An archaic jade sword guard

An archaic jade sword guard


Western Han dynasty
Length: 2 in, 5.1 cm

Still attached to the remains of an iron blade, and cracked due to the expansion of the metal. The guard is of lozenge section and the lower edges curve gently inwards to a central point. The stone is worked in low relief to each side with a taotie mask, with hatched details. The semi-translucent stone is an orange-brown tone, slightly altered due to burial.

Formerly in the Dr Arthur M. Sackler collections, accession no. J842. Purchased from J. T. Tai & Co., New York, 1964.

Twelve long swords were found in the tomb of the King of Nanyue (died circa 122 BC), placed next to the body, of which five were fitted with jade accessories, some of which were still attached to the blades: see Lam, Jades from the Tomb of the King of Nanyue, nos. 71, 83, 88 and 91.

Very similar examples are illustrated in Lin, The Immortal Stone: Chinese jades from the Neolithic period to the twentieth century, cat. 32, p. 45; and in Xu, Jade Wares of Guangling in Han Dynasty, no. 72, p. 96, and note also no. 74, pp. 98–9.