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.
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
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)
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.
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.
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.