Chinese Qing Dynasty Dadao. Chinese Executioners Great Sword Circa 1800

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The Qing dynasty was the last imperial dynasty of China. It was established in 1636, and ruled China from 1644 to 1912. The last century of the Qing Dynasty was a time of violence and turmoil.

This Dadao (great sword) dates to the early 19th Century. The Dadao was in use by both civilians and the Chinese military but is probably best known for its role as an executioner’s sabre carried by Qing Dynasty militias and police. Police units patrolled the streets in groups of 4 to 6 officers, one of whom was tasked with executions. Crimes as petty as theft would be punished on the spot with a public beheading.

The 635mm single-edged blade is straight for two-thirds of its length with the slight curve beginning at the centre of percussion – the point of highest impact when delivering a cutting blow. The broad blade is 40mm at the base, flaring to 55mm at the beginning of the curve. The blade has a thick, flat spine with almost no taper until it narrows at the raised, 44mm upper false edge. This is a heavy and brutal chopping blade that has a sharp hatchet point enabling the thrust (giving point). The sabre is superbly balanced (point of balance is 105mm forward of the cross-guard), allowing for single-handed as well as double-handed use.

The forte of the blade is punched on both sides with a pattern of seven dots and the spine is deeply cut with lines and crosses. Below the spine are three narrow fullers that run from the punched dots until the beginning of the curve. The blade is in good condition for its 200 + years of age and service. There are age and use related scratches and marks with patches of shallow pitting and tarnish - more on one side than the other. The blade is still very sharp.

The roughly forged cross-guard has the black-brown patina of old iron as does the ring pommel, an extension of the tang. The sabre has been re-gripped at some point, the wooden hilt being wrapped with a green cotton cord. The 205mm grip allows for double-handed use.

This is an excellent example of a rare Chinese Dadao from the last century of the Qing Dynasty. This great sword may have been in use until as recently as the early 20th century.


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