5 March 2019

Telling apart Chinese polearms: a quick visual guide

1) Ancient Chinese polearms (Warring States to Han Dynasty)

1.1) Common polearms

Ancient Chinese polearms
Various ancient Chinese polearms. It should be noted that these weapons are not to scale with each other. For expamle, the head of a Shu is much smaller than other polearms.
Dong Ji Dao (棟脊刀, lit. 'Ridge-spined knife'): A type of pole-mounted bronze chopper superficially similar to medieval glaive and/or voulge. Believed to be either ceremonial or execution weapon (or both), this type of polearm was common during mid-Shang to Western Zhou period. It should be noted that the name "Dong Ji Dao" is coined by modern archaeologists and researchers.

Shu (殳): A Shu can refer to two types of closely-related weapons: a long octagonal staff shod with bronze end caps, or its improved version, a long octagonal staff fitted with a special mace head with a three-edged blade (pictured above). While not as well known as the dagger-axe, it is nevertheless one of the major weapons of ancient China.

It is the predecessor of Lang Ya Bang (狼牙棒). Ming period Da Bang (大棒) and Jia Dao Gun (夾刀棍) can also be considered distant descendants of this weapon.

Ge (戈): Also known as dagger-axe, Ge is undoubtedly the most iconic and widespread weapon of ancient China. It consists of a dagger-shaped blade mounted by its tang perpendicularly to a shaft.

It should be noted that more recent research suggests that polearm-length Ge was much rarer than previously thought. Most Ge appear to be one- or two-handed weapons that seldom exceed 1.3 metres in length. Dagger-axes mounted on longer shafts seem to be either used for naval combat, or as a component of Ji halberd.

Ji (戟): Early Ji was nothing more than a Ge with an additional spearhead mounted on top, although later version fused the spear part and dagger-axe part together into a single weapon head. Some Ji have a very unique mounting design that make use of both socket and tang.

Han Dynasty-style Ji: Streamlined, slender, and more effective iron/steel Ji rapidly replaced its bronze counterpart at least since Qin period. By the time of Han Dynasty, iron/steel Ji had become the most common type in use.

Yue Ji (鉞戟, lit. 'Axe halberd'): A Yue Ji is a Han Dynasty Ji variant with an actual axe head in place of its horizontal dagger-axe blade. It should be noted that the name "Yue Ji" is coined by modern archaeologists and researchers to differentiate this weapon from the standard Ji.

Pi (鈹): Sometimes called a "swordstaff", Pi is essentially a polearm with a long, sword-like spearhead with a long tang rather than a socket. Pi was actually more common than socketed spear for the majority of Han period.

Sha (鎩): Sha is an improved version of Pi with a quillon mounted at the base of the spearhead. Like Pi, it has a long tang rather than a socket.

1.2) Dagger-axe variants

Chinese ge dagger-axe
Various unusual Ge (Click to enlarge).
Shuang Ge Ji (雙戈戟, lit. 'Twin dagger-axe halberd'): A Ji halberd with two dagger-axes. It should be noted that while a Ji typically consists of a dagger-axe and a spearhead, a double dagger-axe is still called Shuang Ge Ji even without a spearhead.

San Ge Ji (三戈戟, lit. 'Three dagger-axe halberd'): A Ji halberd with three dagger-axes. Likewise, a triple dagger-axe is still called San Ge Ji even without a spearhead. 

Xiong Ji (雄戟, lit. 'Male halberd'): A dagger-axe with an erected blade. It is also known as Yan Ji (匽戟, lit. 'Hidden halberd' or 'Still halberd') and Ji Ming Ji (雞鳴戟, lit. 'Crowing halberd').

Zhuo (啄, lit. 'Peck'): An unusual dagger-axe variant that is actually closer to a war pick/war hammer. It has a pointed spike in place of the sharpened, dagger-like blade of a normal dagger-axe.

Kui (戣): A primitive early dagger-axe variant with a broader, triangular-shaped, double-edged blade. It is also known as Chuo (戳, lit. 'Poke').

2) Tang Dynasty polearms

There was a dearth of new development in polearm design between third century and tenth century (Jin Dynasty to Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period), as various polearms were displaced by ordinary spears, pikes, and lances. Only two polearms of note came from this period: Tang Dynasty Ji and Mo Dao (陌刀).

Tang Dynasty half-trident
Mural inside the Tomb of Li Shou (李壽), cousin of Emperor Gaozu of Tang, depicting a rack of Ji.
Tang Dynasty Ji: The horizontal blade of Han Dynasty Ji began to curve upward during Eastern Han period, losing some of its pickaxe/puncturing functions but gaining the ability to parry incoming blows more effectively. By Northern and Southern Dynasties period at the latest, the horizontal blade had evolved into a full-fledged fork, and the design was also inherited by Sui and Tang Dynasty.

Tang Dynasty Ji is sometimes called a "half-trident" due to its unique appearance. To date no surviving Tang Dynasty Ji has been found.

Mo Dao (陌刀): To date, no surviving Mo Dao has been found, and the weapon is even less understood than Tang Dynasty Ji. Historians still debate on whether Mo Dao was a polearm or a two-handed sword.

For more details, see the Mo Dao section of my other post.

3) Song to Qing Dynasty polearms

Song period saw a massive explosion of new polearm designs due to improvements in armouring technology and the rise of infantry warfare. Chinese polearm design remained largely consistent after Song period.

3.1) Hooked spears

Hooked spear
Chinese hooked spears (Click to enlarge).
Gou Lian Qiang (鉤鐮鎗, lit. 'Hook-sickle spear'): A spear with a sickle blade.

Shuang Gou Lian Qiang (雙鉤鐮鎗, lit. 'Double hook-sickle spear'): A spear with two sickle blades mounted on the opposing sides of the spearhead.

Gou Qiang (鉤鎗, lit. 'Hook spear'): A spear with one or more (usually up to four) small hooks protruding from the base of the spear blade. Not to be confused with Gou Lian Qiang.

Hu Ya Qiang (虎牙槍, lit. 'Tiger fang spear'): An unusual Qing period spear with two short "teeth" protruding directly from the blade of the spearhead. Only a handful of spears of this type survive to this day.

3.2) Ji halberds

Chinese halberds
Ming and Qing Dynasty Ji halberds (Click to enlarge).
Song — Qing Dynasty Ji: By Song period, Chinese Ji halberd evolved into its final and most recognisable form: a spear with a crescent-shaped axe blade, connected to the spearhead with two iron bars.

Ji underwent several name changes from Song to Qing period. It was known as Ji Dao (戟刀, lit. 'Halberd-knife') during Song period, but changed its name to Fang Tian Ji (方天戟, lit. 'Square-sky halberd') during Ming and Qing period. Nowadays, this weapon is renamed Qing Long Ji (青龍戟, lit. 'Green dragon halberd') among modern Chinese martial arts communities.

Shuang Ji (雙戟, lit. 'Double Ji'): A Ji with two crescent blades connected to the opposing sides of the spearhead. This weapon is now known as Fang Tian Ji (方天戟) among modern Chinese martial arts communities, taking the old name of its one-bladed counterpart.

3.3) Glaives

Green Dragon Crescent Blade
Chinese glaives (Click to enlarge).
Yan Yue Dao (偃月刀 or 掩月刀, lit. 'Reclining moon glaive' or 'Covering moon glaive'): One of the most iconic Chinese weapon, Yan Yue Dao is characterised by a sharpened protrusion on the back of its blade. Most, but not all, Yan Yue Dao also come with scalloped backedge and tri-bladed butt spike.

It is also known as Chun Qiu Da Dao (春秋大刀, lit. 'Spring and Autumn great glaive') and Guan Dao (關刀).

Xiang Bi Dao (象鼻刀, lit. 'Elephant trunk glaive'): A subtype of Yan Yue Dao with a dramatically curved tip. It was generally used for parade or ceremonial purpose.

Po Dao (朴刀): A glaive with a relatively featureless clip point blade. It was also known as Zhan Ma Dao (斬馬刀, lit. 'Horse-chopping glaive') during Ming period.

(Not pictured) Shuang Shou Dai (雙手帶): A variant of Po Dao with roughly 1:1 blade to handle ratio.

Ti Dao (剃刀, lit. 'Razor glaive' or 'Shaving glaive'): Essentially a Chinese copy of Japanese naginata (薙刀), Ti Dao has a significantly narrower blade than other Chinese glaives. Like naginata, some Ti Dao come with a sheath.

Since China had a much wider selection of sword and sabre designs, the blade design of Ti Dao is also more varied compared to its Japanese counterpart. A Ti Dao with an actual Japanese-style blade (whether imported or imitation made in China) was sometimes known as Chang Wo Dao (長倭刀, lit. 'Long Japanese glaive') during Ming period.

3.4) Forks, tridents and Tang Pa

Tang Pa was some of the most varied, and least standardised, polearms in the Chinese arsenal. For this reason, it can be extremely difficult to tell apart what is what. As a matter of fact, while I am fairly confident in my own assessment, even I cannot distinguish every Tang Pa design with absolute certainty.

Chinese trident and fork
A great variety of trident-type weapons (Click to enlarge).

Mu Pa (木扒): A weaponised wooden agricultural rake.

Tie Pa (鐵扒): A slightly improved variant of Mu Pa with its wooden tines replaced with metal blades.

Tang (鎲): A trident that still retains several agricultural rake tines. It was also known as Tong Tian Pa (通天鈀, lit. 'Sky-connecting rake') during Qing period.

Tang Pa (鎲鈀): A fully militarised version of Pa.

Shuang Gu Cha (雙股叉, lit. 'Two-pronged fork'): A bident.

Ma Cha (馬叉, lit. 'Horse fork/horseman's fork'): A trident that closely resembles, but distinct from, Tang Pa. Unlike Tang Pa, it was not developed from agricultural tool.

It can be extremely challenging to distinguish a Ma Cha from a Tang Pa. A commonly accepted method is to examine the spearhead and prongs of the weapon: A Tang Pa has a spearhead with ridged cross-section as well as blunt prongs, while the spearhead of Ma Cha can be either flat or ridged, and it has sharpened prongs. However, this method is not foolproof and I found it problematic. Personally, I use the shape of the trident to distinguish the two: A Ma Cha has a narrower head and significantly longer spearhead relative to its prongs, while a Tang Pa has a wider head, and its spearhead is only slightly longer than the prongs (however, it should be noted that my own method is not foolproof either).

Wu Cha (武叉, lit. 'Martial fork'): A trident with one of its prongs pointing downwards. Also known as Wen Wu Tang (文武鎲, lit. 'Martial-and-scholar's trident').

She Lian Qiang (蛇鐮槍, lit. 'Snake-sickle spear'): A spear with two snake-like wavy prongs. It was one of the most common types of Tang Pa during Qing period. As such, this weapon is often only referred to by its generic name Tang Pa.

Hu Cha (虎叉, lit. 'Tiger fork'): A massive Qing period trident designed for tiger hunting. Unlike either Ma Cha or Tang Pa, all three prongs on a Hu Cha are edgeless, but sharply pointed.

3.5) Spades

Kung Fu Spade weapon
Chinese spades (Click to enlarge).
Yue Ya Chan (月牙鏟, lit. 'Crescent moon spade'): A spade with an upswept crescent blade. Also known as Yang Yue Dao (仰月刀, lit. 'Upward crescent blade').

Tian Peng Chan (天蓬鏟, lit. 'Marshal Tianpeng's spade'): A spade with a downswept crescent blade. Also known as He Yue Dao (合月刀, lit. 'Conjoined crescent blade').

Fang Bian Chan (方便鏟, lit. 'Convenient spade/Upāya spade'): A spade with a blade shaped like an oversized Chinese incense shovel. It is sometimes known as Jin Zhong Chan (金鐘鏟, lit. 'Golden bell spade') among modern Chinese martial arts communities, although the old name is still in common use.

As far as old lore goes, this weapon was so named because itinerant Buddhist monks would use the spade to bury dead bodies they encountered along the journey (as a form of merit-making). However, whether the spade was really used for such purpose is anyone's guess.

(Not pictured) Monk's spade: The so-called monk's spade is a spade weapon with a crescent blade on one end and a Fang Bian Chan on the other end. Its actual full name should be Yue Ya Fang Bian Chan (月牙方便鏟, lit. 'Crescent moon convenient spade') or Ri Yue Fang Bian Chan (日月方便鏟, lit. 'Sun and moon convenient spade').

3.6) Miscellaneous polearms

Miscellaneous Chinese polearms (Click to enlarge).
Yue (鉞) or Fu (斧): Both Yue and Fu refer to an axe. Yue generally refers to a larger, more ornate, and often ceremonial axe, whereas Fu can refer to any axe.

Zhao Dao (棹刀, lit. 'Oar-blade'): A versatile polearm with a broad, double-edged chop-and-thrust blade. It is better known by its Ming and Qing period names, Er Lang Dao (二郎刀, lit. 'Erlang Shen's blade') and San Jian Liang Ren Dao (三尖兩刃刀, lit. 'Three points double-edged blade').

Bi Zhua (筆撾, lit. 'Brush claw' or 'brush-striker'): An unusual war hammer shaped like a fist gripping a metal calligraphic brush. It is also known as Pan Guan Bi (判官筆, lit. 'Judge's brush'), sharing its name with another modern wushu weapon.

She Qiang (蛇槍, lit. 'Snake spear'): An unusual fork with two snake-like prongs, one longer than the other. Despite their similar-sounding names, it should not be confused with She Mao (蛇矛), which is a proper spear.

Dao Mao (刀矛, lit. 'Sabre-spear'): The so-called Dao Mao is a curious spear with a single-edged blade, which can be of either socket or tang construction. It differs from other Chinese glaive-type polearms in that it has a much smaller blade, and is seemingly more optimised for thrusting rather than cutting despite the single edge.

Despite being in common use since Song period all the way to the end of Qing Dynasty, the historical name for this weapon was unfortunately lost (its current name is coined by antique collectors to distinguish the weapon from other spears and glaives). A possible historical name for this weapon is Bi Dao (筆刀, lit. 'Brush glaive').

Other blog posts in my Chinese Polearms series:
Telling apart Chinese polearms: a quick visual guide
Telling apart Chinese polearms — EXTRA (Patrons only)


  1. great initiative, a good terminology list lacked in the english community. On a side note,I find it interesting that everyone in the early bronze age was using weapons similar to the Ge in europe and north africa.I guess it was the most cost efficient way to make polearms at the time.

    1. Yes, they are actually quite similar.

    2. do you have an email for the public i have an interesting question

    3. @Sunrose9719
      You can use the "contact form" function in the "about" button.

  2. I have to say I'm quite curious to see the updates. It is a good initiative for those who are not familiar with Chinese!

  3. Good presentation, can't wait to see other types of polearms from later periods.

  4. I was wondering, was trident hunting done before the Qing?
    Was the ma chan used on horseback or is it a misleading name like Chinese weapons sometimes have?
    Finally, why she lian Qiang as this shape, what does it serve?

    1. 1) Yes. It was a centuries-old practise.
      2) Yes, Ma Cha (and normal Tang Pa for that matter) was actually used on horseback fairly frequently.
      3) Probably to help blocking blows, or make the head more intimidating.

    2. There was certainly trident (or Tang Pa if you like) hunting before the Qing. In fact the earliest tridents unearthed date back to the Song period, found in Zhejiang and Guangxi, respectively. Seems like this weapon had its origins in Southern China.

  5. I have a question about the Glaives:
    We actually don't really have any information about Glaives before Tang dynasty, is it right?

    Say in another way, Glaives be created during Tang dynasty?

    Thank you.

    1. There are some surviving bronze glaives from Shang Dynasty (although theose are closer to voulge than glaive IMO), and some Han Dynasty brick carvings depict what seem to be naginata and guandao. But other than that there was no glaive before Song Dynasty, as far as I can tell.

    2. 春秋戰國, good day! You wrote: "There are some surviving bronze glaives from Shang Dynasty (although theose are closer to voulge than glaive IMO), and some Han Dynasty brick carvings depict what seem to be naginata and guandao".Could you please provide additional information on these images on bricks? I am interested in the history of Chinese glaives, but there is very little information.

    3. @Dezperado
      Here you go.


      It should be noted that it is difficult to tell whether the brick carvings really depict glaive-like weapons or just some sort of ceremonial items. So these images cannot be taken as definitive proof.

    4. It is very interesting! As for the Shang Dynasty bronze items, they are definitely simple knives. As for the images on bricks, everything is very complicated. On the second brick, these may be the flags on the riders' lances. But on the first brick it is definitely a glaive. But there are other facts as well.
      In the "Sango zhi" chapter "Dian Wei zhuan" ( III c.) it is said that Dian Wei had a chandao长刀. And in "Jin shu" (IV c.) it is said that Chen An had a dadao 大刀 7 chi long (1.7 m). And these are not ceremonial objects, but weapons, because at that moment they were fighting. In addition, dadaos 大刀 are frequently mentioned in the Juyan Han era archives. But they might just be big knives. I have always thought that Chinese glaives only appeared in the Song era, or perhaps during the Five Dynasties. But all these facts made me doubt it.

    5. @Dezperado
      The first Shang knife is probably a normal, short handled knife. But the second photo shows two Shang blade with mounting meant for wooden pole.

    6. Thanks for your reply! As for the second Shang knife, there may be attachments for the knife handle. It doesn't have to be a wooden pole. However, right there in this thread, Joshua gave a link to the jade discs of the Sanxingdui culture, which depicts wide Tao, similar to the tips of glaives.
      But I'm more interested in the Han Empire and later. As far as I know, for the Han Empire there are no wide dao 刀similar to glaive heads. But there were such dao 刀in the Song era, and they were called shoudao 手刀. If such wide dao could be found for the Han era, then it could be argued that there were already glaives in the Han and Jin times.
      In addition, the „Jin shu“ says that Chen An had a 7 chi (1.7 m) dadao大刀. In the 5th century, in China there was a huanshou zhidao 环首直刀 (long sword with one blade) 1.4 m long. Did Chen An just have a very long sword or did he have a glaive? When he went into battle, in one hand he had a very long spear, and in the other it was this dadao. Thus, there are more questions than answers, but the images you provided are very interesting. The riders have their pole too long for a dadao, but a warrior with a naginata ... It's hard to say that this is a ceremonial weapon. So if the wide dao of the Han era could be found, there would be more arguments.
      Happy New Year!

    7. @Dezperado
      I think a simple knife doesn't require such a strong mounting, so it must've been mounted on something at least axe-handle length.

      Those Sanxindui discs in the comment are suspected (i.e. almost certainly) to be fakes.

      Chen An's weapon seems to be a very long one-handed sword, since he dual-wielded on horseback (he used a lance in his other hand) . He was an extraordinary warrior though, so his weapons are presumably equally unusual.

    8. Thanks for the answer!
      As for these knives of the Shang era, it is possible that they were fastened with a long handle. If so, then glaives appeared in Chinese history and disappeared, and so on until the Song era?
      Thanks for the disc information from Sanxindui!
      As for Chen An's weapon, then his sword should be 1.7 m long. We are not aware of such long swords in China. The average height of a man in China in ancient times is 1.6 m. Then it turns out that his sword was taller than a man or the same length. There are swords only 1.4 m long (with one blade). This is the problem.

    9. @Dezperado
      It is possible that the Shang weapon is only axe-length, and thus not a true polearm, but the possibility of it being an actual polearm also exists. I have no idea why glaive appear early then disappear later though.

      It was possible to make a sword of that length given the metallurgy expertise of the Chinese, although I can't imagine such a monstrous sword to be practical for general use by lay people. Still, there are practical one-handed swords that come close to this length (Polish Koncerz can be as long as 1.6m), and Chen An is a warrior of exceptional calibre.

      Alternatively, maybe the records are simply exaggerated.

    10. "It is possible that the Shang weapon is only axe-length, and thus not a true polearm, but the possibility of it being an actual polearm also exists. I have no idea why glaive appear early then disappear later though".
      As for Shang, it is possible that it really was an ax. But what about the Han-era naginata warrior?
      As for the length of the sword of 1.7 m, then in Europe in the Middle Ages there were such swords. But more often than not, it was a ceremonial weapon that was only taken out to the battlefield. But there is simply no information that there were such swords with one blade in China. So in length it looks like a warrior with a Han era naginata.
      In addition, during the Tang era, there were modao 陌刀in China, which are also described as glaives.
      I heard the following hypothesis: in China, swords were constantly planted on long poles and they called it dadao. But it is only since the Song Dynasty that we have enough evidence. Therefore, before the Song dynasty, I could call the glaive's hidden historical period.
      What do you think about this?

    11. @Dezperado

      I will reserve judgement on whether the carving really depicts a Han "naginata" warrior. That said, a general speculation about the disappearance of polearms after Han period (as Ji halberd was also being slowly phased out) was the rise of heavily armoured cataphract cavalry. Ji halberd (and other polearms) gave way to long pikes.

      AFAIK we still don't know the exact weapon type of Modao.

      Chen An's seven chi weapon does match the general dimension of guandao, so it is possible that he was indeed using a glaive/naginata type weapon.

      Indeed many weapons recorded in Wujing Zongyao predates Song Dynasty. I believe there is one excavated Northern & Southern Dynasties-period dao that can be mounted on a long pole, and there are several Eastern Jin period dao that are also possibly pole-mounted.

    12. "Indeed many weapons recorded in Wujing Zongyao predates Song Dynasty. I believe there is one excavated Northern & Southern Dynasties-period dao that can be mounted on a long pole, and there are several Eastern Jin period dao that are also possibly pole-mounted".
      As for the modao, it had 2 blades, like the diaodao of the Song dynasty. It is possible that modao is diaodao.
      I think that the Song Dynasty yanyuedao corresponds to a weapon such as a shoudao 手刀, which could have been attached to a long pole.
      I have a photograph of a Nanbeichao soldier figurine with a dao that looks like a shoudao. How are photos posted on this forum?

    13. @Dezperado
      The weapon that is described as having two blades is "Pai Dao (拍刀)". It could just be another name/misspelling of Modao, but could equally be another unrelated weapon.

      Yuanyuedao has a very specific blade form so it's unrelated to Song Shoudao. In fact, it's very unusual to find a Yanyuedao-style blade on a sword. I only know of one example, and it's from Ming (or perhaps Qing) period. Glaive blade also has different (i.e. longer) tang design than sword blade.

      In general, Chinese glaive blades and sword blades are not interchangeable. Each have their own associated blade shape, guard design, and pommel/ring/butt spike/butt ring design. For example, Chinese Zhibeidao often have octagonal guard, and Ming-era Huanshoudao often have bollock-shaped guard. Exceptions do exist but they are less common. Only Podao is explicitly mentioned to be mountable on a pole.

    14. .
      This information is from "Jiu Tang shu": "《旧 唐 书 棱 传》 (棱) 善用 大刀 , 长 一丈 , 施 两刃 , 名为 拍 刃。 每 一举 , 辄 毙 数 人 , 前 无 当 者。 "
      And in "Xing Tang shu" instead of 拍 刃 it says 拍 刀. And pai dao is called dadao. But pai dao 拍 刀 and diaodao 掉刀 translate pretty closely. Description pai dao (dadao) is very similar to diaodao. And the paidao was 1 zhang long. It cannot be a sword, only a glaive.
      Thus, in the Tang dynasty there were already glaives in China, no matter how they were called: dadao, paidao or modao.
      There is an interesting article about modao and remodeling here.
      Chinese glaives originated from Chinese swords dao with one blade, they even have the same name. Therefore, before the Chinese glaives appeared, it seems to me that similar swords must have appeared.
      In China both swords and glaives are called dadao. As it seems to me, there is a dadao with a short handle (changdao or zhanmadao), there is a medium handle (podao), there is a long handle (yanyuedao and others). And they are all called dadao, i.e. "a great sword with one blade".
      In any case, here is a Song Dynasty shoudao similar to the yanyuedao (it seems to me).
      And here is a figurine of a warrior of the Southern Dynasties with a sword that looks like a shoudao.
      As for Chen An and his sword, I studied all the materials again. There is such a relief of the Sui dynasty, which depicts swords almost as tall as men, i.e. swords 7 chi long.
      In addition, Huangfu Jiang writes about a 2.56 m long Japanese sword, which exists now, belongs to the Tang era and is called "Tang Dadao (Kara tachi 唐大刀)". These were all, of course, ritual swords, and they existed in the 6-9 centuries, and Chen An lived in the 4th century. Therefore, it is quite possible that after all, Chen An had such a ritual sword, and not a glaive. Such a case is known in Europe. Pier Gerlofs Donia (15-16 centuries) a Frisian pirate captured a ritual sword from the German Landsknechts and used it as a battle sword. Today, a great sword that is said to have belonged to Pier is on display at the Fries Museum in Leeuwarden. It measures 2.13 metres (7 ft) in length and weighs about 6.6 kilograms (14.6 lb). Pier was alleged to be so strong that he could bend coins using just his thumb, index and middle finger. Some sources put Pier Gerlofs height at 213 cm (almost seven feet).

    15. 春秋戰國
      I am sorry, this is my post above, I am not yet comfortable with your forum.

    16. No problem. Blogger comment function isn't the most user-friendly one.

      I have already read the article and reconstruction a long time before. It seems like a reasonable speculation, but I can't comment more on that. Many things are/were called Dadao in China, but that doesn't mean that they are all related to each other.

      I should also point out that the Song Dynasty double-edged pole weapon should be called Zhuodao "棹刀",which means "Oar dao" as the weapon has an oar-like shape. The famous Er Lang Dao/San Jian Liang Ren Dao (二郎刀/三尖兩刃刀) is a sub-type of this weapon.

      Also, Modao is mentioned separately elsewhere in Song Dynasty Wujing Zongyao.

      I don't think Chen An was a huge man (he was actually described as small in stature in the ode dedicated to him), which makes his feat all the more impressive. Chen An was also a very competent and ambidextrous horse archer By the way.

    17. I didn't answer for a long time, because I would be busy, sorry.

      [I have already read the article and reconstruction a long time before. It seems like a reasonable speculation, but I can't comment more on that.]

      However, the reconstruction of the author of the article seems to be the most appropriate to the descriptions. Modao were widespread during the Tang Dynasty, and this is a fact. So what did they look like?

      [I should also point out that the Song Dynasty double-edged pole weapon should be called Zhuodao "棹刀",which means "Oar dao" as the weapon has an oar-like shape. The famous Er Lang Dao/San Jian Liang Ren Dao (二郎刀/三尖兩刃刀) is a sub-type of this weapon.]

      This is an interesting version, I did not know about it, but the weapon is still called diaodao 掉 刀, and the verb 掉 also means "swing from side to side", "swing", and this may be a description of the way to use this weapon. And this is similar to the verb 拍 "knock; slap; snap; clap". I agree that there is no complete similarity, but something similar exists.

      [Also, Modao is mentioned separately elsewhere in Song Dynasty Wujing Zongyao.]

      I do not remember if there is a description of modao in Wujing Zongyao and a picture, or is modao only mentioned in this book? As a memory of Tang Dynasty weapons?

      [Dadao in China, but that doesn't mean that they are all related to each other.]

      Unfortunately, I don't think so. For the Chinese, "dadao" is a "big knife", so all these things must be related to each other, it's just that there is a different logic. China does not have its own classification of the entire class of "dao", so we have to offer our own classifications, because we need a classification, right? It seems to me that all "dadao", as a subclass of the "dao" class, can be divided into three groups depending on the length of the handle.

      [Chen An was also a very competent and ambidextrous horse archer By the way.]

      Yes, he not only used dadao and a spear, but also fired a bow. Still, the dadao in this case was a long sword with one blade. In the "Song Shu" of the 4th century, the changdao is mentioned, but since a whole squad of robbers was armed with this weapon, it should be long swords with one blade, but not glaives.
      Thus, the warrior with the naginata is so far the only evidence of the appearance of the glaive in the Han era. I started looking at other reliefs from the Han era, but I could not find anything similar.

    18. @Dezperado
      The reconstruction is reasonable if we go by the records that we have, but I doubt a weapon that heavy and unwieldy could be mass-produced to be used by the ranks and files.

      掉 doesn't mean "swing side to side", it means "drop/fall", or "turn around". It can also mean "to paddle (a boat)" though.

      Wujing Zongyao only mentions Modao in the context of its users' role/position in military formation. It doesn't provide description about the weapon. Not that it also mentions Diaodao in a different formation too, which may imply those are two different weapons.

      I disagree on "Dadao". The term "big knife" is too vague that any dao (or even dao-shaped object) that is sufficiently large and imposing can be called one . If we are to come out with modern classification though, the name Dadao is most associated with the Sino-Japanese war/WWII chopper.

    19. [The reconstruction is reasonable if we go by the records that we have, but I doubt a weapon that heavy and unwieldy could be mass-produced to be used by the ranks and files.]
      I looked at the texts of "Jiu Tang Shu" "Xing Tang Shu" and it says the same thing: 闞棱,齊州臨濟人。善用大刀,長一丈,施兩刃,名為陌刃,每一舉,輒斃數人,前無當者。(卷56/卷092)
      Here the blade is called "modao" and has 2 blades. It is 3 meters long and therefore cannot be a sword. Of all the Chinese glaives, only the diaodao has 2 blades. So, according to the description, modao is very similar to diaodao.
      But you doubt that the reenactor's blade could have been widespread, and I join your opinion.
      [掉 doesn't mean "swing side to side", it means "drop/fall", or "turn around". It can also mean "to paddle (a boat)" though.]
      You are right, diaodao has such mean, but these are the first 3 mean. There is also a 6th mean.
      摇动;摆动:尾大不掉 | 掉臂而去。
      尾大不掉 This means: the tail is too heavy, you can't wave it.
      掉臂而去 This means: walk away waving your arms.
      As for the dadao, it was the Chinese who called the swords with one blade and the glaives and fauchard. It was a generic term, I think.

  6. The Han also seems to have warhammer as well.


    Also there are depiction of Han Dynasty halberd with back spike similar to 15th century European halberd.


  7. Do you know something about this Rotary Knife?


    hile the one in the article is from 19th century, I remember seeing a picture of Japanese polearm that had a blade like that and the caption said that it might be from the Tang Dynasty.

    1. The article is unreliable (read: complete bullsh*t).

      The first two are Southeast Asian "Mak" axes that had been in use since at least 12th century.

      The third sword is probably an Indonesian Pandat/Pandit.

  8. As I already posted in the Shang to Warring States shield article.

    There are also Sanxingdui jades showing polearms.



    1. More of the supposed Sanxingdui jades.

      Ge with spear point


      Pole axe


      Monk spade





    2. I should note that these sanxingdui discs are fakes.

  9. This comment has been removed by the author.

  10. Do we have any information or detail on octagon staves usage of Jin Jurchen?

    1. Octagon staves of Jin Jurchen??

    2. 根据《三朝北盟会编_卷九十九》对女真精锐的记载:以仲熊所亲见黏罕寨有兵五万人,娄宿孛堇寨有兵万人,皆枪为前行,号曰:硬军。人马皆全副甲,腰垂八棱棍棒一条,或刀一口。枪长一丈二尺,刀如中国屠刀,此者骁卫之兵也。


    3. @ssd
      You just make me realise that I've made a serious mistake at my blog post about Lang Ya Bang. I will have to fix it later.

      As for the octagonal staff, it seems like a one-handed weapon given that it's described as hanged from the waist like a sword. It may be the same bat-like weapon depicted in 《文姬歸漢圖》, but I don't have other info.

  11. I think it's misleading to simply address "Mei Jian Dao (眉尖刀)" as Chinese copy of Japanese Naginata(薙刀/剃刀), because Mei Jian Dao already exists in China as early as Song dynasty, it's clearly recorded in Wujing Zongyao(武經總要) with pictures.

    Maybe Ming dynasty military thought Naginata is the same or very identical to Chinese 眉尖刀, so they also called it that way, but it's still better to make some clarifications. Even Japanese also used 眉尖刀 according to their own records.

  12. Hi, I want to ask is Yan Yue Dao or other Chinese glaives have taken any outside influence or direct copy the other weapon outside of China such as Mongol type sword, Persian saber, Korean woldo, etc......?

    1. No.

      Yanyuedao as we know today appeared during Northern Song period (at the latest), well before Mongol conquest, and AFAIK neither the nomads nor Persians used two-handed slashing glaives on horseback.

      Korean woldo is basically a Korean copy of Yanyuedao. It's influenced by Yanyuedao, not the other way around.

    2. Hi, recently I have learn about the Khitan Liao Dao from a Youtuber call Scholar General and saw some of the archeology pictures, fascinating stuff.





      Since we know that curve sword enter China via the Liao dynasty, do you think the Yan Yue Dao and other Chinese glaives design copy or influence by this Khitan Liao Dao?

      Also, some comments from the video and the reddit post mention about this Khitan Liao Dao is also the ancestor of Pudao and Zhanmadao as well, what do you think? Do you think it is possible?

      The comments:

      1: “Interesting weapon. The handle is too short for a Guan Dao, and too long for a Da Dao, so I guess it's the ancestor of the Pu Dao. I was always looking for a style that has a routine for the Pu Dao, but as far as I'm aware, that weapon isn't very common in Kung Fu schools. I don't know much about Southern styles, but it's possible that one of them has a Tao Lu for Pu Dao, but it seems to me it has been superceded by the Guan Dao. The Japanese have a type of sword called the Nagamaki that is similar to a Pu Dao, but even they don't have any styles that I am aware of that teach it's usage. There are likely no styles of Wushu that are extant from the Liao Dynasty, but there may be styles that have some distant connection. There is a style called 少林五形八法 that has a special routine with a mace that is similar to the maces from the Liao, and they also have a Guan Dao routine. Now this style is purportedly from the Ming Dynasty, being developed by Bai Yu Feng, but it's possible that their Guan Dao routine would work very well with this Twin Peak Liao Dao.”

      2: “There are two-handed examples of contemporaneous Song Dynasty swords (Zhanmadao) which may have had influence with the northern Khitan neighbors.”

      Thank you.

    3. @NEWBIE GUY
      I know, the Twin Peaks is an interesting sword recently brought to spotlight due to some swordsmiths decided to replicate it.

      Without precise dating of the original, the question about who influenced who (or if there's any influence at all) is pure speculation and will never has concrete answer. In the first place, Liao and Jin Dynasty occupied the same general area and it is very difficult to determine which dynasty these weapons belong to.

      Now, for one-handed sword, while Liao was the first to start using curved sabre blade, the design spread slowly. Even Jin Dynasty (which overthrew Liao) still used a mix of curved sabre blade and straight blade, and AFAIK curved sabre did not spread to Song until Mongol conquest.

      On the other hand, curved chopping blade like Yan Yue Dao etc. appeared relatively early in Song history (Wu Jing Zong Yao was written in 1040s) and their designs pretty much crystalised (i.e. set in stone and doesn't further evolve very much) and endured through Mongol/Yuan rule. So I think it's more likely the design spread from Song outward.

      The video/reddit commenter doesn't have a dint of idea about the history of podao. Podao originated from agricultural tool used in slash-and-burn farming and wood chopping. In other words, machete. Podao was also contemporaneous, if not predate, Liao Twin Peaks.

      Also, there's literally an entire manual written during Second Sino-Japanese War that teach the techniques of using Dadao with extra long handle, which can be easily found online, and available in English translation.

    4. Hello, I just wanted to stop by here and say that I also find the appearance of the twin peak Liao dao to be very interesting, but full of uncertainty. As you noted, we know very little about this weapon and the context in which it arises. Some fairly reputable museums date the swords to the Liao period, but I have personally read though many archeological journals recording excavations of Khitan tombs in hopes of finding descriptions of this type of weapon but so far nothing has turned up. Though the presence and style of the tunkou may also suggest connection to nomadic groups or it could be that the blade itself dates to a much later time after tunkou became popular on all manner of dao.

      You mention that the origins of the Podao is tied to agricultural tools. Have you seen some strong evidence for this outside of how the term is mentioned in literature such as the Shuihuzhuan.

      Personally, I think we have tantalizing bits of evidence to suggest that very wide bladed dao came from agricultural tools and then became common in the form of the Song dynasty shoudao as well as various polearms such as the yanyuedao. However, it is difficult to say for certain and I am curious what you think about the sudden widening in dao blades which likely occurred sometime in the Tang-Song transition.

    5. @墨將
      Aside from Water Margin (a Ming-era novel), there are records of Song Dynasty government trying several times to impose a ban on the weapon, while other officials argued that the ban was infeasible to its prevalence among the populace as agricultural tool.

      Widening of Song-era blades probably has to do with widespread use of heavier armours among Song's enemies.

  13. was the Song dynasty Ji useful as a weapon, or was it purely ornamental? If its the latter case, then do you know why it evolved to that particular form?

    1. It is a practical weapon. Basically a spear with a (hollow) axe head.

  14. Good day sir. Do you know if the multi-bladed variants of the dagger axes were ceremonial or of practical appilcations? They se functional enough to me with extra chance to hit with the extra dagger tips

    1. I think it's mostly ceremonial. The blades are functional enough, but the weight of mounting 3 blades on the same pole can be substantial.

  15. Hi, I just want to ask some more info about this weapon called Diao Dao (掉 刀) (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Imperial_Encyclopaedia_-_Military_Administration_-_pic319_-_%E6%8E%89%E5%88%80%E5%9C%96.svg)

    Firstly, in which period did the Diao Dao appeared? My rough guess is early Song Dynasty because I also found it's depiction in the Wujing Zongyao (source: https://www.mandarinmansion.com/glossary/yan-yuedao)

    Secondly, what were it relations to the Zhao Dao and Mo Dao. The Diao Dao's blade looked similar enough to that of Zhao Dao except lacking the latter 3 points. As for the Mo Dao, I found a Chinese documentary using a similar design for their Mo Dao reconstruction. ( link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IB3Tbn_JIGM&t=307s )

    And lastly, what is the correct English translation of 掉 刀? I'm not knowledgeable in Chinese and Google Translate gave me "Fall blade", which is kinda confusing. That's all, thank you for your time.

    1. Diao Dao (掉刀) is mostly just an alternate writing (or perhaps typo) for Zhao Dao (棹刀), they are the same weapon. The three-pointed Sanjian Liangren Dao is a sub-type of the weapon.

      Yes it is a Song-era weapon. Relation with Tang-era Modao is unknown.

    2. The translation makes more sense if you use the wood radical (棹) instead of hand radical (掉). Zhao means "oar".

  16. Is the Ge (戈) a part of the Chinese character for State 國 ... what does this indicate I wonder? That the People were all expected to perform military service as well like the ancient Roman Republic or Greek City-State ?? Universal military conscription as a feature of ancient Chinese states as well?

    1. It is said that the character 國 is made of 口 (represent land and/or city wall), and 或 (meaning “nation”), which itself is made of 戈 (weapon) and a smaller 口 (household).


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