Iron sword with jade guard (tie jian yu zhi)

Historical period(s)
Han dynasty, 1st century BCE-2nd century CE
Iron with jade (nephrite) guard
H x W x D: 44.5 x 5.4 x 2.2 cm (17 1/2 x 2 1/8 x 7/8 in)
Credit Line
Gift of Arthur M. Sackler
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view
Jade, Weapon and Armament

Weapon: sword

China, Han dynasty (206 BCE - 220 CE)

To 1938
Reportedly a family in Anhui Province, China [1]

Likely Lu Wu Antiques Company, Shanghai, China either directly from a family in Anhui Province or from an agent, working in the province before June 1938 [2]

1938 to1948
C. T. Loo & Company, New York, NY likely acquired from Lu Wu Antiques Company, Shanghai, China by June 1938 [3]

1948 to 1953
C. T. Loo, INC. New York, NY by transfer from C. T. Loo & Company, NY [4]

1953 to 1959
C. T. Loo Chinese Art, New York by transfer from C. T. Loo, INC., NY [5]

1959 to 1987
Arthur M. Sackler, New York, purchased from C. T. Loo Chinese Art on July 27, 1959 in New York City [6]

From 1987
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, gift of Arthur M. Sackler on September 11, 1987 [7]


[1] See letter from Berthe Oliver to Mr. J. E. Lodge on C. T. Loo & Company letterhead, June 27, 1938, copy in object file. Oliver reports that this object, along with two others “… have been acquired from a private family from the interior of An Hwei Province, shipped at the beginning of the hostilities and have just arrived.”

[2] See note 1. Lu Wu was an export business that supplied C. T. Loo’s businesses with Chinese art to sell in the West. Loo formed the company in 1911 with Wu Qi Zhou. They had warehouses in Beijing and Shanghai, where art dealers and private individuals could sell antiquities. All objects that Lu Wu acquired would be sent to Shanghai, packaged, and shipped to France, where C. T. Loo & Company, Paris would either keep pieces for sale in the Parisian gallery or ship antiquities to the New York gallery. The “private family from the interior of An Hwei Province” likely sold directly to Lu Wu antiquities or to one of their scouts, who would travel the country and acquire objects for export.

[3] See note 1. See also C. T. Loo & Company stock card F384, “Iron sword with 2 jade ornaments.” The stock number with an “F” prefix has been marked out to accommodate “E 5506,” the inventory number that Frank Caro assigned to the object after 1952 (see note 6), when he assumed control of C. T. Loo & Company in 1952.

[4] C. T. Loo formed C. T. Loo, INC. in 1948 when C. T. Loo & Company could no longer access trade in China. On September 1, 1952, C. T. Loo’s associate, Frank Caro (1904-1980) took over daily operations of the New York business. C. T. Loo, INC. was dissolved by the summer of 1953 and Caro operated as C. T. Loo Chinese Art. Loo continued to play a large role in the business, as he and Caro struck a deal in which profits made on Loo’s stock would be evenly divided and Loo would maintain the lease and rental payments on the company’s gallery space.

[5] See notes 4 and 6.

[6] See invoice from C. T. Loo Chinese Art, List of Chinese Objects Sold to Dr. Sackler, July 27, 1959, copy in object file. “E 5506 (scratched out F384) – Decayed iron blade adorned with a chicken bone jade guard beautifully carved with a curled dragon in relief the jade hilt top decorated with a whorl wheel in the center surrounded by raised spirals. Together with this object are two jades, originally ornaments on the sheath. Both of chicken bone jade, one is decorated with a powerful dragon in high relief and was mounted in the center to which cords or tassels were attached. The other decorated with a low relief mast design terminated the end of the sheath. Late Chou, Lt. of sword: 17 ½ ins.”

[7] Pursuant to the agreement between Arthur M. Sackler and the Smithsonian Institution, dated July 28, 1982, legal title of the donated objects was transferred to the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery on September 11, 1987.

Previous Owner(s) and Custodian(s)

Lu Wu Antiques Co. 1911-ca. 1949
Dr. Arthur M. Sackler 1913-1987
C.T. Loo & Company 1914-1948
C.T. Loo, INC. ca. 1948-no later than July 1953
C.T. Loo Chinese Art 1953-1961

Published References
  • Alfred Salmony. 3000 Years of Chinese Jade. Exh. cat. New York, January 10 - February 1, 1939. no. 188.
  • Exhibition of Chinese Arts, Special Sale. Exh. cat. New York, 1941-1942. no. 105.
  • C.T. Loo & Company, (Introduction) Lindsay Hughes Cooper. An Exhibition of Archaic Chinese Jades. Exh. cat. New York. pl. 59, 10.
  • et al. Asian Art in the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery: The Inaugural Gift. Washington, 1987. cat. 70, p. 114.
Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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