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Finding the Best Chinese Sword: The Quest for the Perfect Blade

Written By: David Mickov
Updated: March 20, 2024
Edited by: Juliana Cummings

NO AI USED This Article has been written and edited by our team with no help of the AI

The best Chinese sword should perform well in any type of combat. It should be a reliable companion, a jack-of-all-trades, and a beautiful piece of art linked with tradition.

Chinese blades are some of the world’s most elaborate, well-made swords. Whether it’s the thin, double-edged jian or the single-edged curved dao, Chinese swords are known for their elegance, artistry, and deadly performance.

In this article, we’ll discuss what makes these swords so special, review some of the best swords in Chinese warfare, and offer our opinion about the ultimate Chinese sword.

Our Opinion: Best Chinese Sword – Jian Swords

Jian Sword 1
The best Chinese Sword because of its versatility and adaptability is the Jian – Credits: Brian Laliberte

We consider the jian to be the best Chinese sword. This sophisticated blade is the first Chinese sword in history. It has been a sign of martial skill and cultural refinement for over 2,500 years.

What makes the jian the best Chinese sword(in our opinion):

  • Versatility and Adaptability – The slim, compact design allows it to be carried as a sidearm or a primary weapon with or without a shield. It is adaptable for use in close quarters, on the battlefield, for infantry and cavalry.
  • Slashing and Thrusting – It is double-edged and perfect for slashing, with a tapered tip ideal for deadly thrusts.
  • Lightness – It is one of the lightest and swiftest swords in the world, with deadly force and a high rate of precision.
  • Styles of Fighting – Its design allows it to be used in various types of Chinese kung fu or wushu. 
  • Craftsmanship – It has a hardened edge and tip for enhanced cutting, a reinforced, flexible core, and a two, four, or eight-sided blade.

In addition to being used for daily self-defense and warfare, the Chinese jian has cultural value and is linked with the ideals of Confucius and other philosophers. It is the most popular blade in kung fu and is connected with tai chi arts, giving it the nickname “the gentleman of weapons.”

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Best for Slashing – Dao Sabers

Best for Slashing Dao Sabers
The many types of Dao curved sabers that are superb for slashing or slicing attacks – Credits: Mandarin Mansion Antiques

The single-edged curved dao saber, also called “the general of weapons,” is one of China’s most accomplished slashing blades. Originally designed straight, such as the tang dao, and then altered to a curve as the demand for cavalry increased, these blades made quick work of their targets.

Their style of curvature had a forward-curved blade held by a backward-swept handle, which made them simple to master. With easy blade edge alignment, these sword designs were ideal for slashing. Later, they evolved into bigger dao swords like the chang dao and the later miao dao.

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Best for Cutting Power – Dadao

Dadao Sword 1
The extremely powerful Dadao cutters that could use the recurved tip for piercing armor – Credits: Chinese Swords

The dadao has some of the most devastating cutting power in the world. Even though this blade is fairly new in history, its curved, wide blade was made to slice through flesh easily as it was manufactured during a time when armor was less prevalent. 

The ridge on the spine can also be used for bashing. Most dadaos are used with both hands, making them more dangerous.

Best for Cavalry – Liuyedao, Yanmaodao, Yanlingdao

A slightly curver Yanmaodao Sword
A slightly curved Yanmaodao sword – Credits: Wiki Media

Curved dao blades are the best Chinese swords for calvary, such as the liuyedao, yanmaodao, and the yanlingdao, which were heavily influenced by the Turko-Mongol saber found north of China. 

Their design allows the blade to pierce its target easily. Some were light for slicing, while others had broadened tip-heavy blades ideal for chopping combined with the momentum of a horse.

Best Anti-Cavalry – Zhanmadao

Best for Anti Cavalry
The Chinese Zhanmaodao is known as the Horse Cutter – Credits: LK Chen

The zhanmadao, or the “horse cutting saber,” is a superb anti-cavalry blade. It was initially straight and single-edged, but larger curved variants evolved as time progressed. When used with both hands, the zhanmadao is powerful enough to cut through light armor.

This sword defended against cavalry coming from the northern borders and was especially prevalent after the Tang Dynasty (7th-10th century). Their broad blades could inflict serious damage to horses, cause blunt damage to armor, and be used as spears.

Best for Armor – Jian & Dadao

Best for Armor
A Tang Dynasty soldier with heavy armor – Credits: Tao Bao

Throughout history, Chinese armor was strong enough to withstand a blade’s impact. However, it still had openings large enough to leave soldiers vulnerable to thrusts from a jian straight blade or a quick slashing strike from a dao sword.

We think the dadao is the best weapon for bashing armor and can easily dent a helmet when using the recurved ridge tip on the spine, which could lead to skull fractures.

Best Two-Handed – Miaodao

The many versatile options that the Miaodao two-handed saber offers – Credits: CGTN

The 20th-century miaodao is one of China’s best two-handed swords. It is a long, light weapon that can outstretch many other swords. The soft curvature makes it versatile for slashing and thrusting attacks. It is also capable of piercing light armor.

This blade was influenced by a much larger Ming Dynasty (14th-17th century CE) changdao sword, which took inspiration from Japanese blades used by the wokou pirates. Chinese smiths took elements from both, allowing the miaodao to be capable of taking down the legendary katana.

Best Dual-Wielded – Niuweidao

Dual Wielded Niuweidao
A representation of how a Niuweidao can be carried and used as a dual-wielded sword – Credits: Historical Arms & Armor

Throughout Chinese history, dual-wielding has been common among the militia and police. Notwithstanding the butterfly sword’s current dominance as the most popular dual-wielding sword in modern media, we must conclude that the dual-wielded niuweidao is superior in every way.

It has a broad tip and a single curved edge, making it ideal for slashing and slicing. The guard can be divided in half to fit in one sheath. Despite its appearance, this dual-wielding weapon is an intimidating tool and a powerful dao-slashing saber.

Sources Cited
  1. Chen, J. (2018, February 10). Ancient Art of Chinese Long Straight Sword. Lulu.com. 
  2. Pegg, R., Yang, T., & Figler, R. (2015, August 27). Chinese Swords: An Ancient Tradition and Modern Training. Via Media Publishing Company. 
  3. Sprague, M. (2013, June 25). Chinese Swords. CreateSpace. 
  4. Sawyer, R. D. (2011, March 1). Ancient Chinese Warfare. Hachette UK. 
  5. Graff, D. (2003, September 2). Medieval Chinese Warfare 300-900. Routledge. 
  6. Waley-Cohen, J. (2014, February 27). The Culture of War in China. I.B. Tauris.
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