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Chinese Wushu Swords: 8 Dancing Blades of Modern Kung Fu

Written By: David Mickov
Published On: May 3, 2023
Edited by: Juliana Cummings

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

Martial arts worldwide are historically shrouded with traditions, secrets, and disciplines. However, none are quite as captivating as Wushu or Kung Fu, seen all over Western media. What sets the Wushu apart is the mesmerizing variety of swords with distinct styles and shapes.

Each wushu sword has its own history and background, as well as different styles that take years to practice and master. This article will review these Chinese Wushu swords and explain their characteristics and uses. 

What is Chinese Wushu?

Chinese sword wushu with the many entertaining and spectacular sword moves – Credits: blue hippo films

Wushu, sometimes known as Kung Fu in the West, is a soft and hard martial art with roots in traditional Chinese fighting practices that date back to the Han Dynasty. There are certain examples of outstanding sword dance moves in modern Wushu, and the art can also be practiced as a full-contact fighting sport. 

The Chinese swords that make up a sizable portion of the art are separated into groups depending on the type of sword used. These can vary in shape and size but are all based on historical Chinese-bladed weapons used in the past. 

Wushu sword events can be individual, dual, or in groups. Modern Wushu, although a sword martial art, is based on many attacks that wouldn’t be used in a real fight. This has led to it being heavily criticized by traditional martial artists for commercializing it and losing many of its original and traditional fighting styles.

The Wushu swords used in this martial art are all dance props, not weapons. They aren’t hardened, have no edge and no full tang blades, and are made of light and flexible metal alloys, making them very different from functional Chinese swords of steel.

1. Nandao

The floppy and long Nandao sword with an S-guard is known for making very loud sounds – Credits: blue hippo films

One of the most popular swords used in Chinese Wushu is the Nandao blade. It is a straight and double-edged sword used with one hand, but there are cases of it being dual-wielded. It follows the same principles and basics of the Butterfly sword: lighting fast attacks and parries combined with jumps and rolls, but the sword is bigger and wider.

It came into the Wushu Chinese martial art in 1999 and is commonly called the Southern Dao. Its biggest characteristic is the sound it makes because of its wide blade. Some Wushu practitioners use the S-shaped guard in fascinating dance spectacles.

2. Dadao

Dao Sword
Dao or broader Dadao swords are one of the most popular in Chinese Wushu – Credits: blue hippo films

The Dadao is a Chinese sword with a curved and broadened blade tip, and it is the most popular sword in modern media and the Wushu acts. It is a one-handed sword, usually with a very big circular guard that allows its user to do many attacking or defending motions.

Despite being a one-handed sword, it can be used with many techniques commonly seen on larger weapons like the Gunshu staff because it can feature a long handle. Thanks to its wide blade, it is known for its very loud and distinct sound and can be in the form of the Nine-ring Dadao, otherwise known as the Jiu Huan Dao.

3. Jian

Jian Sword 1
The Jian offers the most versatile style of Wushu movements thanks to its blade – Credits: blue hippo films

Chinese Wushu, or sword martial arts, might have started with the Jian, the first Chinese sword in its history. It was a blade commonly linked with the nobility and used by only experienced sword masters. This straight, double-edged blade is a popular sword with its own Wushu subsection called Jianshu.

The Jian in Wushu is a tool that can allow for both delicate and energetic movements thanks to its double-edged blade. Usually, it features a Chinese sword tassel and allows for very quick moves. Sometimes it can be thrown in the air and grabbed by its user while rolling on the ground.

4. Guandao

The breathtaking moves that one can do with the Guandao sword – Credits: blue hippo films

Guandao is a type of polearm or a long sword used with two hands. It is heavily linked with Chinese stories and myths, making it a favored national weapon. This type of weapon in Wushu is used with many movements seen by the Shaolin, both gradual but, at times, extremely quick.

The blade is pendulous, and the tassel is on the blade itself, allowing for astounding moves. For many Wushu lovers, the Guandao is one of the most popular weapons due to its whirlwind-type motions.

5. Niuweidao

Niuweidao Dao
A wushu martial artist holding the Niuweidao in hand – Credits: Kung Fu Tea

Another preferred Wushu sword is the Niuweidao, a type of Dao that is curved but has a widened blade tip. Unlike the Dadao, it doesn’t broaden gradually. From the center of the blade and toward the blade’s tip, it widens significantly, while the first part of the blade is thin and straight.

This allows it to perform as a regular Dao with fluid movements but with enough looseness at the end of the blade to produce a loud sound. It is a Wushu sword used with one hand, but because of its shape and design, it can also be dual-wielded.

6. Hook Sword

Hook Sword
The Hook sword is a highly spectacular instrument to use in Chinese Wushu – Credits: blue hippo films

A type of unorthodox blade used in the Wushu competition and martial arts is the Hook Sword. It is a straight-bladed sword with a hook on the blade tip. In most cases, this Wushu instrument is dual-wielded. Performers can display breathtaking moves by throwing the swords, hooking, and pulling.

It is a weapon usually linked with the Northern Chinese martial arts, sometimes known as Shaunggou. Experienced and highly professional Wushu users can use its crescent guard to further amaze the spectators.

7. Sword Breaker

Swordbreaker cropped
The flexibility and agility that Wushu practitioners have – Credits: Ricardo Guevara

The straight and stiff Chinese tool meant for breaking other swords made of steel is called the Sword Breaker. The original name in Chinese can be understood in different terms, but mostly it is called a rod Jian or a whip Bian. It was one of the weapons used in traditional Chinese Wushu but isn’t popular in modern Wushu arts.

It features a flaccid straight blade like the Jian with rods surrounding it. Sometimes this form of Jian sword can have a flexible whip used like a chain whip, another weapon used in Wushu.

8. Butterfly Sword

Butterfly Sword
Grandmaster Chiu Chi Ling demonstrating the art of the Butterfly Sword – Credits: Kung Fu Magazine

The Butterfly Sword is one of the most popular Chinese swords and is seen in modern media like movies and anime. Although it isn’t necessarily linked with modern Wushu entertainment, it is a blade used with the same principles as barehanded Wushu like Changquan, Nanquan, and Taijiquan.

This dual-wielded sword is small and used with one hand. Wushu users using it can move swiftly and perform eye-catching attacks and defenses. The jump, with a 720-degree butterfly twist spin in midair, is the most popular and impressive feat performed with this blade.

Sources Cited

1. Bin, W. (1995, August 31). Essentials of Chinese Wushu.
2. Zhou, Q. (2011, February 22). Chinese Wushu: The 10-Minute Primer.
3. Little, J.; Xuan, D. (2019, May 14). The Tao of Wing Chun: The History and Principles of China’s Most Explosive Martial Art.
4. Chow, D., Spangler, R. (1980, August 1). Kung Fu: History, Philosophy and Techniques.
5. Lorge, P. A. (2011, December 5). Chinese Martial Arts: From Antiquity to the Twenty-First Century.

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