It can rightly be
said that no other book or treatise has looked more deeply into the
very many aspects of War and warfare than that of General Sun Wu’s,
most widely known as Sun Tzu, a well-deserved title that
means Master Sun.
General Sun is believed to have lived in Ch’i State, from 544 BC and
496 BC, during the Spring and Autumn Period, that lasted from
722 BC to 481 BC.
The work and the figure of Sun Tzu do not justify this exhibition in
and of themselves, but they certainly reminds us all that war was,
and is, very much a part of life at all periods of Mankind’s
history. The work of Sun Tzu was part of the equipment, one of the
“principal items used by the army,” and in fact still used, for both
offensive and defensive purpose in this “matter of vital importance
to the State”.
Wars are fought by men, using weaponry that often is the sole
material testimonial of the technological ingenuity of cultures or
civilizations. When presented with an historical perspective on
these vital cultural expressions, we can permit ourselves to see
that even instruments of war had their extraordinary beauty derived
not just from their function, but also from the decorations that
imbued them with symbolic power and status. They can be seen to
embody the human search for perfection. This is because war is,
ironically, about the most essential elements of Mankind’s
existence: life and death, the same elements for which religions try
to find an explanation.
In times of universal change, men must look into the past to find
the roots of everything that can provide a new meaning today,
because nothing that is created is really new. It is just a
reinvention, in which each human being, each individual commits
himself to write and live his own Art of Living.
Civilizations are, therefore, collections of common knowledge such
as a shared sense of history, a social organization, the existence
of a common language and writing system, or a common tool box of
technologies and technical solutions necessary for survival in a
hostile environment and for cultural expression. In this collected
common knowledge we can include the acquisition of the necessary
technological means to master the smelting of metals for purposes
both peaceful and war-like.
From this brief and simple definition it is possible to extrapolate
that in the 21st. century, with all of its technological
developments inherited from the 20th. century, it is impossible to
dissociate the importance of the Past, as part of each civilization,
from the Present, without breaking a lineage that roots itself in
the principles that still govern the world today.
For this very reason, while mankind has not yet been able to live in
Peace, despite immense technological advancements, the items that
will be revealed in this catalogue are instruments of war or of
ritual from the past, anachronic in today’s world, which were as
necessary then to shape and defend countries, cultures,
civilizations, as today the usage of much more refined and fearsome
weapons, founded on the same principles may, if misused, terminate
with Human kind as a whole.
But this exhibition focuses on these now anachronic tools as
inanimate objects of great creativity and ingenuity, that reflect
technological developments of the cultures that created them, and
are imbued with lethal beauty that also symbolize power.
To have this holistic perspective is, therefore, to understand that
each exhibited item is a product of a cultural and historical
circumstance that preceded ours. By examining each and every one of
them from this perspective, the visitor is invited to further
reflect on the history of Mankind’s evolution.
One may ask, “Why have China, Korea, Japan, the Philippines and
Indochina or Continental South East Asia edged weapons been selected
in a clockwise manner?” Simply because it would be unthinkable to
aim wider, and because Macau seems to be in the relative centre of
convergence of all these countries, and because it is an
acknowledgement of the of some of the most ancient cultures of Asia
in the growth of civilization in the Easts. By saying Eastern Asia,
we have added South East Asia to the concept of to the countries to
the East, China, Korea and Japan, in a circular movement.
It must be said that this is an unprecedented event; a gathering of
cultures and their edged weapons, never before attempted, thus
providing a convergence of geographies and times past that share the
same place for a limited amount of time, in total quietness.
Through the observation of the exhibits it will become clear to the
attentive mind that communications between countries, and migrations
thousands or many hundreds of years before our time carrying
technological exchanges, have taken place.
Of all the countries presented, treated with equal respect, it is
however inevitable to find through the study of historical periods,
that China emerges as the maternal civilization and culture which,
through diplomatic or cross-border exchanges, would influence other
cultures and civilizations to the point that all would take these
influences and incorporate them in a unique manner into their own
In this way we can see how, for example, Confucianism was spread
from China throughout all neighbouring countries, while China itself
would continue to embrace Taoism as well, and welcome Buddhism from
India and see it develop alongside its own ancient native religions
While viewing these thousands of years of mounting metallurgical
advances, it is of the paramount importance to understand at all
times the technological evolution and the change from the Bronze
technology capable of creating elaborated items through lost wax
castings, to the discovery of Iron to the technological conquest of
Steel through the deep understanding of its properties.
With the migration of steel technology, humanity reached the
culmination of the ancient coup de poign stone knives, axes or spear
heads. The early shapes of weapons were defined in the Stone Age,
but it was Steel that would allow the elaboration and perfection of
form and function of which bronze was not capable.
Yet, Steel can only be understood in its full power when it is seen
in the comparative light of what went before it.
Each country, in time, would absorb influences and generate its own
technological advances, to be used and/or shared again, and would
attribute due importance to the weapon mostly used, most effective;
the sword, thus creating its own archetypes, myths, legends and
FIVE SECTIONS ONE AIM
Not all societies evolved in the same way or at the same time. My
full respect is due in the way China, Korea, Japan, the Philippines
and the countries of Indochina or Continental South East Asia
evolved, each on its own path. While some countries became unified
into kingdoms or empires, others lived for long periods in tribal
societies, contributing in their way, to the cultural
diversification of the region. It is from this diversification that
it is possible to observe the difference of cultures, detect the
similarities in shape, and verify craftsmanship of different
Culturally speaking, it is the diversity that is enriching and the
recurrence of shapes used centuries earlier in the same or a
different culture, for history is the registry of movement, not of
stillness, of evolution and of transformation.
In presenting this ambitious exhibition, the Macao Museum of Art
brought into its galleries the joint efforts of institutions and
private collectors, in a fraternal collaboration of specialists that
will hopefully last for decades in the pages of this catalogue,
representing a pioneering effort to join scholars, collectors,
archaeologists, and all those people who understand the importance
of Peace by collecting or studying instruments of War.
In joining together five different countries/regions, the Macao
Museum of Art has also initiated a movement of collective
interaction, in which each country has its own responsible
Coordinator/s, a specialist or specialists on the subjects, who
coordinated his own Section, thus responsibilities and work being
shared by all.
In doing so the Macao Museum of Art also aims to assemble knowledge
from different sources in a cultural cohabitation that can lead to a
simultaneous enjoyment and cataloguing of different expressions of
the same type of instruments of war that are today regarded both as
historic testimonials and objects of art.
It is therefore with great pride that this exhibition has become a
reality, a convergence of efforts that will hopefully be a unique
source of consultation for years to come.