Bao An Double Knives (Tibet)


A pair of Bao An knives from Tibet

Code:  CH3

These unusual knives are from the Kham (Tibetan Autonomous) Region of China.  The previous owner found the set in Linxia, Gansu province (China), a town close to Xiahe where the famous Tibetan temple Labrang Monastery (Labuleng Si) was built.   The knives are typical of the Bao An ("Bonan") people, an ethnic minority group of about 16,000 people whose religion is Islam. They are famous in China for the quality of their hand-made knives, many of which show expert forging and demonstrate the confluence of Tibetan, Mongolian and other design influences. The Bao An speak a language derived from “Mongolian Austronesian”. Many live near the base of the JiShi mountain, almost at the boundary of Gansu and Qing Hai provinces. 

Bao An knives blade detail

During the Qing dynasty’s time, Linxia was called “Hezhou” (“river city”) and these two characters are found engraved on one of the knives.  The other is engraved with a dragon design.  

Bao An knives hilt detail

The hilts are made from ox horn with many different materials used in layers to create a wonderful effect.  The hilts are richly decorated with copper and brass.  One copper pin is missing. The copper decoration seems to be a regional aspect related to Eastern Tibet and Northern Qinghai, with Eastern Tibetan, Yi, and Bao An things all show some degree of copper/brass decoration worked into pommels and handles. This is best characterized by layers of different types of copper, brass and white metal stacked in the pommel.  Eastern Tibetan knives typically show a flair at the pommel such as we see in these knives.

Bao An double knifes in sheath size detail

Bao An double knifes in sheath size detail

The knives are quite small and fit snugly into the metal sheath, which has an attached ring on a swivel hook made of brass and copper.