dadao and shuangshoudao

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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Philip Tom
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dadao and shuangshoudao

Post by Philip Tom » Fri Feb 23, 2007 1:52 am

Image

Here are examples of these two-handed dao that I recently saw in the History Museum at Hanoi, Vietnam. They were part of a large showcase full of weapons which the brief display captions only attributed to Vietnamese rebels opposing French colonial rule in the late 19th to the turn of the 20th century.

1. The "dadao" (big knife) was a common peasant's weapon in China and Vietnam as well (this example could be from either country). Key characteristics:
a. Wide, curving blade with broadening at the tip which is
usually "clipped" or shaped with an acute angle or con-
cave profile
b. Long handle intended for two handed grasp
c. Ring shaped pommel a usual feature, a survival from
bronze age knives
d. Heavy, sturdy, somewhat crude weapon ideal for fighters
placing more reliance on strength than technique

2. The "shuangshoudao", a long-handled version of the "peidao" or saber, made in varying hilt/blade length ratios, for specialized troops. The "miaodao" used today by some martial artists belongs to this family of weapons. This example is of Qing origin, and although it is rusted and in worn condition, it is of high quality manufacture with artistic decoration. Key characteristics:
a. NARROW slightly curving blade, usually of "willow leaf"
shape
b. Long handle with small pommel
c. Disc shaped guard
d. Versatile blade shape, capable of short and long cuts along
with thrusts, the technique being effective yet easy to
learn

Sorry for poor quality of photo, I had to shoot at an angle to avoid glare on the (dusty) glass, and lighting was awful. I'm putting these up mainly as illustrative examples of major dao types.
Phil

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Linda Heenan
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Handle details.

Post by Linda Heenan » Sat Feb 24, 2007 4:42 am

Were the grips made of similar materials to jian and dao grips? What sort of shape was the finished grip? Was it round, or squared off, or oval? And was it formed from wood or some other material, then wrapped with leather, cord, or something else?

Also, do you know if there was some particular reason for the ring shaped pommel on the dadao?

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Post by Philip Tom » Sun Feb 25, 2007 1:40 am

Grips on both weapons are oval sectioned. They would have been wrapped in cord for better hand traction. The dadaos usually had a single spiral wrap of heavy twine-like cord, with narrow flat braided strips woven in and out longitudinally along the axis of the grip. The shuangshoudao grips were frequently wound with the complex braid that Peter Dekker explained and illustrated in his thread on the Sword Care and Maintenance discussion board.

The ring pommel is a styistic holdover from archaic, bronze age hilts. This type of pommel was used in some areas of bronze age Europe as well, notably the La Tene culture based in what is now Austria and parts of Switzerland, south Germany, and the northern Balkans in the last several centuries BC. In North Asia, small knives with ring pommels, dating as far back as the first millenium BC, have been unearthed in the Gobi Desert in the Sino-Mongolian hinterlands. In China, ring pommels were almost universal on dao until well past the fall of the Han Dynasty in the early third century AD, and were increasingly supplanted by solid pommels by the Tang Dynasty (beginning 7th cent. AD). Whether this design feature was transmitted across Eurasia by an intermediary such as the Huns is not clear; the annular pommels may have developed independently in more than one locale.

I am not aware of any compelling functional reason for using a ring as opposed to some other shape, it may have some symbolic origin whose meaning is now lost.
Phil

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Post by Peter Dekker » Sun Feb 25, 2007 10:48 am

A funny (but perhaps not the most plausible) explanation I once heard about the ring pommels was that it was because early money consisted of pieces of bronze, which were sometimes fashioned in the shape of a knife or some other tool to be both functional and to serve as a currency at the same time.

Rings were added to the small "coin knives" to be able to tie them together and suspend them from a belt or sash. Later, when making real knives or swords, the rings were added too.

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Post by Scott M. Rodell » Fri Oct 12, 2007 9:14 am

Dan Dao (literally "single" saber) from Shaolin Gun Chiang dao Fa Chan Zong, orginally published in the 41st year of the Wanli Emperor's reign, 1612 AD.

Image

This type of dao was used in the late Ming dynasty, during the Wanli period (1572 - 1620 AD). This period diagram gives the blade length as 2' 8", the handle as 9" long & with an overall length of 3' 7" (all measurements in Chinese feet, the Chinese foot being approximately 12 English inches & 30.5 cm. in length).

This saber will be of interest to modern students of Miaodao, as of all known forms of Chinese two-handed sabers, it is the closest to what is generally considered a miaodao today.

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Chinese measurements

Post by Philip Tom » Fri Oct 12, 2007 3:55 pm

There is considerable confusion regarding traditional Chinese measurements, particularly those of length. Standards often changed from dynasty to dynasty, and there were deviations in certain regions and trades, and even within different guilds in the same trade.

According to Craig Clunas (CHINESE FURNITURE, V&AMus. 1988, p 77), the standard "chi" or foot equalled 32 cm, or 12 5/8 English inches.

During the Qing, the foot varied from 31 to 35.3 cm (12 3/16 to 13 7/8 in., approximately). I have two antique Chinese rulers, both probably late Qing, one is 35 cm, the other 35.4. My colleague Peter Dekker has several more examples, hopefully he will notice this thread and post the lengths he has.

Be that as it may, it should be noted that in China, the foot was divided into 10 "cun" [pronounced "tsun"] or inches, not twelve as was the case of the English foot. A cun is further subdivided into 10 "fen".

For all intents and purposes, the old measurements have been abandoned in favor of metric. The traditional Japanese length measurements are based on the Chinese model. I recall that some older Japanese seamstresses in Hawaii still used the old foot for measurement when I was a kid.
Phil

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Post by Peter Dekker » Sat Oct 13, 2007 4:15 pm

Hi,

I currently have five other rulers of one chi long, four of which are very similar to eachother with sizes of 34.6, 34.7, 35.2 and 35.6 cm respectively. One odd one stands out, being only 30.4 cm. All are divided into ten cun.

In my times in China I've probably seen a few hundred of these altogether, divided into two distinct types. The vast majority being around 33-35 cm, with perhaps one in ten or twenty or so being of the smaller type of approx 30 cm.

OF CHINESE MEASURES AND WEIGHTS by Dr. Yenming Zhang (Beijing, 2005) mentions revisions of Imperial lengths under the reigns of the Shunzi, Kangxi, Qianlong and Guanxu emperors. In 1912 the cun was set at 33.3 cm in order to link it to the metric system, to be completely replaced by the latter in 1949.

Kangxi used 100 pieces of corn millet arranged end to end as a standard measurement that was to be used all across the empire to base the length of standard Imperial rulers on, the system was more or less used up to 1911. A recent attempt by the author above set the length of 100 corn millets on approx 32 centimeter as well. The chi resulting from this method was known as the Ying Zao Chi.

It is then odd that even though different sources give approx 32 cm for the length of the standard Qing era chi (my book also gives approx 32 cm for the Ming dynasty cun), the actual antique rulers we encounter are all either shorter but usually longer than that.

The Lu Lu Zheng Yi, of which Kangxi personally participated in the compilation mentions next to the 32cm Ying Zao Chi that a tailor's ruler was 35.5 cm, much closer to our antique examples. Yet another, the Lu Chi from the same work is stated to be 25.9 cm.

-Peter
Knowing is not enough, we must apply.
Willing is not enough, we must do.


-Bruce Lee

http://www.mandarinmansion.com
Antique Chinese Arms & Functional reproductions

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Post by taiwandeutscher » Sun Oct 14, 2007 3:02 am

Yes, so many different foot messures around. I have come around to 35,8 cm, 29,5 cm (Taiwan) and even a very short 19,91 cm in early Zhou-times.

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