1. Global overview

The following list is an overview of Chinese saber terminology as found in two 18th century Chinese dictionaries and a book on arms manufacture of the early 19th century.1

Saber overview





Pinyin transliteration


(Waist-worn) saber



1 Grip 刀把 dāobǎ
2 Pommel 刀把頂束 dāobǎ dǐngshù
3 Ferrule 刀把束 dāobǎ shù
4 Guard 刀護手 dāo hūshǒu
5 Collarpiece 刀吞口 dāo tūnkǒu
6 Groove 刀槽 dāo cáo
7 Blade / edge 刀刃 dāo rèn
8 Back of blade 刀背 dāo bèi
9 Point 刀鋒 dāo fēng
10 Scabbard 刀鞘 dāoqiào
11 Scabbard mouthpiece 刀鞘底束 dāoqiào dǐshù
12 Suspension bands 刀鞘中束 dāoqiào zhōngshù
13 Suspension bar 刀束樑 / 鞘上雙眼束           dāo shù liáng / qiàoshàng shuāngyǎn shù
14 Scabbard endpiece 刀鞘底束 dāoqiào dǐshù


  Saber tang 釘刀根鐵 dīngdāo gēntiě
  Saber scabbard fittings 刀鞘束 dāoqiào shù
  Saber lanyard 腰刀繫子 yāodāo xìzi
  Saber edge is collapsed 刀刃崩 dāo rèn bēng
  Saber edge has rolled up 刀刃卷 dāo rèn juǎn
  Rusty saber surface 刀上鏥 dāo shàng xiù
  Patterned saber surface 刀上斑 dāo shàng bān
  To chop with a saber 刀砍 dāo kǎn
  Strike with back of saber 刀背砍 dāo bèi kǎn
  To carry a saber 帶刀 dài dāo
  To pull the saber 拔刀 bá dāo
  To insert the saber 挿刀 chā/zhǎ dāo
  To shed the scabbard2 脫鞘 tuō qiào


1. Terms are taken from the Tongwen Guanghui Quanshu (同文廣彙全書) or "Enlarged and complete dictionary", Qing imperial dictionary in Chinese and Manchu of 1702, each entry double checked and approved by the Kangxi emperor, and: Wuti Qingwen Jian (五體清文鑑)or "Five languages compendium", a Qing imperial dictionary in Manchu, Mongolian, Uighur, Tibetan and Chinese of 1766. Published under the Qianlong emperor.
2. Chinese sabers were suspended from the belt by means of a belt-hook so the scabbard could be easily cast aside when the saber was drawn. This practice of "shedding the scabbard" is probably why all saber forms in Chinese martial arts start with the saber already out of the scabbard.

2. Overview per source

Chinese saber terminology overview of 1702

Tongwen Guanghui Quanshu (同文廣彙全書) or "Enlarged and complete dictionary" of 1702. A Qing imperial dictionary in Chinese and Manchu, each entry double-checked and approved by the Kangxi emperor.

Saber terms of the WTQWJ 1766

Wuti Qingwen Jian (五體清文鑑) or "Five languages compendium", a Qing imperial dictionary in Manchu, Mongolian, Uighur, Tibetan, and Chinese of 1766. Published under the Qianlong emperor.

Saber terms 1815

Qinding Gongbu Junqi Zeli (欽定工部軍器則例) or "Imperial regulations and precedents on weapons and military equipment by the Ministry of Public Works", 1813. Chapter 36.


The above overviews show that there was considerable variation in terminology used from source to source, while some terms like tūnkǒu tend to stay the same. There were probably many more terms for each of the various parts, with regional variations between provinces and even between towns, or workshops within the same town.

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Presented by the local Dai nobility to a British customs officer in 1936.


With designs of four dragons in scrollwork around a "wish-granting-jewel"


Chiseled with a rare type of decor on the base, and with two Islamic inscriptions.


A rather well-made example of its type.


Description A rather unusual Vi


Of a type also issued to the Qing Vanguard.

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