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Exploring Miao Dao’s Characteristics, History and Use

Written By: David Mickov
Updated: October 21, 2023
Edited by: Juliana Cummings

The Miao Dao sword, sometimes known as the long saber or the Grain Leaf saber, is a Chinese sword that is a treasured part of the Chinese cultural legacy. It is a weapon that can be used both as a spear and a sword and is often compared to the Japanese Katana.

In this article, we’ll talk about what the Miao Dao looks like and its real traits and characteristics. You will learn how to use it best and if it is a good first sword. You will also learn about how it was built and its shrouded history

Characteristics of the Miao Dao

Characteristics of a Miao Dao Sword
The Miao Dao is a Chinese sword that bears a very close resemblance to the Japanese katana

The Miao Dao is a Chinese sword that bears a very close resemblance to the Japanese katana. Let’s discover its characteristics.

Length & Size

The overall length of the Miao sword is around 3.9 to 4.5 feet / 1.2 to 1.4 meters. This makes it a perfect length for a sword that can fight in both close quarters and on open battlefields. It doesn’t feel long when holding the sword, and the balance feels just right.

Weight

The Miao Dao will weigh around 2.2 to 2.8 lbs / 1 to 1.3 kg. Although it is heavier than the average type of sword, it does weigh very little, making it a perfect weapon for use in battles or LARP events. The pipe blade added to the blade makes it very light to use.

Blade

The blade length of the Miao Dao can be from 2.6 to 3.2 feet / 80 cm to 1 m long. The width of the blade is 0.11 feet / 3.5 cm. The Miao Dao is recognizable by its blade, which makes it seem like a long sword. This long blade is double-edged and able to go through almost any type of armor and steel material.

The spine of the steel blade should have the shape of a spherical pipe, known as a pipe blade,  getting thinner at the tip and thicker as it gets closer to the handguard. This shape makes the blade stiff while making it lighter.

Curvature

The Miao Dao is a saber with a very slight and soft curvature. The curvature starts from the neck (under the guard) of the sword, where the point of balance is, and continues to the tip of the blade. This Japanese-styled curvature delivers more deadly slashing and stabbing strikes than the straight sword.

Handle

The handle length of the Miao Dao is 0.8 to 1 foot / 25 to 30 cm. This rather long handle allows the user a much firmer grip as well as the ability to wield it with one or two hands when needed.

The traditional handle of the Miao Dao was generally made with wrapped handles. That is why you can find many modern Miao Dao’s with those types of handles. But if it was mass-produced, you will most likely find a handle made of polished wood. However, the wrapped handle offers a much better grip than a wooden handle.

Guard

The guard of the Miao Dao is made in a circular shape. This was the original shape of guards for the Samurai Katana sword. The circular guard does not offer much protection for the hands, but it still provides a very good grip when held with the hand under it.

Scabbard

The scabbard for the Miao Dao is made from wood. It can weigh around 0.66 lbs / 200 to 300 grams, which will make the total weight of the sheathed Miao Dao around 3.3 lbs /1.5kg. It often consists of many brass fittings at the beginning and end, making it look appealing, but it can also be a nuisance.

Usage of the Miao Dao

The Quickness of a Miao Dao Sword
The Miao Dao is a very fast and light sword which makes it perfect for 1v1 combat [Source]

The Miao Dao has the traits of a broadsword and a spear. It is greatly used in China because it is incredibly light, making attacks fully flexible and extremely quick.

The Miao Dao can be used in combat in various types of scenarios. It is a light weapon but also very long. Because of that, it can reach further if held with one hand around the lower half of the handle while extended to do a stabbing strike.

The curvature helps a lot too. It is primarily used as a slashing weapon but can also be very good in thrusts, mainly because of the big handle.

Uses of the Miao Dao Sword
Various Taichi and Kung Fu Moves that You can Do With Miao Dao

The Miao Dao has been a very popular weapon used in Chinese martial arts since the end of the Ming period. It is still an active sword today in Tai Chi and Kung Fu. This sword plays a critical role in China, especially after 1920. 

In modern times, scenarios are re-played with the Chinese general Qi Jiguang who helped China defeat all the Japanese pirates along its coast.

History of the Miao Dao Sword

The battle against the Japanese and Mongol invades
Qi Jiguang in the battle against the Japanese and Mongol invaders [Source]

The Miao Dao sword has a lot of problems and is shrouded by confusion about its history. Miao Dao means long and narrow. The name also means Sprout Sabre, which refers to the likeliness of a newly sprouted plant. The Miao Dao cannot be found in texts older than the Chinese Republic period (1920s).

The long and narrow Jian, which looks a lot like the Miao Dao, first appeared in China during the Western Han dynasty. It has been around for more than 2,000 years. The Miao Dao sword type has changed significantly over the years. It also carries a different name today than it has in the past. That is why it is safe to say that the Miao Dao’s roots are from very early on. 

These types of swords were very difficult to manufacture in ancient times and were, therefore, relatively rare. That’s why they were almost impossible to find during the Song dynasty period.  

As for the name and type of sword we now know as the Miao Dao, it came from the Qing dynasty (17th century), right after General Qi Jiguang in the battle against the Japanese pirates.

The Battle vs. Japanese Pirates

During the Ming dynasty, Japanese pirates constantly troubled the people who lived near the coast. The court told Qi Jiguang to get rid of the Japanese pirates, so he led the army in several battles against them. Pirates from Japan used the Japanese Katana swords. This kind of sword was very dangerous, and many of the court’s army lost their lives.

General Qi Jiguang started studying weapons so he could beat the Japanese pirates. He combined ancient Chinese ritual swords with Japanese swords, taking the best parts of each and making a new style – the Miao Dao, which was much stronger than Japanese swords.

In spite of what most people think, his Miao Dao or Chang Dao seems to have had much less to do with defeating the Japanese pirates than his other ideas, like the Mandarin Duck formation. General Qi didn’t want to try and beat the Japanese warriors in a fair fight. Only in martial arts movies does that happen, and rarely in history.

So to sum it up, the type of sword that is the Miao Dao has its roots from very early on in Chinese history. But the real creation of it came from the 16th/17th century and onward. Still, some historians will say that it is a 20th-century creation.

Miao Dao Vs. Japanese Katana

The biggest difference between the Japanese Katana and the Chinese Miao Dao is the handle and blade.

Miao Dao Vs. the Katana
The Chinese Miao Dao Sword – 4.6 feet long

The traditional Miao Dao has a very soft and slightly curved blade. It feels like a straight blade while also having the benefit of attacking from an almost unnoticeable curvature. In contrast, the Katana has a much stronger curve. The blade of the Miao Dao is also slightly longer.

The handle of the Miao Dao is bigger, thicker, and much longer compared to the Katana. This offers the Miao Dao much more leverage when it comes to attacking, almost like a spear, and can also be a very powerful stabbing weapon. The Katana is primarily used for slashing.

Katana vs. Miao Dao Sword
The Japanese Katana Sword – 3.3 feet long

Some sword enthusiasts will argue that the Katana is the strongest sword in the world, while others will argue that the Katana has already been beaten by the Miao Dao, making the Chinese sword the strongest. 

Sources Cited
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