Republican dadao | Mandarin Mansion

Republican dadao

Overall length: 82 cm / 32.3 inch
Blade length: 60.2 cm / 23.7 inch
Thickness: forte 6.5 mm, middle 4 mm, widest part 1.5 mm
Blade width: forte 55 mm, widest part 88 mm.
Weight without scabbard: 1138 grams

The iconic dadao (大刀) was the preferred close-quarters combat weapon of post-Imperial China. Dadao gained fame in the hands of certain Big Knife Units dadaohui (大刀會), in particular the 29th army, specializing in close quarters combat.

The idea behind the dadao is to make the cutting edge thin for low-resistance on the cut, while keeping the blade heavy enough for considerable cutting power. To do this, they made the blade flat but wide, with the maximum width being behind that part of the edge that was ideally used for the cut. This flaring out gave the dadao its very characteristic shape. Designed for cutting through soft targets, it was an ideal setup in the age of modern firearms where soldiers wore minimum protection.

A simple Chinese military dadao (大刀) of the Republican period. The weapon presented is a good representative example of Republican period dadao. It has a wide and heavy blade, with forward balance for powerful cuts. The blade has two shallow fullers on either side of the handle. The blade is in very good condition: no edge damage, with stabilized black patina and no pitting. The blade is ever so slightly warped, which is common on these. It has a robust S-shaped iron guard and simple wooden handle over a sturdy iron tang with integrated ring pommel. The blade has two holes along the spine, probably for a carrying strap indicating that it was probably made to be carried with a sling attached to these holes, instead of in a scabbard. The grip wrapping was lost a long time ago, and the handle is a little loose.

Price as is: €320,-
With restored hilt: € 420,-*

Interested? Questions?

*Restoration will include tightening the grip and a new grip wrap by Peter Dekker with cotton cord of authentic colors and braid, wrapped in the traditional method, aged to match the weapons's overall antique appearance. For examples of Peter's wrapping, see our grip wrapping page.

An example of a dadao wrap done by Peter Dekker.

An old postcard with a soldier wearing a dadao slung behind his back.

Troops training with dadao. From the nice article at Kung Fu Tea.

Japanese soldiers with a trophy dadao, Manchuria, 1930's.