|Chinese Dao sword,
wushu-acrobatics variety not used for combat
Dao is a category of single-edge Chinese sword primarily used for slashing and chopping (sabers), often called a broadsword in English translation because some varieties have wide blades. In China, the dao is known as one of the four major weapons, along with the gun (stick or staff), qiang (spear), and the jian (sword), and referred to as "The General of All Weapons". Dao is actually a generic word used to denote any member of a family of single-edged, broad-bladed cutting or slicing tools, but in common, everyday usage means knife. The weapon, also known as dan dao (單刀, "single knife") when just one is used, is thereby thought to be an adaptation of the kitchen knives common to Chinese cuisine. Dao also appears in the names of such polearms as the pudao and guan dao, due to the knife-like shape of their blades.
General characteristics 
While dao have varied greatly over the centuries, most single-handed dao of the Ming period and later, and the modern swords that are based (sometimes loosely) on them share a number of characteristics. Dao blades are moderately curved and single-edged, though often with few inches of the back edge sharpened as well; the moderate curve allows them to be reasonably effective in the thrust. Hilts are sometimes canted, curving in the opposite direction as the blade which improves handling in some forms of cuts and thrusts. Cord is usually wrapped over the wood of the handle. Hilts may also be pierced like those of jian (straight-bladed Chinese sword) for the addition of lanyards, though modern swords for performances will often have tassels or scarves instead. Guards are typically disc-shaped often with a cupped shape to prevent rainwater from getting into the sheath, and to prevent blood from dripping down to the handle, making it more difficult to grip. Sometimes guards are thinner pieces of metal with an s-curve, the lower limb of the curve protecting the user's knuckles; very rarely they may have guards like those of the jian.
Early history 
The earliest dao date from the Shang Dynasty in China's Bronze Age, and are known as zhibei dao (直背刀) - straight backed knives. As the name implies, these were straight-bladed or slightly curved weapons with a single edge. Originally bronze, these weapons were made of iron or steel by the time of the late Warring States period as metallurgical knowledge became sufficiently advanced to control the carbon content. It is also speculated that iron swords existed before this time, but were simply not preserved. Originally less common as a military weapon than the jian - the straight, double-edged blade of China - the dao became popular with cavalry during the Han dynasty due to its sturdiness, superiority as a chopping weapon, and relative ease of use - it was generally said that it takes a week to attain competence with a dao/saber, a month to attain competence with a qiang/spear, and a year to attain competence with a jian/straight sword. Soon after dao began to be issued to infantry, beginning the replacement of the jian as a standard-issue weapon.
During the Tang Dynasty, dao were exported to both Korea and Japan, influencing the swordsmithing of both nations. The blades of Tang era dao are reminiscent of the Japanese chokuto or the popular image of the perhaps-mythical ninjato.
During the Song Dynasty, one form of infantry dao was the shoudao, a chopping weapon with a clip point. While some illustrations show them as straight, the 11th century Song military encyclopedia Wujing Zongyao depicts them with curved blades - possibly an influence from the steppe tribes of Central Asia, who would conquer parts of China during the Song period. Also dating from the Song are the falchion-like dadao, the long, two-handed zhanmadao, and the long-handled, similarly two-handed buzhandao (步战刀).
Recent history 
Some of the blades from the Qing Dynasty lived on and even had descendants see military action in the 20th century. The dadao was used by some Chinese militia units against Japanese invaders in the Second Sino-Japanese War, as was the miao dao, a descendant of the changdao. These were used during planned ambushes on Japanese troops because the Chinese military and patriotic resistance groups often had a shortage of firearms.
Most Chinese martial arts schools still train extensively with the dao, seeing it as a powerful conditioning tool and a versatile weapon, with self defense techniques transferable to similarly sized objects more commonly found in the modern world, such as canes, baseball or cricket bats, for example. There are also schools that teach double broadsword shuang dao 雙刀, forms and fencing, one dao for each hand.
One measure of the proper length of the sword should be from the hilt in your hand and the tip of the blade at the brow and in some schools, the height of shoulder. Alternatively, the length of the sword should be from the middle of the throat along the length of the outstretched arm. There are also significantly larger versions of dao used for training in some Baguazhang and Taijiquan schools.
See also 
- Tom 2001, p. 207
- Graff 2002, p.41
- Grancsay 1930, p.194
- Tom 2005, p. 84
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- Graff, David A. (2002). Medieval Chinese Warfare, 300-900. London: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-23955-9.
- Grancsay, Stephen (1930). "Two Chinese Swords". The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, Vol. 25, No. 9, pp. 194–196
- Hanson, Chris. "The Mongol Siege of Xiangyang". Retrieved 6 September 2009.
- Tom, Philip M. W. (2001). "Some Notable Sabers of the Qing Dynasty at the Metropolitan Museum of Art". Metropolitan Museum Journal, Vol. 36, pp. 11 + 207-222
- Tom, Philip with Scott M. Rodell (February 2005). "An Introduction to Chinese Single-Edged Hilt Weapons (Dao) and Their Use in the Ming and Qing Dynasties". Kung Fu Tai Chi, pp. 76–85
- Werner, E. T. C. (1989). Chinese Weapons. Singapore: Graham Brash. ISBN 9971-4-9116-8.