A very good dadao | Mandarin Mansion

A very good dadao

The dadao is the iconic weapon of republican China. It's most famed use was perhaps the "Marco Polo incident" where 100 men of the Goumingtang 29th route Army, armed with rifles and dadao, managed to resist a larger Japanese force but against heavy casualties on the Chinese side. They were also the standard close quarter's weapon of Mao's communist forces who ultimately conquered China and founded the People's Republic of China.

Although we mostly know the weapon from the 20th century, the general shape has much earlier origins. Presented here is a 19th century predecessor of the famed republican dadao.

This example

Overall length: 92.5 cm / 36.4 inch
Blade length: 62.7 / 24.7 inch
Blade thickness: 11.5mm at base, 7mm middle, 4.5mm at widest point at tip.
Blade width: 36mm at base, 42mm middle, 51.5mm at widest point at tip.
Weight: 1257 grams

A very good quality early dadao with some interesting design features. It probably dates from the late 19th century.

The quality blade is thick, heavy, but well-balanced. Overall blade shape reminds strongly of a niuweidao or oxtail-saber, with a narrow base and a widening tip section. It differs from the niuweidao in that the blade is a lot straighter, and due to its size and thickness it has the weigh and feel of a typical dadao.

Blade surface with two grooves, a wide and narrow one on the dorsal side. The wider fuller begins at the forte with a crescent-moon shaped engraving and fades into the tip. The back of the blade is ridged from about where the fullers start. These are again features we commonly see on some of the better niuweidao. Forte of the blade is chiseled with a dragon chasing a flaming ball, often referred to as the pearl of wisdom. The quality of the chiseling is unusually fine for this type of weapon.

Blade without damage, no nicks, cracks, chips. Tight forging throughout. In its current condition it shows hints of a nice forge folded construction with a fairly active pattern and inserted high-carbon edge plate. It is well-made throughout with flat bevels and clearly defined features, not the usual lumpiness encountered on the vast majority of dadao on the market.

The guard is made of a simple piece of thick sheet iron, curled up on both sides to create the typical "ramshorn" profile. The long handle with thick ring pommel retains its original wrap with indigo dyed cord. Over time, wear and staining made most of the cord look green today. There is some play in the old handle due to shrinkage of the wood.

An unusual dadao that shares many design features with the niuweidao. Blade shows exceptional quality in execution for this type of weapon, with attention to detail like a partially ridged cross-section, precisely cut grooves, flat polished surfaces and detailed engravings at the forte.


Interested? Questions?
Contact peter@mandarinmansion.com

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