Nice set of hudiedao
Overall length

Left 52.2 cm

Right 53.3 cm

Blade length

Left 40.1 cm

Right 40.1 cm

Blade thickness

Left 5, 4, 2 mm

Right 6, 4, 2 mm

(Base, middle, 5cm from tip)

Blade width

Left 59, 50, 38 mm

Right 59.5, 50, 38 mm

(Base, middle, 5cm from tip)

Weight without scabbard

Left 727 grams

Right 744 grams

Point of balance

Left 6.3 cm from guard

Right 6.3 cm from guard

Materials

Iron, steel, bronze, brass, hardwood, leather

Origin

Southern China, probably Guangzhou

Dating

Circa 1850s-1860s

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Introduction

Húdiédāo (蝴蝶刀), are a type of double swords that originated in southern China. They are also known in the local Cantonese dialect as bat jam do (八斬刀) or "eight cutting knives", pronounced bāzhǎndāo in Mandarin. They are strongly associated with southern martial arts like Wing Chun, Choy Li Fut and Hung Kuen.

Their defining feature is a large D-shaped guard with upturned quillon at the back, usually of a copper alloy but sometimes made of iron. They typically have half-hilts that fit in a single scabbard side-by-side and can be drawn as if they were one weapon. The blades are usually quite straight and with a fairly strong taper.

They became very popular in the first decades of the 19th century and remained in use among Chinese triads until at least the 1930s. Two main varieties exist, a thick and narrow type primarily used by the military and a rarer, wider blade variety that was very popular among martial artists.

For more about this type of sword, see my glossary article; Húdiédāo (蝴蝶刀)

 

This set

One of the best sets of this type I have had. It is of the wide-bladed cut-oriented variety that was popular among the martial arts community. I suspect this was because it is easier to diable someone with them without accidentally killing them than with the narrower, pointy type that could deliver deep and dangerous thrusts. Like today, one could get in a lot of trouble for using excessive force.

The blades are in excellent condition with only some very minor spots of pitting here and there. They are currently in a mirror polish but do reveal subtle hints of forge folding and a differential heat treatment along their edge. The effects are difficult to capture in photo, but I tried.

Heat treatment of hudiedao blades

In just the right ligt the blades show the effects of forge folding and a heat treated edge,
creating a temperline like the hamon on a Japanese sword.

 

The hilts are of a classic form, with heavy bronze d-guards, brass ferrules, and grips made of precious hardwood. The guards have a beautiful patina with a silky gloss, future buyer; don't clean them. This takes a long time to build up and gives a beautiful effect that takes decades to come back if removed. Interestingly, the guards show speckles of pure copper particles that did not mix entirely in the alloy, giving that pre-industrial look that you don't get with modern alloys.

The brass ferrules are tastefully executed with facets, creating a frame for the wooden grips that were carved with precision. The decor consists of a geometric border known as stylized "rolling thunder". The inner panel is decorated with what appears to be four heavily stylized bats, with in the center a panerl of interlocking swastikas.

The hidden meaning conveyed within is lots of luck and contunuity, of one's own life, and that of the family bloodline.

The hilts are peened at the pommel end, which is hammered nicely into four facets.

The scabbard is made of pigskin, consisting of one folded piece with a narrow back sewn in. The scabbard mouth is decorated with another layer if leather which is pierced on both sides with two stylized coins, a very popular decorative motif on weapons in in south China which refers to fortune.

 

Markings

The inside of each grip is carved with a character. They are a bit nonstandard in style and execution and were perhaps done by someone who was barely literate, which a large part of the population was at the time. The are probably  (left) and (right) as those are the only two characters that come close, and  is indeed written on the left hand piece. 

Marking the positioning on half hilts like this where it's pretty clear which one is which doesn't seem to make a whole lot of sense, yet, there it is! Why? Your guess is as good as mine.

Markings on hudiedao

 

Condition

In very good condition throughout. Blades with minor scratching from cleaning over time. Blade edges are blunt, probably done by a martial artist who used them purely for practice in a later stage of the set's life, as the heat treatment indicated they were produced initially to be sharp. Both hilts are in as good as a condition as one can expect. The usual signs of wear, a beautiful patina, but no damage. Scabbard has some holes in the leading edge, and some minor loose stitching. Scabbard was very dried out when I got it, but I rejuvinated it with some oil so it is pliable once again.

 

Conclusion

A beautiful set of wide bladed húdiédāo, of better quality and condition than those usually encountered on the market. The quality blades have layering and signs of heat treatment visible in the right light. Both hilts are a notch up from the standard quality, with fine carving and nicely facetted ferrules. 

Very good set of hudiedao aka bazhandao aka bat jam do
Very good set of hudiedao aka bazhandao aka bat jam do
Very good set of hudiedao aka bazhandao aka bat jam do
Very good set of hudiedao aka bazhandao aka bat jam do
Very good set of hudiedao aka bazhandao aka bat jam do
Very good set of hudiedao aka bazhandao aka bat jam do
Very good set of hudiedao aka bazhandao aka bat jam do
Very good set of hudiedao aka bazhandao aka bat jam do
Very good set of hudiedao aka bazhandao aka bat jam do
Very good set of hudiedao aka bazhandao aka bat jam do
Very good set of hudiedao aka bazhandao aka bat jam do
Very good set of hudiedao aka bazhandao aka bat jam do
Very good set of hudiedao aka bazhandao aka bat jam do
Very good set of hudiedao aka bazhandao aka bat jam do
Very good set of hudiedao aka bazhandao aka bat jam do
Very good set of hudiedao aka bazhandao aka bat jam do
Very good set of hudiedao aka bazhandao aka bat jam do
Very good set of hudiedao aka bazhandao aka bat jam do
Very good set of hudiedao aka bazhandao aka bat jam do
Very good set of hudiedao aka bazhandao aka bat jam do
Very good set of hudiedao aka bazhandao aka bat jam do
Very good set of hudiedao aka bazhandao aka bat jam do
Very good set of hudiedao aka bazhandao aka bat jam do
Very good set of hudiedao aka bazhandao aka bat jam do
Very good set of hudiedao aka bazhandao aka bat jam do
Very good set of hudiedao aka bazhandao aka bat jam do
Very good set of hudiedao aka bazhandao aka bat jam do
Very good set of hudiedao aka bazhandao aka bat jam do

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