Hudiedao Double “River Pirate” Swords (China)

Code: CH1

This is a very interesting pair of Chinese hudiedao  蝴蝶刀, known as “River Pirate” swords.  River piracy along the Yangtze River was rampant in the 19th century. The coasts of both Guangdong and Fujian province were literally covered in pirates in the 1840s. Pirates battled the military for nearly a century. These swords without guards can be instantly reversed in the hand and used with the back edge to subdue an opponent without lethal cuts.   The lack of a hand guard distinguishes the ‘river pirate” type from other hudiedao.  The hudiedao were widespread by the 1860’s.

There are many varieties of hudiedao swords.  This particular variety is thought to be derived from maritime boarding knives. These are fighting swords, symmetrically built and housed together in one leather scabbard. They are perfectly suited to close quarters fighting and capable of penetrating a sailor’s thick outwear or slitting a throat. Both have very thick and stiff pattern-welded blades of a very distinctive form and quite a substantial strength, retaining sharp edges and showing considerable aged patina. These blades have thick wedge shaped blades with a broad waist and diamond shape near the hilt. The grips are old wood or possibly horn, and all brass mounts show heavy patina and wonderful multi-sided graining to the guards and pommels. The faceted heavy brass pommel provides the knives with excellent balance in the hand. The leather scabbard is whole but in relatively poor condition compared to the knives. The overall length of each knife is 14 ¼ inches and each blade is 10 ¼ inches. Both knives house in the scabbard measuring 14 ¾ inches.  This type of double hudiedao is very rarely found.

Some very interesting history of the hudiedao sword can be found here.