History of the Jian and Dao

Metal working foundries were in use in China going back thousands of years, discovering metallurgy independent of outside influence. Beginning to mastery the metallurgic arts in the mysterious first dynasty of the Shang, known mostly by the discovery of ancient ritual bronze artefacts. Beginning around 1600B.C., the Shang displayed great dexterity fashioning bronze vessels, ceremonial bells, axes daggers, all cast with intricate faces, (Taotie), mythological creatures in deep relief, prominently revealed on the surface.

One of the most well known bronze swords known today is the Sword of Goujian, created by a master smith sometime around 771 to 403 BC, during the Spring and Autumn period and found In 1965 in near perfect condition.

China continued to absorb new sword designs from abroad through the centuries. Focusing on mastering new metals, iron and steel forming longer blades, especially two designs. 

The Jian (), a fusion of a blade for war and for personal defence, known as the gentlemans sword, an elegant, long, double edged weapon imbued with speed and liveliness.

The second was the Dao (), like the European sabre, a single edged calvary type of curved blade influenced by early swords from the Shang Dynasty, adapted and enlarged as iron steel became available. The origins are unknown but likely adapted by enlarging kitchen knives and perhaps modifying pole arm blades. Unlike the Jian, which takes time to master thrusting techniques, the Dao’s chopping style of use as a sabre like blade is intuitive and natural. This could  cut down on training time for troops leaving the Jian to the dedicated swordsman.

A successful sword design, this blade carried on through many variations and adaptations during the centuries, remaining a beautiful and powerful cutting sword.


1,  Warring States bronze swords – Zhan guo Jian

Bronze Jianswords are already well developed by the earlier Warring States Period. The earliest laminated bronze Jian utilize bronze with higher tin content for cutting edges and lower tin content for the spine, resulting in a sword with harder edges that can retain a sharp edge while obtaining a more flexible spine to absorb shock. Copper sulphides were used as coating for anti-corrosion, a reason why pristine examples still exist today.

The earliest iron and steel Jian begin to appear using most basic forging and folding techniques.

2.  Qin dynasty Bronze Long Sword

In the later stages of the Warring States Period Qin Dynasty bronze Jian blades became longer and the handle was extended enough for two-handed use. Chromium oxide as an anti-corrosion protective coating was used on the bronze on these blades and steel Jian/swordsof one meter or longer are made.  

3, Han Dynasty Bronze and Steel Jian

Increasingly iron steel began to be used in swords during this period. Differential heat-treating and forge-welding laminations were used while forging these blades. A higher carbon steel was used for the cutting edge and lower carbon steels for the core or sandwich plates, depending on the design. This became the standardized process for later Chinese blades for almost 2000 years.

The introduction of ring pommels on bronze and steel Jian and Dao was at this period. A typical style is Huan Shou DaoRing pommel swords), but varied with the polyhedron Jian,octahedrons, hexahedron and  tetrahedral types.

It was also at this time Imperial Regulation introduced the use of white ray-skin on the handle-grips on the swords.

4. Tang Jian and Dao

Swordmaking continued to progress in the Tan period, heralding the use of the earliest disc-shaped guards, displaced ring pommels to better protect the hand in the middleTang dynasty. Quality Chinese blades, forging techniques and skill were transmitted abroad. This included important sword smithing skills of forge-weldinglaminated construction, differential heat-treatment using clay, repeated forging and folding of sword blanks. These techniques enhanced the quality of the steel used in swords in Japan (tamahagane steel), ridged cross-sections consisting of two variants known to the Japanese as kiriha-zukuri and shinogi-zukuri), all owing to the the Middle Tang era.


5. YanLing Dao(goose-quill saber) Ming and Qing Dynasty

The YanMao Dao or YanLing Dao, or "goose-quill saber", is a type of Dao made in large numbers as a standard military weapon from the late Ming through the end of the Qing Dynasty. It is similar to the earlier Zhibei Dao, is generally  straight, with a curve appearing at the center of percussion near the blade tip. This allows for thrusting attacks and overall handling similar to that of the Jian, while still preserving much of the Dao’s strengths in cutting and slashing. This style sword originates from Yuan Dynasty of the Mongol Empire, it is the leading style sword in following the Ming and Qing Dynasty.

YanMao Dao

6, LiuYe Dao

The LiuYe Dao, or "willow leaf saber” was commonly used as a military sidearm for both cavalry and infantry during the Ming and Qing dynasty. This weapon features a narrow, thick blade and a moderate curve along its length. Though still a fairly effective thrusting sword, the shape of the blade increased the cutting and slashing power. It evolved from the Yanling Dao, Liuye Dao and Yanling Dao and was the leading sword style in Qing Dynasty, so we call it the Qing Dao or QingYaoDao.

7, NiuWei Dao

NiuWei Dao or oxtail Dao, is a type of late Qing Dynasty saber(Dao). It was primarily a civilian weapon as it was never issued to Imperial troops. The design incorporated a broad bladeso it is commonly referred to as a broadsword.



The Jian has a long history in China going back to the first dynasties and appearing throughout 2,500 years of Chinese history. It exhibits a double-edge, is straight and the thickness varies depending on time period and use, it can be a heavier war sword or a light, elegant and nimble civilian weapon. In Chinese folklore, it is known as "The Gentleman of Weapons" and is considered one of the four major weapons, along with the Gun(staff),Qiang(spear), and theDao(sabre), Having no unified name, it was meant to mean a sword, sometimes referred to as Wushu Jian(martial arts sword), Bao Jian, Longquan Jian, Taiji Jian(tai chi swords) etc., the name reflecting the martial art using the Jian.


9, Da Dao/Chinese Sabre

The Dadao (大刀) means literally“Big Knife”. One of the varieties of Dao or Chinese saber, it is also known as the Chinese great sword. Based on an agricultural tool, Dadao have broad blades generally between two and three feet long. The hiltsdeveloped for use as a fighting sword, lengthening to up to a hand and a half hilt or longer for two-handed use,. The blade was generally weighted forward, balanced for chopping or slashing. In the past it was mass produced and provided to the Chinese Army during World War II, it emerged to be a simple but very practical sword.


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