’ facing down, a double sign of warding off evil. The side is decorated with a ‘Raimon’ pattern which is chiseled throughout the entire rim.
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