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Bronze knife

Tags: aborigine | bronzes | Paiwan

Ethnic group: Paiwan
Cultural area: Austronesian
Collector/handler: Cheng Hui-ying
Province/collected in: Taiwan Province
County/collected in: Pingtung County
Township/collected in: Laiyi Township
Village/collected in: Gulou village
Other collection locations: Gulou
Digital Copy Provider:National Museum of Natural Science

Bronze knives, azure stone beads and ceramic pots are the “three treasures” of the Paiwan tribe. In earlier days these items would only be owned by chiefs or higher-class people and were usually passed down from ancestors. Usually these sacred items would not be touched casually by ordinary people and would only be shown during the special ceremony held every five years.
The Paiwan today only know that the bronze knives were passed down from their ancestors and were sacred. Taiwan does not have the tin needed to make bronze and none of the aborigine tribes possessed bronze making technology, so some scholars believe the bronze knives originated in the Dongshan civilization of Vietnam because of their shape and material.

Bronze handle and iron blade. The handle is human head shaped. The head is decorated with five joined small heads. On the lower part of the handle and where it joins the handle there are joined triangles shapes carved in. The blade is iron. The upper part has a waist and the lower part is a double-edged blade.

Manufacturing method

Handle made of cast bronze. It is a double edged blade made from worked iron.

Function and use
Bronze knives are different to domestic use knives or fighting knives. They had no practical function and were a sacred item. They were representative of wealth and status. They would only be displayed during the once-every-five-year ceremony.