Of geese and willows: comparison of yanmaodao and liuyedao

Sword typology and Edge Weapons forms of the Chinese Empire and related cultures with an emphasis on their relationship to Swordsmanship.

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Variaties of Da Blade Curvature

Post by Scott M. Rodell » Mon Oct 15, 2007 10:14 am

from "An Introduction to Antique Chinese Swords of the Qing Dynasty Period" by Dave Dolbear
(http://www.northernwu.com/Swordgrp.htm)

Here's a useful side by side comparison of the variations of curvature found on Qing era dao...

Image

Looking at these different dao side by side it is clear how as the curvature increases it becomes more difficult for the swordsman to effectively use a thrust until it becomes impossible. Though it is still possible to use a downward zha with a deeply curved blade.

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Post by Peter Dekker » Mon Jun 16, 2008 3:16 pm

I've recently been able to handle a number of piandao, and it made me think that apart from blade curvature there is another factor in play that determines how they handle: hilt alignment.

One of these piandao has a somewhat moderate curvature but instead of being straight or curving the opposite direction of the blade, this one curves along with the curve of the blade. It changes the alignment of the edge where it would make contact and makes it feel as if it rather slices than delivering percussive cuts.

A (reproduction) saber I have with more curvature but with more setback handle still has a percussive feel to it as the part of its blade at the "sweet spot" is in line with the hand. Moving the hand a little up to the guard makes it feel more piandao-ish again.

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Post by josh stout » Tue Jun 17, 2008 11:48 am

I have often wondered about the handling of piandao. They are often compared to a shamsher or a tulwar, but I am not sure to what extent that is true. I have one somewhat thin 18th c. tulwar and a village pian dao, and if they are anything like typical, I would not say they are the same. The piandao is more like a tulwar than other Chinese swords, but still has a noticeable tip bias. What I find is that the piandao is perfect for wrapping maneuvers that use parts of the body as a fulcrum to give power to a slash with the tip. The tulwar seems to be best suited for circular slashing movements held away from the body and with no particular use of the tip.

I think the handle on my piandao is in a straight line with the forte. I will go back and check.
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Post by Philip Tom » Tue Jul 22, 2008 9:22 pm

I've only had one piandao in my collection over the years, and this one happened to have a downward-curving grip. Its workmanship and decoration place it in the later Qing period, probably 19th cent. It's published in my article "Some Notable Sabers of the Qing Dyn....." in the Metropolitan Museum JOURNAL (36/2001).
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Post by Peter Dekker » Sun Jul 27, 2008 8:14 pm

My reproduction saber with high degree of curvature and downward curving grip, is very much like the one Philip added to his article.

Without having handled the piandao Philip mentions, I guess the effect would be rather similar to my reproduction saber's cutting behaviour: The choice between slicing and percussive cuts by where one grips the handle.

Perhaps the antique examples of such may represent some kind of transitional form that enabled both slicing and percussive cuts. I've got a piandao blade that probably dates from the 18th cent. with a grip that follows the curve of the blade, much like the woodblock prints of the period. Too bad the fittings were lost in time, I would have really wanted to see what this was fitted in.

I can't remember I've seen late 19th cent. piandao in use by the only group known by regulations to have been issued them: the Rattan Shield Division. It could be that by this time it went out of use in favor of other weapons like long hudiedao. The shift that made the change happen may be the same that changed the shape of the rattan shields: They were less and less used against storming cavalry and the shields got lighter. A horse can run about 60 km/h. A sweeping cut from a horse, or TO a horse with this speed is something very different from that of slow infantry. It seems plausible that this important shift, namely the disappearance of horses on the battlefield, made pure piandao obsolete, as it made the strongly conical but heavier and more expensive (more work) rattan shields obsolete.

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Willing is not enough, we must do.


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Re: Of geese and willows: comparison of yanmaodao and liuye

Post by wagnerj » Thu Jul 26, 2012 8:30 pm

Talking about the piandao, It's a Chinese saber that has a blade more curved than any other Chinese sword, like a shamshir . It was generally used by skirmishers in conjunction with a shield.
The purpose of it was to slash and cut opponents on the battle field.
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