When you watch many Chinese movies like Red Cliff that are set on historical settings, you get to wonder about the accuracy of the melee weapons and martial arts being portrayed. There are attempts in many recent high budget "spectacle" movies to at least get the swords and polearms right, but again, movie makers often take too many liberties to satisfy audience preconceptions. Myth No. 1 The kind of Kung Fu swordsmanship using Jians (straight swords) most often see in movies and Kung Fu tournaments and demonstrations, are fairly modern and is very unlikely used in ancient Chinese arms combat. So is the kind of straight, fencing Jian you often see. For practical purposes I like to call them Kung Fu jians. Myth No. 2 Equally mythical is the Kung Fu broadsword, those thick curved swords. Broadswords of this nature never really appeared in Chinese history till the last century of the Ching Dynasty, often used by revolutionaries. Myth No. 3 Guan Yu bears this long pole arm with the long curved blade. This is made famous in Peking Opera, plays, illustrations, carvings and statues of Guan Yu in art and temples. Now its even made more legendary in movies and video games. It is often referred to as the Green Crescent Dragon blade. Ths kind of polearm, similar to a halberd and known as the Guandao in honor of Guan Yu, is a lot more common in the Ming Dynasty, when the Romance of the Three Kingdoms was written, as opposed to the real weapons of the actual Three Kingdoms era. It is likely the historical Guan Yu would be swinging a more ordinary dao or ge (dagger axe) as opposed to a Guandao. Fact no. 1 Up to the time of the early Han Dynasty, the main sword is the bronze laminar Jian. Again, you just have to look at the museums to see what they're like. As metallurgy improved, jians increased their length, so the earliest swords tend to look more like long daggers. Fact. no. 2 The main melee weapon of ancient and dynastic Chinese armies is the Ge or dagger axe. Its easy to find picture of this, but for reference sake, it bear a stronger resemblance to a pick. The use of the Ge started ebbing away from the late Han Dynasty on and it becomes less and less of a fixture with Chinese armies. The Ge remained part of the 18 legendary Chinese weapons though. Fact. no. 3 From the Han Dynasty on, and straight into the Tang Dynasty, the iron Dao gradually took over from the bronze Jian. These are straight single edged swords that are direct ancestors to Japanese To (Nihonto, To being the same kanji as Dao). So are the means of making them, using sandwiched laminar techniques. The main difference between Chinese Dao and Japanese To is that Chinese prefer them straight, while Japanese allow them to curve while curing, and that Chinese prefer to keep a ring pommel at the end of the handle. Also for aesthetic reasons, Japanese swords are generally the same diameter in their handle and blade, but over time, Chinese dao developed thicker blades than their handles. Fact no. 4 Around the time of the Sung, horse choppers were being introduced. Seen many names associated with them, Dadao, Pudao, but the best of all, Zhammadao as in Horse Cutting Dao. When pronounced in Japanese, these characters form the word Zambato, where they became an anime fixture of late. But the general idea is a long heavy blade with a long handle. The official spec for a Zhammadao is about four feet, three feet for the blade and one feet for the handle. But it later evolved to other dao forms where the ratio of handle to blade increased to 1:1, and further until it shifts where majority of the length goes to the handle. When handle length surpasses blade length in ratio past 1:1, technically the weapon is no longer a sword but a polearm. Around the time of the Ming, dao polearms became common. This is probably where the Guandao legend formed. Fact no. 5. Around the time of the Mongols, the saber was introduced. What's the difference between a saber from other swords? A good example of the saber is the official US Marines sword. The design is basically of Middle Eastern origin, and where introduced to China from the Middle East. There were many different sabers in Chinese hands, such as the Goose Quill and Willow Leaf daos. Such daos are commonly practiced with Kung Fu today and are essentially far more common during the Ching Dynasty than the scimitar or Chinese broadswords. Basically for every Chinese dynastic time period, certain weapons and designs are prevalent. If a movie tells a drama based on the Qin Dynasty, expect to see the straight Jian with a metal handle and various artwork on the blade itself. A movie set on the Tang Dynasty, should have swords that resemble Japanese Katana, except its all straight with rings on the end of the handles. A movie set on the Ming Dynasty, likely to have polearms, with the dao blades on the end. Not commonly seen, Chinese kung fu broadswords, sometimes referred to as oxtail dao, only prevalent during revolution against Ching, and most especially not seen are opera, Kung Fu or Tai Chi jians, which are actually the most prevalent image of the Chinese swords and swordsmanship.