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Thread: Chinese Sword types (Jian and Dao definitions / descriptions)

  1. #1
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    Chinese Sword types (Jian and Dao definitions / descriptions)

    Being a complete novice when it comes to Chinese weaponry and swords can anyone describe the various types of Jians and Daos that were used throughout Chinese history both in a military and civilian sense?

    Looking through the various posts on this forum and other sites like Wikipedia I've come across a lot of different labels for swords, yet they are rarely defined and described.

    What are the differences between the various Jian and Dao types in relation to blade and hilt characteristics?

    Is there a typology of Chinese swords like Oakeshott's typology of European medieval swords?

    Can anyone describe the various types in a paragraph or two?
    (Blade / hilt characteristics, timeframe of use, one handed / hand-and-a-half, two handed etc, military or civilian use etc, dimensions - blade / hilt length, weight etc)?

    Here are some of the labels / terms I've come across, I'm sure there are lots more.

    Changdao
    Dadao
    Liuyedao
    Miao dao
    Niuweidao
    Piandao
    Yanmaodao
    Zhanmadao

    Duan Jian
    Shuang shou jian


    If anyone has pics of the various types please post, especially the rarer types.

    Lastly are there any good books on the subject of chinese swords in ENGLISH that give clear and concise definitions of the various swords plus lots and lots of excellent photos?
    Also looking for any good books on other Chinese weaponry in ENGLISH with clear definitions and great photos.

    Please note I'm NOT interested in chinese martial arts or the weapons associated with martial arts.

    Thanks

    Danny Grigg

  2. #2
    A very broad question. sevenstars.com has some interesting articles and pictures of old swords. Someone has a freeweb website (I think its Thomas Chen, read enough posts and you'll see it in someone's sig) with a brief overview of Chinese sword history.

    Very vaguely and briefly so you have something to mull over:

    In the beginning there was bronze. Surviving examples have dual edges. Steel swords were then invented and for the most part evolved into two final forms. Jian and Dao. Jian are dual edged and Dao are single edged. Dao means single edged sharp blade in Chinese (roughly). Knife is the literal translation.

    So any dao swords are just that, single edged with different blade profiles. Da means big, so... da dao = big dao.

    Thats about all the concrete information I have for you on the subject.
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  3. #3
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    http://thomaschen.freewebspace.com/
    Here's the link to the web site.
    If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, do other trees make fun of it?

  4. #4
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    Book

    Yang Hong: Weapons in Ancient China, 1992, Science Press, New York
    ISBN 1-880132-03-6

    Expensive, but scientifically sound!

  5. #5
    I see that book recommended often, but I think it does not help with the last 1000 years or so of Chinese swords. There is another one on sword slides that I am looking into, but I think it covers all of Asia and mostly the ancient stuff.

    Please let me know if I am wrong.

    Other than that, there are no good comprehensive books in English that I know of.

    The Wiki articles on each of the types in the list are pretty accurate as far as I know.

    Unfortunately the question is too large with too many swords asked about for me to try answering it. Try asking about one or two types at a time, perhaps with reference to the Wiki articles or Thomas Chen. There are many more types of sword than the ones listed, and names can be debatable at best, but it looks like you are off to a good start.
    Josh

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    i personal view is that the best of best book is Alex Huang's Chinese Sword:

    http://www.amazon.cn/mn/detailApp?qi...id=bkbk707453#

    Alex is the most famous Antique Sword Collect in China. I am not sure if anybody can introduce any publishers who has the interest to publish the English verion. I think it would benefit to many people on this planet;-)

  7. #7
    Yes that is a great book, and it would be wonderful to see it in English.

    I also find it very useful just for the pictures, and that way I don't have any disagreements with the text
    Josh

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    There is another one on sword slides that I am looking into, but I think it covers all of Asia and mostly the ancient stuff.
    Hi Josh, Yes the book by Trousdale, Long Sword and Scabbard Slide in Asia, its good, but also very early stuff, scanning from about 400 BC to 200 AD, and only focusing on the scabbard slide, history origin, et-cetera. pages 1-70 are only on the Chinese part of this history, but there are more, like illustrations. Very detailed, very academic. But considering how few books on Chinese swords there are I would say get it. Got mine from Asian Rare Books in New York.

    Hi Danny, On the original question, try search of the old Chinese sword forum, there are lot of good stuff, much more than any English language books, so paste any one of those type names and you will get a lot of good hits. They are all relevant names, but there are not a strict type list of Chinese swords, that covers all, but some significant main types. Maybe you can say that those you listed are the major ones, from Qing. And as others said, Tomas Chens website, excellent, still the best source.
    Lastly are there any good books on the subject of chinese swords in ENGLISH that give clear and concise definitions of the various swords plus lots and lots of excellent photos?
    Strangely not, I have a hard time understanding why, it would get a lot of interest!? So we are still waiting, word had it that Phil Tom was working on a book together with Scott Rodell, both moderators of the old forum, dont know if its on its way or what?

  9. #9
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    Hi Danny,

    Here is one of the better threads from the old forum on the subject of the various types of Chinese swords

    http://forums.swordforum.com/showthr...se+Sword+types

    And with nice pictures of some high end dao, a good discussion on the subject of classification. Here is also the finest decorated niu wei dao I have seen, a sword type some think of as a crude weapon. Its has silver inlay in a beautiful pattern on the iron fittings.

    But there are more in there, much more.
    Last edited by Klas Larsson; 10-03-2008 at 05:45 AM.

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by Hermann Bohn View Post
    Yang Hong: Weapons in Ancient China, 1992, Science Press, New York
    ISBN 1-880132-03-6

    Expensive, but scientifically sound!
    Any idea where they have this book available?

  11. #11
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    you can buy the book $82.95 at amazon.com ;-)

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    Yes, Amazon has it.

    Any more detail infos on other book (Trousdale, Long Sword and Scabbard Slide in Asia)?
    ISBN etc.?

    Thomas Chen's site has good pics (btw, where do they come from?), more of those in Alex Huang's book, which is really nice, but Josh is right.

    If you read Chinese and are an academic, you could find quite a lot to disagree. But I won't get into a critique of the written stuff and just enjoy his phantastic pics.
    hongdaozi

  13. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by kevin.feng View Post
    you can buy the book $82.95 at amazon.com ;-)
    I should have looked there Thanks! I just ordere my copy.

  14. #14
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    Any more detail infos on other book (Trousdale, Long Sword and Scabbard Slide in Asia)?
    ISBN etc.? ISBN etc.?
    I found mine at a antiquarian seller, I washed out on Google, its kind of a rare book so you may have to search a bit, but you get a lot of hits on Google, that may provide leads. Its published by the Smithsonian Institution as one in a series of anthropology text, Smithsonian contribution to anthropology no 17, so that may expain why it lacks ISBN. Its published around 1972.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeroen Zuiderwijk View Post
    I should have looked there Thanks! I just ordere my copy.
    Excellent! That's awesome... Jeroen ordered a book on Ancient Chinese Weaponry... It looks more and more like I'm going to have to commission a piece from Jeroen!

  16. #16
    Quote Originally Posted by Bennison N View Post
    Excellent! That's awesome... Jeroen ordered a book on Ancient Chinese Weaponry... It looks more and more like I'm going to have to commission a piece from Jeroen!
    Well, I've long been planning to cast Chinese bronzes. In fact, next thursday I'm going to have an attempt at casting the blade of a bronze han dynasty dao (the primary ancestor from which all daos and katanas have evolved).

  17. #17
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    Jeroen,

    Han Dynasty weapons are my favourites of all weapons, from any period and any nation. The Spring and Autumn Period is a close second.

    I have a number of Han Jian already, they are what I practice daily with... forms, cutting, demonstrations, the works. But I don't have a Han Dao, and I know a reasonable number of Dao forms.

    If you were looking to sell your Han Dao, please consider me as very, very interested. I may even be able to help with material costs.

    I'm very happy to have found a smith who is interested in Asian bronzes. I have a strong feeling we will do a lot of business together, mate!

    I do realise this should have been a PM, but in my defense, I was very excited. I hope I don't get into even more trouble for this post...

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