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Sword chape (bi or biao)
Place of Origin: China
Historical Period: Qing dynasty (1644-1911)
Materials: Nephrite
Dimensions: H. 1 1/4 in x W. 1 7/16 in x D. 1/2 in, H. 3.17 cm x W. 3.65 cm x D. 0.63 cm
Credit Line: Gift of Ed Nagel
Department: Chinese Art
Collection: Jade And Stones
Object Number: B73J2
On Display: No

Description

Label:

A chape, the mounting on a scabbard or sheath, has been fashioned from light-green hetian jade. Tapering to a narrower top, it has a rough surface with dirt-filled pockmarks. One face shows four meanders in shallow relief; the other side displays a sinuous dragonet with a coiling tail. A central hole penetrates the flat top, with two smaller holes beveled from opposite directions.

In an illustration from the 1400s this form was called a beng; in the 1800s it was called a bi (Wang [approx. 1120–1127] 1752, chap. 8, p. 5; Teng 1992a, 135). The term beng is inaccurate for the chape; a study of sword fittings shows that this term should be used to refer to the sword guard. The term biao referred to the point of a bronze sword in Han writings and was borrowed for jade chapes, which appeared to substitute for guards and cover the metal end. The term bi in the first dictionary, Shuowen Jiezi (Xu [approx. 1–100 ce] 1970), was defined as the lower section of a king's sword. Archeologists still do not agree about which name is correct for the chape.

During the Warring States Period, a whole set of four fittings was rarely found on a single sword; swords were usually fitted with only a pommel and a guard (Zgyqqj 1993, vol. 4, plates 17, 71, 72, 81, 82, 84, 104, 106, 123, 124). The complete set on one sword was popularized in the Han period. Excavated Han jade chapes are composed of a trapezoid chunk. The central part is thick, gradually thinning toward the sides, and the flat, elliptical top contains one or three holes for fitting the chape onto the end of a scabbard. The two faces are covered with designs. Cloud, grain, and meander motifs were still the main themes. When dragonets or phoenixes and dragons appeared, they were set against a secondary cloud design (Kaogu 1962, 12:623; Nanjing Museum 1974, 118).

This is a typical example of a piece whose surface was subjected to a process of chemical eroding and chipping.


Label:

A chape, the mounting on a scabbard or sheath, has been fashioned from light-green hetian jade. Tapering to a narrower top, it has a rough surface with dirt-filled pockmarks. One face shows four meanders in shallow relief; the other side displays a sinuous dragonet with a coiling tail. A central hole penetrates the flat top, with two smaller holes beveled from opposite directions.

In an illustration from the 1400s this form was called a beng; in the 1800s it was called a bi (Wang [approx. 1120–1127] 1752, chap. 8, p. 5; Teng 1992a, 135). The term beng is inaccurate for the chape; a study of sword fittings shows that this term should be used to refer to the sword guard. The term biao referred to the point of a bronze sword in Han writings and was borrowed for jade chapes, which appeared to substitute for guards and cover the metal end. The term bi in the first dictionary, Shuowen Jiezi (Xu [approx. 1–100 ce] 1970), was defined as the lower section of a king's sword. Archeologists still do not agree about which name is correct for the chape.

During the Warring States Period, a whole set of four fittings was rarely found on a single sword; swords were usually fitted with only a pommel and a guard (Zgyqqj 1993, vol. 4, plates 17, 71, 72, 81, 82, 84, 104, 106, 123, 124). The complete set on one sword was popularized in the Han period. Excavated Han jade chapes are composed of a trapezoid chunk. The central part is thick, gradually thinning toward the sides, and the flat, elliptical top contains one or three holes for fitting the chape onto the end of a scabbard. The two faces are covered with designs. Cloud, grain, and meander motifs were still the main themes. When dragonets or phoenixes and dragons appeared, they were set against a secondary cloud design (Kaogu 1962, 12:623; Nanjing Museum 1974, 118).

This is a typical example of a piece whose surface was subjected to a process of chemical eroding and chipping.