The Magnificent Sword of Wu Peifu - to be sold on June 5th

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Firearms Department
firearms@cowans.com

consignment deadline

Passed

exhibition times

Monday, April 29, 12:00 - 5:00 p.m. EST
Tuesday, April 30, 8:00 - 10:00 a.m. EST

sale times

Sunday, June 05, 10:00 AM Pacific Time California Office

Auction

Lot 240: The Unique, Rare and Magnificent Dress Sword of Chinese Nationalist Hero Wu Peifu "The Jade Marshal" Circa 1912

To leave an bid on this rare and fantastic piece, click HERE

A fine, unmarked  presentation-grade sword.  The D-guard hilt of heavy, richly gilded bronze cast and chased in high relief with a lion in the round, the eyes inlaid with stone. The hilt further decorated with two Chinese flags in relief on a gilt ground. The left flag is Five Stripe Flag of the Republic of China, adopted in 1912 and used until 1928. The right flag is the Iron Blood 18 Star Flag of the Wuchang Uprising, the Wuchang Nationalist's flag in use from 1911 until 1928. The hilt ends with another lion recumbent carved almost in the round. The grip is of exotic shell. The nickel scabbard is adorned with two heavy gilt mounts cast and chased with 5 raised relief lions which represent the majesty and rank of a Chinese field marshal of the period, in this case the "Jade Marshal," Wu Peifu. 

View the sword on Proxibid HERE
View the sword on HiBid HERE

Dimensions: Length overall: 36.5 inches or 92.71 centimeters
Blade length:   30 inches or 76.2 centimeters

Condition:  Hilt and mounts retain most all of their original rich heavy gilding. Blade is pristine with little oxidation present. Scabbard retains nearly all its original bright nickel finish.

General Wu Peifu – "The Jade Marshall"

Marshal Wu Peifu (1874-1939) rose from humble beginnings to become the most powerful warlord in China during the period 1912-1928. His integrity was legendary. Wu Peifu was the first Chinese national to appear on the cover of Time Magazine on September 68, 1924 with the caption "General Wu."  He is shown gripping the sword offered here in several published photographs.  This unique, ceremonial sword symbolized Wu's position within Chinese society, and was a mark of his status and rank.

In 1920, General Wu sent his family to San Francisco where his two children attended the University of California, Berkeley. In 1924 Wu's wife returned to China but his family remained in the Bay Area.  In 1928, after many victories over China's enemies, Wu retired in Bejing to lead a life of scholarship and contemplation.

In December of 1939 shortly after the Japanese invasion of China Wu was approached by the Japanese general in command demanding that Wu emerge from retirement and lead a Chinese puppet state. Wu refused, telling the ambassador that he, and all Japanese should leave China. Wu died several days later on December 4th. The official cause of death was a "toothache," however it is widely believed he was murdered by the Japanese.

Wu's funeral was a national event duly reported in photographs and text covering three pages in the March 4, 1940 edition of Life Magazine. "Peking Gives Wu Pei-Fu, China's Honest War Lord, A Fine Princely Funeral." Funeral scrolls read: "Riches could not tempt him; power could not subdue him."

Most official photographs of Wu Peifu in uniform show him holding this unique sword. The sword was sold, most likely by his family to raise money, to the Far West Hobby Shop of San Francisco owned by George Smoots and J.M. Standish.

It is presumed that after Wu's death, the sword offered here made its way to the United States, where it was sold to raise money for the family.  The purchaser was the famous Far West Hobby Shop, which was the West Coast's largest dealer in antique firearms, historic curios and California relics.  Located at 406 Clement Street in San Francisco, the shop issued periodic illustrated catalogs that themselves have become collectible firearms ephemera.  Wu Peifu's sword was purchased from the shop in 1939 by John A. Dunker of Palo Alto, a long-time collector of antique weaponry.  The sword has remained in his family since its original purchase, and has never been offered publicly. 

Provenance:

Purchased from the family of Wu Peifu by theFar West Hobby Shop, owned by George Smoots and J.M. Standish, San Francisco circa 1939

Purchased from the Far West Hobby Shop, by John A. Dunker, Palo Alto, California (1939). Dunker gave the sword to his son-in-law, John Richard Pershing, St. Helena, California who kept it until 2014. The sword was then obtained from the heirs by the consignor. 

The condition is excellent with most of the original gold gilt remaining with just slight evidence of being carried and slight age. Opening bid - $50,000. No reserve over the opening bid. Estimate - $500,000/1,000,000

For more information regarding the auction, contact us at littlejohn@cowans.com or 1-714-939-1170.

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