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This very fine, long sword intended for a Bhutan noble is illustrated in the well-known book Sacred Symbols: The Ritual Art of Tibet, which showcased items from the personal collections of Tibet scholars David Weldon and Robert Thurman.
It is a type of sword known in Bhutan as a kongdi maja – Bhutanese weapons tended to be named after their presumed place of manufacture and swords of this type were made in Kongpo (‘the country of ravines’) a region of Tibet that bordered Bhutan which was known for the great skills of its sword makers. Many of the weapons produced in this area were for the Bhutan market.
Such swords with scabbards fully encased in silver engraved in the manner here were worn by the king and only the most senior Bhutanese officials.
It has a forged, straight, single-edged steel blade; a scabbard encased in silver sheet that has been engraved, chased and parcel-gilded on both sides; a grip covered in twisted silver wire; and a cage-like, gilded, pierced pommel with Himalayan scrollwork on one side and a pierced ‘honeycomb’ pattern on the other.
One side of the scabbard is decorated with a mid-section of parcel-gilt, wave-like motifs. The reverse is decorated with a particularly pleasing mid-section of parcel-gilt Himalayan scrollwork.
Typically, such a sword was worn on the right hip.
The sword is in excellent condition. The blade does have light remnants of old rust staining here and there, as is typical.
Illustrated: Thurman, R., & D. Weldon, Sacred Symbols: The Ritual Art of Tibet, Sotheby’s/Rossi & Rossi, 1999, p. 170-171.
LaRocca, D.J., Warriors of the Himalayas: Rediscovering the Arms and Armor of Tibet, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2006.
Myers, D., and S. Bean (eds), From the Land of the Thunder Dragon: Textile Arts of Bhutan, Serindia, 1994.
Thurman, R., & D. Weldon, Sacred Symbols: The Ritual Art of Tibet, Sotheby’s/Rossi & Rossi, 1999.