Updated  
February, 26 2010 10:04:01

Journey through history with antique swords

Blades of glory: The collection of rare swords on display at the exhibition offers visitors a chance to learn more about history's most popular weapon. — VNS Photo Doan Tung

Blades of glory: The collection of rare swords on display at the exhibition offers visitors a chance to learn more about history's most popular weapon. — VNS Photo Doan Tung

HA NOI — An exhibition of 99 ancient swords recently opened in Ha Noi, offering visitors a chance to learn more about history's most popular weapon.

The swords were selected from the private 300-sword collection owned by collector Duong Phu Hien.

Four generations of Hien's family have maintained and added to the collection. "By collecting and preserving ancient Vietnamese artefacts, especially those relating to the defence of our nation, every member of my family has demonstrated their love for the country and its magnanimous history," Hien said.

The exhibition features a large array of swords, including 37 that were made in Viet Nam. The others came from different countries, including China, Japan, and the UK.

Each scabbard is decorated with unique and sophisticated patterns, including typical ancient royal Vietnamese designs like pine trees, daisies, bamboo, apricots and dragons.

Hien said almost all of the Vietnamese swords in his collection date from three centuries ago.

The collector was visibly filled with pride when he talked about one of his rare Samurai sword, which is considered as one of the "stars" of the exhibition. The 2.02m-long and 18kg sword is the biggest and longest in his collection.

According to Hien, the 18th century sword was made out of very special steel. "A very complicated refining technique was necessary to create such a long sword. For this reason, long swords were very rare," he said.

The valuable collection also includes a bayonet with a solid golden handle, two 17th-century royal swords covered with Han Chinese characters, and a 1,500-year-old Cham sword.

Historian Duong Trung Quoc said: "The unique sword collection has a historical value which is much more significant than its material value."

American visitor Brian Brousseau said the exhibition was "beautiful and interesting". However, he added that the displays needed to be more organised because "it is difficult for people to know detailed information, such as which swords were made in Viet Nam".

A limited number of informational captions about the history of each sword disappointed another Vietnamese visitor.

"All I can do is look at the swords and admire them, but there are no stories to go alongside the experience," said Thanh Ha.

However, she was still interested in taking the time to enjoy the exhibit.

"Before I only knew about swords from TV, movies and the theatre, which are usually all the same. Here I see that there are many differences in their shapes and decorations," she said.

The exhibit also includes five bronze drums from the Dong Son civilisation which date back to 3,000 years ago.

The exhibition will last until the end of May at the Museum of Military History, 28A Dien Bien Phu Street, Ha Noi. — VNS

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