Antique Chinese paidao or "shield knife" | Mandarin Mansion

Antique Chinese paidao or "shield knife"

Overall length: 59.3 cm / 23.4 inch
Blade length: 47 cm / 18.5 inch
Thickness: forte 8 mm, middle 6 mm
Blade width: forte 55 mm, middle 39 mm
Weight: 988 grams

In pairs these are known as hudiedao, usually made with handles that are flattened on one side so they fit in the scabbard together. The single, long variety is seen used in conjunction with a rattan shield or tengpai in the other hand. The general tactic was to try to bash into your opponent with the shield first, and then either cut, thrust, or hit him with the D-shaped guard. In earlier times these shields were paired with long, deeply curved sabers called piandao but as horses gradually disappeared from the battlefield, so did these cutters. Not having to deal with hard impact anymore and fast-moving targets, the shield flattened during the late Qing, making them lighter, and the preferred sword in hand became the close quarter single handed hudiedao. By this time, period texts start to pair these shield with paidao instead of piandao. And although these texts are unfortunately not illustrated, we can almost safely conclude that these single, long hudiedao are, in fact, paidao.

It's hard to find examples of this style that are any better than this. The massive, well-forged blade is almost without notable damage with only one very little chip off the hardened edge, some two-thirds up the blade. The edge contour is nice and straight, surfaces flat and even and the blade is nearly clean of pitting. The lamellar structure of the steel is clearly visible, with bold fiery shapes here and there and simple even layering at other places. The handle is carved out of a single piece of hardwood and it has a massive bronze D-shaped guard. The total weighs as much as the heavier full-length military sabers. It is excellently balanced for good maneuverability and with excellent cutting capability. It comes with its original pig leather scabbard. Scabbard has some repairs, but is mostly intact. It is customarily decorated with auspicious coin motifs.

I'm fairly sure of the dating of this example, because in my collection I have another nearly identical example with the markings: 廣字一百三十八号, 同治三年登 or " "Guang"-series number 138. Made in the third year of Tongzhi". This places it in Guangzhou in the year 1863. Interestingly, in that exact year the Guangzhou local military and militia forces repelled an attack of the powerful Taiping rebellion attacking the city.

My paidao with inscription to the left, this example to the right. Notice the incredible similarities in the D-guard, the carvings of the wooden handle, up to the forging of the steel.

Militia of Guangzhou practicing in the 1850's. The shield bearer bears a long, narrow paidao

A nice mid. 19th century paidao with a heavy, well-forged blade with bold contrasting steel layers, in excellent condition.


Interested? Questions?