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
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
The Jian (劍), a fusion of a blade for war and for personal defence, known as the
gentleman”s sword, an elegant, long, double edged
weapon imbued with speed and liveliness.
was the Dao (刀),
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.
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
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
Han Dynasty Bronze and Steel Jian
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.
introduction of ring pommels on bronze and steel Jian and Dao was at this period. A typical style is
Huan Shou Dao（Ring
pommel swords), but varied with the polyhedron Jian,octahedrons,
hexahedron and tetrahedral types.
also at this time Imperial Regulation introduced the use of white ray-skin
on the handle-grips on the swords.
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
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.
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.
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.