Language: Mandarin Chinese
Source: 1759 Huangchao Liqi Tushi (皇朝禮器圖式)


Hǔyádāo (虎牙刀) literally means "tiger tooth sword". The weapon appears under that name first in the 1766 Huangchao Liqi Tushi (皇朝禮器圖式), based on a 1759 manuscript. A characteristic of the hǔyádāo is the 1:1 hilt-to-blade ratio. Polearms with those proportions appear in earlier Chinese artwork but do not appear described as hǔyádāo before the Qing.


Departure herald huyadao

Departure herald semi pole arms

Two close ups from the "Departure Herald" showing two varieties of large knives with hafts about as long as their blades.
Jiajing reign period (1522-1566 AD), but showing Xuande emperor who ruled from 1399 -1435).
National Palace Museum, Taiwan.


In the literature

Two texts describe this weapon in detail. The aforementioned Huangchao Liqi Tushi and the Gongbu Junqi Zeli. The latter text was first compiled in the 1790s and updated under Jiaqing in 1812. Usually, when items overlap in the two texts the specs are the same, but with the hǔyádāo there are minor differences between the two.


Huangchao Liqi Tushi - Green Standard Army Hǔyádāo



My translation:

謹按 皇朝定製綠營虎牙刀
According to the regulations of the dynasty; Green Standard Army tiger tooth sword.

Made of forged iron. Shaped like the broad-edged great saber but sharp at the tip

Overall 5 chi 2 cun 2 fen long (approx 182.7 cm)

Blade 2 chi 7 cun long, wide 1 cun 1 fen (94.5 cm / 3.85 cm)

Guard is an iron disc two fen thick (approx 7 mm)

The hilt is as long as the blade,
its circumference is 3 cun 7 fen (approx 13 cm, so 41 mm diameter)

木質朱末, 鐵鐓
The wood lacquered with quality vermillion, iron ferrule


Gongbu Junqi Zeli - Hǔyádāo

Construction of the hǔyádāo

Every hǔyádāo is 5 chi 4 cun 5 fen long (approx 190.75 cm)

The inside edge is 2 chi 7 cun long (approx 94.5 cm)

Inserted steel edge, forge folded [body]

Both sides are polished to make the lines appear

The wooden handle is treated with vermillion red oil

Mounts of fire-lacquered iron finish the construction


The text then continues to specify the exact dimensions of blade and shaft, its construction and how many hours each craftsmen spends on it. It also lists the total, finished weight at around 1440 grams.


Extant examples

If we take the 1:1 hilt-blade ratio as the defining factor of hǔyádāo, a number of antique pieces have turned up that fit the description. They tend to be shorter but heavier than the ones described above, which could be due to an evolution of the weapon itself, or just because the workshops diverged from the standards which happened a lot in Qing China. The regulations were often a wish from the central authority but not strictly followed, especially further from the capital.


Antique huyadao

An antique hǔyádāo for the Southern Chinese Banner Garrissons. 
Marked as belonging to the Han Plain Red Banner.
155 cm long, 2400 grams.

Mandarin Mansion inventory 2023.


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Price on request

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With the swirling arabesque motifs that are typical for this period.


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Very good example with a finely carved warrior scene.