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Zhanmadao (斬馬刀)
A zhanmadao "horse butchering dao" from a Qing dynasty illustration, 1766
Type Infantry anti-cavalry saber
Place of origin Han dynasty, China
Production history
Variants Possible changdao, miaodao, wodao, zanbatō
Length Approx 200+ cm
Blade length Approx 150+ cm

Blade type Single edged, straight for most of the length, curving in the last third.
Hilt type Two handed
File:Zhan ma dao.jpg

Ming dynasty illustration of a zhanmadao on the left

File:Qing zhanmadao.png

Qing dynasty zhanmadao

File:Zhan ma jian.jpg

Qing dynasty zhanmajian, the straight double edged version of the zhanmadao

The zhanmadao (Chinese: 斬馬刀; pinyin: zhǎnmǎdāo; literally: "horse chopping saber") was a single-bladed anti-cavalry Chinese sword. It originated during the Han Dynasty (206 BC – 220 AD) and was especially common in Song China (960–1279).

General characteristics[edit | edit source]

The zhanmadao is a sabre with a single long broad blade, and a long handle suitable for two-handed use. It was used as an anti-cavalry weapon, dating from Emperor Cheng of Han, made to slice through a horse's legs.[1] This is mentioned in the "Wu Jing Zong Yao" a Song Military Manual from 1072.[2] It featured prominently against the Jin armies in campaigns between 1129 and 1141.[3]

There was also an earlier weapon called the zhanmajian "horse beheading jian" that existed during the Han dynasty, so called because it was supposedly able to cut off a horse's head.[4] However, another source says that it was an execution tool used on special occasions rather than a military weapon.[5]

Surviving examples include a sword that might resemble a nagamaki in construction; it had a wrapped handle 37 centimetres long making it easy to grip with two hands. The blade was 114 centimetres long and very straight with a slight curve in the last half.

Similar weapons[edit | edit source]

Possible variations of these Chinese swords were the changdao, miaodao, and wodao. The sword may have been the inspiration for the Japanese zanbatō; both are written with the same characters and have been said to have been used for killing the horse and rider in one swing.[6]

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

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