An ancient Chinese sword presented to George Marshall in 1941 as a birthday present is featured among the 2015 Virginia’s Top 10 Endangered Artifacts Program sponsored by the Virginia Association of Museums (VAM).
The program will draw attention to significant historic artifacts to raise awareness about the costs involved in preserving them. Readers are encouraged to visit the VAM web site at to view the candidates for the top ten nomination and vote for a favorite or favorites through August 23. Readers will be able to see the sword on display in the Marshall Museum during normal hours of operation.
The ancient bronze sword is from the Qin (pronounced Chin) Dynasty, 255-207 B.C. The Qin Dynasty was in the far western kingdom of the seven Warring States. In 221 B.C. the Qin conquered all the Warring States, and Qin Shihuangdi became the first emperor of a unified China. This is the most iconic period in Chinese history. The emperor introduced the standardization of money, constructed the Great Wall of China, and because of repeated assassination attempts, the emperor ordered a terra cotta army of soldiers and horses created to guard him in the afterlife. The use of slave labor in these immense projects earned him the reputation as a cruel and punishing leader.
The ancient sword was presented to George C. Marshall on December 30, 1941 by T. V. Soong, the newly appointed Foreign Minister of China and brother of Madame Chiang Kai Shek. In a note to Marshall, Soong wrote:
December 30, 1941
Dear General Marshall:
I take great pleasure in forwarding to you General Chiang Kai Shek’s photograph which he asks me to present with his warm greetings.
I learned that tomorrow is your birthday so I take the liberty of sending you an antique bronze sword of the Chin dynasty B.C. 255-207, as an augury that you will lead the American army to smite the Japanese, hip and thigh!
With kindest wishes of the season,
T. V. Soong
The Marshall Collection, which contains this bronze sword, also houses several impressive weapons presented to George C. Marshall at formal occasions, as war trophies, or as gifts. A few other items from this collection are also available for viewing in the “Art of War” exhibition currently on display in the lower gallery of the museum.