This is a guide to the different blade weapons and weapons terminology mentioned in the novel, Bestial Blade by Priest. I think it can be used for Chinese blade weapons in general though; however, I will prioritize matching the definitions as they appear in the novel over real-life accuracy.
I don’t know anything about weaponry, much less ancient Chinese weaponry, so I had to do a lot of research and consult other translators to be able to compile all the information here. Still, there may be some mistakes in this guide. If you find any, feel free to contact me about it.
Note: Terms are listed, not alphabetically, but by the order of which I think the readers should learn first, so make sure to read from the beginning to the end!
The Dao and the Jian
In Bestial Blade, two types of weapons are mentioned a lot—Dao (刀) and Jian (剑).
“Dao” literally translates as just blade/knife. It can be used as a general term for any bladed weapon. In my translations, Dao is mostly translated as “blade,” but sometimes, “saber.” It has a single edge and a curved blade . The most common form is also known as the Chinese saber (马刀), although those with wider blades are sometimes referred to as Chinese broadswords (大刀).
The Jian, on the other hand, features double edge and a straight blade . In Chinese folklore, it is known as “The Gentleman of Weapons” and is considered one of the four major weapons (the Dao is also one of the 4 major weapons). In my translations, jian is mostly translated as sword
Parts of a Dao
Since the main character in Bestial Blade uses a Dao, I’ve included this little table on its parts. I won’t be doing the same for the Jian
|Part||Characters & Pinyin||Definition|
|Blade body||刀身 (dāoshēn)||The main part of the blade, excluding the hilt|
|Tip||刀尖 (dāojiān)||Do I need to explain this? It’s the pointy end|
|Edge||刀刃 / 刀口 (dāorèn / dāokǒu)||The sharp side of the blade used for cutting.|
|Spine||刀背 (dāobèi)||The spine is the thickest part of the blade body, and provides strength to the edge. As a rule, the thicker the spine, the stronger the blade. Spine thickness is also important because it effects the balance of the knife (source)|
|Handle||柄 (bǐng)||This is the part you hold. It is sometimes called the grip, but it’s not. Moreover, do not confuse this with hilt (like I once did). The hilt is everything that is not the blade–a combination of the pommel, handle, and guard.|
Types of Weapons
Now, before you read, here’s a piece of advice: Don’t get too confused with the terms “sword” and “saber.” Throughout this article, you’ll often see them interchangeable, but in Chinese, they are mainly translated from either 刀 (dao) or 剑 (jian). All these Chinese blade weapons are either a dao or a jian, but when translated to English, they get mixed up as “sword” or “saber.” For now, just remove all your preconceived ideas about what a sword or saber should look like. Treat them as just convenient English terms to refer to them, but they don’t necessarily define them.
Characters: 刀子 | Pinyin: dāozi
Technically, a knife is a general term for any tool with a cutting edge or blade often attached to a handle or hilt. Therefore, daggers and swords are also considered as knives. However, 刀子 in Chinese just usually refers to an ordinary kitchen knife.
Characters: 刀片 | Pinyin: dāopiàn
Think: Attack on Titan’s 3D Maneuver Gear. Like the blade in a cutter.
Small Blade / Pocketknife
Characters: 小刀 | Pinyin: xiǎodāo
Its length is usually no more than an adult’s hand.
In Chapter 28, Priest described the dagger as a 小刀… but to avoid confusion, I translated it as a small blade.
Short Blade / Short Saber
Characters: 短刀 | Pinyin: duǎndāo
The short saber is a smaller version of a saber that allows for fast, light, single handed use in combat. The small size of this weapon makes it ideal for smaller people and fast, light, fighting styles. (source)
Long Blade / Long Saber
Characters: 长刀 | Pinyin: chángdāo
A long two-handed, single-edged sword that measures usually 5 feet in length with a 14 inch handle and 44 inch blade. This powerful sword was first used around the seventh century by the Tang Dynasties elite vanguard infantry units, the best and most highly trained warriors of the empire. These swords became the symbol of these elite units who often led the assault. (source)
Large Blade / Great Saber / Broadsword
Characters: 大刀 | Pinyin: dàdāo
Based on agricultural knives, dadao have broad blades generally between two and three feet long, long hilts meant for “hand and a half” or two-handed use, and generally a weight-forward balance. Some were made for military use, but they were most commonly associated with civilian militias or revolutionaries. While not a particularly sophisticated sword, the weight and balance of the dadao gave it considerable slashing and chopping power, making it an effective close combat weapon for untrained troops. (source)
The Saber / Cavalry Sword
Characters: 马刀 | Pinyin: mǎdāo
The saber has a wide spine and a thin edge, and its blade body is quite heavy, increasing the force when chopping. (source)
I’m italicizing that “The” in the title to emphasize that this is the actual weapon being referred to as “saber” throughout the novel.
Characters: 斬馬刀 | Pinyin: zhǎnmǎdāo
It features a single-edged, curved blade, and was primarily used for chopping-style attacks and defensive maneuvers. (source)
It dates back to the early 200’s and earns its name from killing horses on the battlefield. It’s a two-handed, single-edged weapon that measures five feet in length. 14″ Handle 44″ Blade. (source)
Characters: 匕首 | Pinyin: bǐshǒu
Characters: 弯刀 | Pinyin: wāndāo
A short sword with a curved blade that broadens toward the point, used originally in Eastern countries. It’s synonymous to machete.
Characters: 尖刀 | Pinyin: jiāndāo
The characters literally mean pointed/sharp blade. I actually don’t have a proper English translation for this yet, so I just used the pinyin. Chinese dictionaries would translate it to dagger, but I disagree. It can also be long or short.
Characters: 刀剑 or just 剑 | Pinyin: dāojiàn or just jiàn
The typical thing that comes to your mind when you see the word “sword.”
Characters: 长剑 | Pinyin: chángjiàn
I honestly don’t know how to describe this. But it’s a jian, and it’s long. It was mentioned once in Chapter 55.
Character: 戟 | Pinyin: jǐ
A long handled weapon with pointed tip and crescent blade
Characters: 劈柴的斧头 | Pinyin: Pǐchái de fǔtóu