Miao Dao: The Sword that Defeated the Katana
What’s in this article?
The Miao Dao sword, sometimes known as the long saber or the Grain Leaf saber, is a Chinese sword that is a treasured part of the Chinese cultural legacy. It is a weapon that can be used both as a spear and a sword and is often compared to the Japanese Katana.
In this article, we’ll talk about what the Miao Dao looks like and its real traits and characteristics. You will learn how to use it best and if it is a good first sword. You will also learn about the best swords you can buy online. Then we’ll talk about how it was built and its shrouded history.
Characteristics of the Miao Dao
The Miao Dao is a Chinese sword that bears a very close resemblance to the Japanese katana. Let’s discover its characteristics.
Length & Size
The overall length of the Miao sword is around 3.9 to 4.5 feet / 1.2 to 1.4 meters. This makes it a perfect length for a sword that can fight in both close quarters and on open battlefields. It doesn’t feel long when holding the sword, and the balance feels just right.
The Miao Dao will weigh around 2.2 to 2.8 lbs / 1 to 1.3 kg. Although it is heavier than the average type of sword, it does weigh very little, making it a perfect weapon for use in battles or LARP events. The pipe blade added to the blade makes it very light to use.
The blade length of the Miao Dao can be from 2.6 to 3.2 feet / 80 cm to 1 m long. The width of the blade is 0.11 feet / 3.5 cm. The Miao Dao is recognizable by its blade, which makes it seem like a long sword. This long blade is double-edged and able to go through almost any type of armor and steel material.
The spine of the steel blade should have the shape of a spherical pipe, known as a pipe blade, getting thinner at the tip and thicker as it gets closer to the handguard. This shape makes the blade stiff while making it lighter.
The Miao Dao is a saber with a very slight and soft curvature. The curvature starts from the neck (under the guard) of the sword, where the point of balance is, and continues to the tip of the blade. This Japanese-styled curvature delivers more deadly slashing and stabbing strikes than the straight sword.
The handle length of the Miao Dao is 0.8 to 1 foot / 25 to 30 cm. This rather long handle allows the user a much firmer grip as well as the ability to wield it with one or two hands when needed.
The traditional handle of the Miao Dao was generally made with wrapped handles. That is why you can find many modern Miao Dao’s with those types of handles. But if it was mass-produced, you will most likely find a handle made of polished wood. However, the wrapped handle offers a much better grip than a wooden handle.
The guard of the Miao Dao is made in a circular shape. This was the original shape of guards for the Samurai Katana sword. The circular guard does not offer much protection for the hands, but it still provides a very good grip when held with the hand under it.
The scabbard for the Miao Dao is made from wood. It can weigh around 0.66 lbs / 200 to 300 grams, which will make the total weight of the sheathed Miao Dao around 3.3 lbs /1.5kg. It often consists of many brass fittings at the beginning and end, making it look appealing, but it can also be a nuisance.
Usage of the Miao Dao
The Miao Dao has the traits of a broadsword and a spear. It is greatly used in China because it is incredibly light, making attacks fully flexible and extremely quick.
The Miao Dao can be used in combat in various types of scenarios. It is a light weapon but also very long. Because of that, it can reach further if held with one hand around the lower half of the handle while extended to do a stabbing strike.
The curvature helps a lot too. It is primarily used as a slashing weapon but can also be very good in thrusts, mainly because of the big handle.
Martial Arts & LARP
The Miao Dao has been a very popular weapon used in Chinese martial arts since the end of the Ming period. It is still an active sword today in Tai Chi and Kung Fu. This sword plays a critical role in China, especially after 1920.
In modern times, scenarios are re-played with the Chinese general Qi Jiguang who helped China defeat all the Japanese pirates along its coast.
Is it Beginner Friendly?
If you are a beginner in LARP, starting with the Miao Dao as your first Chinese sword is an excellent idea. It is light, long, and easy to strike with. Avoid a razor-sharp Miao Dao, as you might injure yourself. Instead, use one of the many Iaito and wooden swords of this type which are very light and feel extremely good when holding them. Your knowledge about Chinese swords will increase a lot with this one.
Best Miao Dao Swords Available Online
When looking for Miao Dao swords online, pay close attention to the length of the sword. Make sure that it doesn’t exceed 4.5 feet / 1.4 meters, as it can ruin the center of balance and its overall feel.
These are the best recommended Miao Dao swords we’ve come across on the internet.
Best Overall – Chinese Long Miao Dao Saber
The blade material is made of 5160 high-carbon steel. The intricate dragon-head collar is made of brass, and the guard and pommel are made of stainless steel that has been given an antique finish. The large, rounded guard not only protects the hand but also acts as a pivot point for informed techniques when it is close to the leading hand. A tight spiral of leather wraps around the long wooden handle.
The sword comes with a wooden scabbard with a textured lacquer finish, antique stainless steel fittings, and a matching hanging ring.
This battle-ready Miao Dao has an overall length of 55 3/4” / 1.4 meters and weighs around 3 lb 6.2 oz / 1.5 kg.
Best for LARP – Tai Chi Mio Dao Sword
This hand-forged Miao Dao sword is made of 1095 high-carbon steel and is ready for battle. It is made to be perfect for training in Chinese martial arts. The blade is heated, tempered, and cooled in oil to make it as strong and hard as possible.
It is a heavy sword with a hand-sharpened edge that can be used in real life or by collectors and people interested in Chinese history. The sword is good for tai chi, kung fu, wushu, practicing cutting, and displaying. It’s strong enough for bamboo and tameshigiri (test cutting).
It is 40 inches in length / 102 cm and weighs around 1.7637 lbs / 800 g. It is slightly smaller and much lighter, making it perfect for LARP.
Best Budget Sword – Silver Swallow Miao Dao
The Silver Swallow Miao Dao is a strong, long-bladed sword with great cutting power that is also surprisingly agile, quick, and well-balanced for its size.
The blade has a thickened, pipe-back spine that quickly narrows to a long, thin blade profile with a subtle hollow grind. This gives it a strong, durable spine and a thinned cutting plane that makes it easy to cut into and through any target.
It has an overall length of 56 7/8″ / 1.44 m and weighs around 3 lbs 1 oz / 1.4 kg.
Best Premium – Miao Dao with L6 Bainite Blade
This high quality Miao Dao long saber has a blade made of sharp, well-tempered high carbon L6 steel, which accounts for its high price, with a groove on both sides to make it lighter and better balanced.
The deep black lacquered scabbard matches the deep black ribbed handle. The handle is made of wood with a rattan wrap that has been gloss lacquered. The beautiful guard and pommel are made of stainless steel, as are all the other parts.
It has an overall length of 45 3/8″ / 1.15 m, weighs 2 lbs 12.6 oz 1.25 kg, and is sharpened and ready for usage.
Best for Collection – Damascus Steel Miao Dao
This Damascus Steel Miao Dao has a traditional look but is made with a modern build. The blade is heated, tempered, and cooled in oil to make it as strong and hard as possible. The blade is strong, thick, and has a full tang.
It has the exact proportions of a real Miao Dao with the Damascus steel added to it, making it a costly but excellent sword to acquire for any sword enthusiast. It is also battle ready and sharpened for usage.
The total length is 4.5 feet / 1.37 m and weighs approx 2.64 lbs / 1.2 kg.
Construction of the Miao Dao
Crafting a modern Miao Dao sword takes a lot of time and effort. That is why most of the Chinese Miao Dao swords you will find on the market will go for $300 and more! Unfortunately, there are also only a few professional swordsmiths that can make them in the US, which makes them more costly.
The Miao Dao is a full tang sword, meaning that the blade extends the full length, with the handle and the guard added to it much later. The blade is made first from steel which is folded repeatedly over 20 times until it gets to the perfect, slightly curved state. It also has a pipe blade, which is why the sword is so light.
After the repeat forging and tempering comes the quenching. This is when the steel is heated, then rapidly cooled. This process is repeated over and over again. Finally, it is polished.
History of the Miao Dao Sword
The Miao Dao sword has a lot of problems and is shrouded by confusion about its history. Miao Dao means long and narrow. The name also means Sprout Sabre, which refers to the likeliness of a newly sprouted plant. The Miao Dao cannot be found in texts older than the Chinese Republic period (1920s).
The long and narrow Jian, which looks a lot like the Miao Dao, first appeared in China during the Western Han dynasty. It has been around for more than 2,000 years. The Miao Dao sword type has changed significantly over the years. It also carries a different name today than it has in the past. That is why it is safe to say that the Miao Dao’s roots are from very early on.
These types of swords were very difficult to manufacture in ancient times and were, therefore, relatively rare. That’s why they were almost impossible to find during the Song dynasty period.
As for the name and type of sword we now know as the Miao Dao, it came from the Qing dynasty (17th century), right after General Qi Jiguang in the battle against the Japanese pirates.
The Battle vs. Japanese Pirates
During the Ming dynasty, Japanese pirates constantly troubled the people who lived near the coast. The court told Qi Jiguang to get rid of the Japanese pirates, so he led the army in several battles against them. Pirates from Japan used the Japanese Katana swords. This kind of sword was very dangerous, and many of the court’s army lost their lives.
General Qi Jiguang started studying weapons so he could beat the Japanese pirates. He combined ancient Chinese ritual swords with Japanese swords, taking the best parts of each and making a new style – the Miao Dao, which was much stronger than Japanese swords.
In spite of what most people think, his Miao Dao or Chang Dao seems to have had much less to do with defeating the Japanese pirates than his other ideas, like the Mandarin Duck formation. General Qi didn’t want to try and beat the Japanese warriors in a fair fight. Only in martial arts movies does that happen, and rarely in history.
So to sum it up, the type of sword that is the Miao Dao has its roots from very early on in Chinese history. But the real creation of it came from the 16th/17th century and onward. Still, some historians will say that it is a 20th-century creation.
Miao Dao Vs. Japanese Katana
The biggest difference between the Japanese Katana and the Chinese Miao Dao is the handle and blade.
The traditional Miao Dao has a very soft and slightly curved blade. It feels like a straight blade while also having the benefit of attacking from an almost unnoticeable curvature. In contrast, the Katana has a much stronger curve. The blade of the Miao Dao is also slightly longer.
The handle of the Miao Dao is bigger, thicker, and much longer compared to the Katana. This offers the Miao Dao much more leverage when it comes to attacking, almost like a spear, and can also be a very powerful stabbing weapon. The Katana is primarily used for slashing.
Some sword enthusiasts will argue that the Katana is the strongest sword in the world, while others will argue that the Katana has already been beaten by the Miao Dao, making the Chinese sword the strongest.
The Miao Dao plays a very big role in the nationalism of China. It is a sword that continued to evolve from the very early days of China and has grown to be the sword it is today. The biggest triumph for it was the victorious battle over the Japanese pirates who wielded the Katana.