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General info. on chinese warfare

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Dawn View Drop Down


Joined: 02-Aug-2004
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    Posted: 28-Aug-2004 at 11:58

Repost from old forum

General info. on chinese warfare

by warhead


Chinese warfare is divided into different periods, most chinese armies emphasize firepower rather than shock. Cavalry are different for they are used to fight nomads and expand weswards. The Chinese long had the idea of dividing army into smaller forces, each composed of different arms in proportion This was considered a great innovation in the eithteenth century europe but was standard chinese practice as far back as separate arms can be traced.



Zhou dynasty army

In western zhou(1122?_771) the warchariot carrying an archer of noble birth was the basic military unit. Warfare is coded by honour like feudal europe and japan. The Zhou king controlled a large standing army and could also summon troops of feudal lords through a system of beacon towers. Each chariot was supported by a platoon of 25 infantry divided into 5 squads. Companies of 4 chariot were then organized by multiples of five into brigades(yu) of 500 men. Then into divisions(shi) of 2500 men, and then into armies(jun) of 12,500 men

(all multiples of fives). This specific pattern of organization has been repeatly revived.

The late warring state warfare changed, its no longer a battle of honour, but effectiveness, the state of zhao developed cavalry from nomads, and the state of qinbased its military system on conscription and its social system on noble ranks achieved only through war or agriculture. This policy along with cavalries made qin the strongest of the seven states.


Han dynasty army

During the han, conscription continued, soldiers are required to train for 1 year and serve for another, then they will be dismissed and recalled when necessary, they will then be calssified as infantry, cavalry, or sailor according to their skill. Most of the soldiers serve under commandery governors, who thus have military and civil authority as well. Some of the conscriptions serve in the imperial capital, which also holds a large professional army. Others were served to defend the great wall. When a large expedition is taken, one or more leaders will be commisioned as general. Large campains often consists of professional soldiers drawn from the garrisons in the west and the capital. Under the emperor there were six supreme generals guarding the military.

Most of han dynasty soldiers fought as spear bearing infantry, but han tactics unlike the greek phalanx and legion did not emphasize shock. Rather the spearmen is to provide a defense behind which archers and crossbow men destroy their opponent. by fire. Later professional cavalry was adopted to fight the xiongnu in the north.The success of the han dynasty is probably due to its near universal incidence of conscription system and pervasiveness of military skill and value of governing class.


Sui and Tang dynasty army


During the sui, a full professional army was adopted. This is called the fubing system. In which 600,000 soldiers were placed under 600 battalion level headquarters (fu) to farm. They perform active service at the capital for 2 months out of every 18, or more frequently depending on the distance from teh capital.

Approximately 50,000 fubing soldiers on duty any one time were under twelve guard(wei) headquarters.

The fubing is very similar to the byzantine theme system.

Durign the tang the fubing system continued, and like the han, the tang capital garrison included a heavy professional cavalry force called the northern barracks.

Tang general li ling's army organization is as followed:

In a army of 20,000 some 6000 would guard the baggage trains, the 14,000 effectives would be divided into a center with 2,800 men and 6 flanking divisions. The 6 flanking divisions had smaller men but arms in proportion, the center has 1,000 cavalry, 400 archers, 4 hundred crossbow men, 500 skirmishers, 500 heavy infnatry. All five arms were organized into platoons of 50 men each. Many chinese armies are adopted this way, and as you can see the weapons and arms are divided in proportion.

During the the early 700s the army became a full time professional force settled in the wall, this number grew to 490,000 strong. (decreased a little under taizhong)

However this led to the division and powerful warlords. Such as an lu shan.

Song dynasty armies

Song army's quality have declined, the officers had low wages compared to civil officials, and the song valued control over efficiency of the army. so they shuffled the personnel of individual units, drawn off the best to form new elite units. This greatly effected the effectiveness of the army. song troops rose from 378000 men at the begging to over 1,250,000 in the 1040s, but the quality of the troops did not increase. After driving south by the jin, the empire developed strong navies that dominated the east china sea. and built fortifications and siege crafts thats probably the most advanced for its days, yet the quality of the troops still did not increase.

Yuan dynasty army

The yuan dynasty troops blended the mongol cavalry with the song technology and made it a powerful fighting force. The yuan still used the decimal organization adopted by mongols and added infantry and naval units to their forces, but they imposed decimal organization and hereditary recruitment of officers throughout.

Ming dynasty army

The ming adopted the wei suo organization, under this system officer ranks were made heriditary. The soldiers were divided into guards(wei, 5,600men) subdivided into batallions(suo, 1,190 men). By 1393 there were 326 guards and 65 independent batallions making it nearly 1,900,000 men army. Ming navy also dominated the eastern ocean, under yongole ming made extensive use of cannon and other firearms, after invading vietnam, the ming set up department for firearm training in beijing using viet instructors.

Qi Ji guan and the madarin duck formation

The great general qi ji guan developed a tactic to fight the japanese pirates,

on land he made a force of 12 men units; 2 shield carriers, 2 long bamboo lancers, 2 short bamboo lancers, swordsmen, archers, a cook, and a commander.

If the commander dies in battle the rest was put to death, so all the unit has to do everything it can to protect the commander. The bamboo lances are used to trap the swords of the japanese and the other lancers will chop the samurai into pieces. The shields men are used to stop japanese long bow arrows.

4 of this twelve men unit makes up a platoon, and 4 platoons make up a campany, and 3 campanies make up a batallion. Each company is accompanied by musketiers, and each batallion include cannons.

This organization was effective and drove the japanese pirates out of land.

On ocean qi ji guan adopted a encirclement of spikes to prevent the samurais climbing on board, however this was never used, for naval battles was few. However the great korean admiral yi sun shin later learned and used this tactic and proven effective.


Qing dynasty army


I have already explained much in the manchurian army section, so i will just add a few more details, the eight banner system in the south is called the green standard armies composed mainly of han chinese conquering the south and using artillery and navy. Those that conquered turkestan are manchurian banner units with mongol and han chinese units as well.

During the rein of kang xi, firearm batallions were developted, infantries carried muskets and cannons apeared, accompanied by cavalry and foot soldiers. Armours were lighter during this period. And heavy crossbow fell out of use. repeated firing crossbows however remained in use in navy and is still used until teh sino japanese war. The firearms and mobility of the troops enabled the qing armies to defeat the tussians and the mongols.

Edited by Dawn
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