Home >> Encyclopedia Americana, Volume 27 >> Tropical Forests to Twelfth Century >> Tsuba


art, japanese and sword

TSUBA, tsil-bah, the Japanese sword guard, unlike the early Chinese and European sword guards which were wrought into the blade, was a distinctly separate piece of metal, through which the blade passed. Originally, in prehis toric times, the tsumiba, or "blade-clincher' was heavy, of gilt copper and ovate shape. In its development, securing strength with light ness, it came to be, from the 16th century on ward, a work of art also. The tsuba reached the highest expressions of pure design and rep resentation of faith and motive, as well as of imagination, while serving in practical useful ness. It became the focus of Japanese art in metal; thickly colored alloys, silver and gold were made use of to express permanently, on iron, unique artistic conceptions, standard and orthodox symbols, and the complete repertoire of •Japan's religious, mythological, poetic and literary lore, as well as personal tastes and preferences. Various schools of designers and workers were developed, whose products the experts easily recognize. Perhaps nothing else of Japanese conception or expression in art ex cels the 'tsuba as a revelation of the native mind and characteristic features of Japan's civ ilization. On the abolition of sword wearing by

civilians, in 1871 — optional at first and later compulsory — probably a million blades were thrown on the market to he made into domestic tools or laid away in museums. Their wooden scabbards — most probably an evolution from the Malay original, with its loose case of wood — were often lacquered in characteristic and costly style, but their metal ornaments, especi ally the guards, were in the main preserved. At once art connoisseurs of Europe and Amer ica, perceiving this rich find in the artistic field, became eager collectors, so that the private cabinets and public museums compete eagerly for notable or unique specimens. Consult Okabe-Kakuya, 'Japanese Sword Guards' (Boston 1908).

tsoong' le' ya'infin, the department of foreign affairs in the Im perial Chinese government. It is now super seded. See CHINA.