The use of long swords wax and waned throughout Chinese history. While it never regained a dominance in the later dynasties, the use of twohanded swords and other weapons saw a resurgence during the late Ming period. These weapons included both single and double edged swords, and weapons such as the long handled axe. There was even an interest amongst the scholar class in the long sword, which was quite unusual. Exactly why there was this surge of interest in long swords and saber is not recorded. It was a period when the empire was under attack from the south by pirates, mostly of native Chinese origin with the aid of some Japanese, and in the north by Mongols and later Manchus. The Mongols were famously an entirely mounted, mobile army. And while the Manchu Banners made use of infantry, they also had a large, strong mounted contingent. It is likely that military strategists facing these mounted foes took a lesson from their Song predecessors and decided to arm some of their men with long weapons in place of the standard saber and shield combination.
Arming infantry with long two-handed Sabers and other similar weapons has several advantages, particularly when facing a mounted enemy. The first is quite obvious, reach. Simply put, a soldier armed with a typical Chinese Dao (saber) with a 28” blade just couldn’t reach a mounted opponent well enough to deliver an effective blow. He could cut at a rider’s leg, but in doing so, opens his head and upper body to attack. Being wielded by both hands, two-handed weapons are also more stable. They can not only strike with greater power than single handed weapons, they are stronger in deflections. This provides a foot soldier with a bit more protection and confidence when facing a mounted opponent. Many soldiers and local militiamen during this period had until recently been farmers, or fishermen. They weren’t professionally trained in arms since a young age. These men were used to tools like hoes, axes, shovels, all of which have long handles. So the transition to swinging a long two-handed weapon would have been a somewhat natural evolution for them. And again, there is a kind of confidence that a beginner swordsman can get from being able to hit hard if nothing else. So one can easily imagine the appeal of these long weapons for new recruits.