Type Infantry Anti-Cavalry Saber
Place of origin Han Dynasty, China
Production history
Variants Possible Changdao Miao dao Wodao Zanbato
Length Approx 150 cm
Blade length Approx 120 cm

Blade type Single edged, straight for most of the length, curving in the last third.
Hilt type Two handed

The zhanmadao (Chinese: 斬馬刀; pinyin: zhǎn mǎ dāo; literally "horse chopping saber") was a single-bladed anti-cavalry Chinese sword of the Song Dynasty.


General characteristics

The zhanmadao is a sabre with a single long broad blade, and a long handle suitable for two-handed use.

It was used as an anti-cavalry weapon, dating from Emperor Cheng of Han. This is mentioned in the "Wu Jing Zong Yao Song Military Manual" from 1072.[1]

Surviving examples include a sword that might resemble a nagamaki in construction; it had a wrapped handle 37 centimetres long making it easy to grip with two hands. The blade was 114 centimetres long and very straight with a slight curve in the last half.

Similar weapons

Possible variations of these Chinese swords were the changdao, miao dao, and wodao.

The sword may have been the inspiration for the Japanese Zanbatō as both are written with the same characters, and have been said to have been used for killing the horse and rider in one swing.

In the Western world, swords of an equivalent size such as the Zweihänder may have been used to batter into formations of pikemen or to cut out the front legs of a galloping horse–though the historical accuracy of this information is also a matter of debate.

See also