Sword (Ral gri)

Date: 14th–16th century

Culture: Tibetan or Chinese

Medium: Iron, steel, gold, silver

Dimensions: L. 34 7/8 in. (88.6 cm); L. of blade 29 1/2 in. (74.9 cm); W. 3 7/8 in. (9.8 cm); Wt. 2 lb. 2.5 oz. (978.1 g)

Classification: Swords

Credit Line: Purchase, Rogers Fund and Fletcher Fund, by exchange, 1995

Accession Number: 1995.136


This is one of the best of a small group of rare early swords from Tibet. Its hilt, including the grip, is made entirely of iron that has been embossed, chiseled, and damascened in gold and silver. The grip is decorated with a netlike pattern, chiseled in low relief to simulate cord or wire binding. The guard, just below the grip, takes the form of a stylized mask, with abstract features including of a pair of eyes and a leonine nose set amid open scrollwork on a black ground. The bottom edge of the guard has a border of silver-damascened teeth and fangs. The straight, doubled-edged blade is a flattened diamond shape in cross-section, a form more often seen on Chinese swords but also found in Tibet.