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About Ming General Qi Jiguang

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    Posted: 28-Aug-2004 at 12:03

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About Ming General Qi Jiguang isplay&num=1077262531

By ThomasChen


I would like to give interested forumites here a brief intro and summary about the typical Chinese infantry unit during the 2nd_half of the 16th century, known as the "Mandarin Duck" squad. This formation, an innovation at the time, was devised by Ming General Qi Jiguang, who had used it to successfully defeat Japanese pirates (equipped with 1.95 meters long (almost 80 inches) nodachi, spears etc.) raiding the Chinese south_eastern coast.

It had consisted of a unit of 11 combat personnel and 1 non_combat personnel:

1) 1 squad leader (with the squad flag)

2) 2 men with sabers and rattan shields

3) 2 men with multiple tip bamboo spears

4) 4 men with long spears

5) 2 men with tridents

6) 1 cook/porter (logistical personnel)

Below is a pic showing the "Mandarin Duck" squad in three types of formations, which were correspondingly deployed depending on the tactical situation and the terrain. 9111


This squad was drilled in coordinated and mutually_supportive fighting with clearly defined roles for everyone. In a smallest fighting unit of 5 men (excluding the squad leader), there are the following roles:

A) One multiple tip bamboo spearman attached to one saber_and_shield man to protect him by entangling the Japanese pirate and his weapon, should the saber_and_shield man become vulnerable during combat.....

B) 2 spearmen to thrust at the enemy should the multiple tip bamboo spearman become vulnerable.

C) The saber_and_shield man to protect the spearmen should they themselves become overextended and vulnerable.

D) The trident man would act as a supportive backup..........

During my army infantry training days, we trained in a typical section where a section commander would have under him 6 soldiers equipped with different weapons, ie M16s, sharp_shooter scopes, M203 grenade launchers, section automatic weapons and light anti_tank weapons (LAW), so as to provide mutually_supportive front/flank/rear support; constantly adjusting our tactical formations/positions in accordance with the terrain. It appears that General Qi's Mandarin Duck squad precedes us by 400 years as one of the earliest small fighting units with combined arms....

Check out this period illustration of the men with their weapons.... 9128

Onwards to the Northern Frontier and dealing with the Mongols...

When General Qi was posted to the northern frontier to train the troops there to deal with the Mongols, he went on to establish, similiar small combined arms units, adapted to localized conditions, besides repairing and enhancing the Great Wall.

General Qi had adapted an innovation from another General, Yu Dayou, who had used wagons as mobile fortification / defensive works as well as a means to mount cannons and transport them efficiently along the cavalry terrain of the northern plains.

This 100,000 strong army of General Qi was equipped with steel armour suits and helmets as standard and were divided into 4 components:

1) Combat Wagon Force

2) Baggage Supply Wagon Force (logistical support role)

3) Infantry Force

4) Cavalry Force



The Combat Wagon Force and Baggage Supply Wagon Force were equipped with medium caliber (Chinese copies and modifications of portuguese breech_loaders) and smaller caliber cannons.

The "Commando Team" is the non_artillery combat component of the Combat Wagon Force and Bagguage Supply Wagon Force and uses the wagon as a large mobile armoured platform. It consists of 8 men:

A) 4 men with changdaos (an design idea inspired/copied from the 1.95 meter long nodachi of the Japanese pirates) and muskets (Chinese_made Portuguese_style matchlocks)

B) 2 men with shields and sabers plus muskets

C) 2 men with tridents and "fire_arrows" (arrows with rocket propulsion).

Upon contacting the enemy, the wagons are to be setup in a rectangular formation and all personnel are to withdraw within this defensive perimeter. After the cannons, muskets and fire_arrows are fired first at long range against the Mongols, the Commando Team would park their long range weapons inside, move out of the defensive perimeter and deploy in formation, using their changdaos, sabers and shields, plus tridents for close_quarters combat.



As for the Infantry Force, it had divided into 2 equal and separate groups of musketeers and "close_quarters fighters" (General Qi calls them "killers" or "shashou" ). The basic unit for both groups was 10 soldiers. The musketeers were all armed with changdaos; whereas the "killers" were armed with:

1) sabers and shields

2) multiple tip bamboo spears (also equipped with single_handed sabers)

3) tridents (also equipped with "fire_arrows" )

4) long spears (also equipped with composite bows/arrows)

5) poles __ long heavy sticks tipped with a small double_edged steel blade (also equipped with composite bows/arrows)



The Cavalry Force was divided into 3 components: Left, Right and Centre. As for the Left and Right Components, it was to consist of basic units of 10 men equipped with:

1) changdaos (also equipped with muskets)

2) poles with gun barrels_mounted at the tip *

3) tridents (also equipped with "fire_arrows" )

4) another type of pole, this time with a slighter longer and single_edged steel blade (also equipped with composite bows/arrows)

5) poles (also equipped with composite bows/arrows)


* Known as "kuai_qiang", a short but wide_diameter gun barrel mounted on a shaft ___ a design originating from the Yuan and early Ming Dynasties, where the soldier can use the weapon as a pole for close_quarters fighting after firing off a shot.



The Central Component of the Cavalry Force is uniquely equipped as it composes entirely of light cavalry.

In the Central Component, at the battalion level of 3 companies, there will be one company (which will also consist of basic units of 10 men each) where the weapon allocation is:

1) 8 men with changdaos (also equipped with muskets)

2) 2 men with tridents (also equipped with fire_arrows)

The other 2 companies will also consist of multiple units of 10 each.

And each 10 men unit will consist of:

1) 4 men with single_handed sabers (also equipped with composite bows and arrows)

2) 4 men equipped with spears, specially designed with downward curving hooking blades on both sides of the spearhead __ to unseat enemy horsemen (plus composite bows and arrows)

3) 2 men with tridents (also equipped with fire_arrows)

A short biography...

Reproduced from " Dictionary of Ming Biography, 1368_1644 " (2 volumes), published by Columbia University Press (March 1976), by L. Carrington Goodrich (Editor), Chaoying Fang (Editor)

Chi Chi_kuang (January 10, 1528 __ January 17, 1588), a military officer, was born of a hereditary military family at the Teng_chow guard in Shantung. His sixth generation ancestor, Chi Hsiang, a native of Tingyuan, adjacent to the birthplace of Chu Yuan_chang, joined the latter's army in the conquest of the empire, and died in action in Yunnan (ca.1382), receiving the award of hereditary rank of an assistant commander of the Teng_chou guard. In 1478 Chi Chi kuang's father, Chi Chingtung (1473_1544), succeeded to the family rank, later rising to be an assistant commander of a firearms unit in Peking (1535_38). For years Chi Chingfung had longed for a son. When in his fifty_fifth year Chi Chi_kuang was born, the father saw to it that he receive a well rounded education in the Classics and literature in addition to the military arts.

After assuming his father's rank in 1544, Chi Chi_kuang performed his duties well; one of his assignments was to lead a Shantung detachment annually to man the Great Wall north of Peking. He did this five times from 1548 to 1552. In between these responsibilities, he took the military examinations and in 1549 received the military chu_jen in Shantung. A year later, after he failed to pass the higher examination in Peking (held November 21), he remained in the capital for some duty, and was still there when the Mongols broke through the Great Wall and reached the suburbs. He took part in the defense of the city, ,and submitted a plan to fight the Mongols on the frontier to prevent any other invasion. In 1553 he received an appointment as an acting assistant commissioner of the Shantung regional military commission, in charge of coastal defenses. Thus at the age of twenty_six he had risen to be a field officer. It is said that he won the name of a disciplinarian after he punished, for failure to obey his orders, an officer much older than himself. From then on his orders were carried out with alacrity. Later he visited the man, actually his maternal uncle, and sympathized with him. Two years later he was transferred to the Chekiang commission in charge of the military farms.

At this time the wo_kou raids along the Chekiang coast intensified, and selected military officers were being brought into the province to strengthen the local military organization with tactical commands. In 1556 Chi received the appointment of assistant commander in charge of defending the area east of the Chien_tang River, and supporting theimportant cities of Ningpo, Shao_hsing, and Tai_chou. He cooperated with the Tai_chou prefect, Tan Lun, in training local troops to fight the_pirates. Tan recognized Chi's great potential, and during the remainder of his career, which included the post of minister of War (1572_77), managed to keep Chi with, or close by, him.

From the bitter experience of inroads by the Japanese pirates, Chi formed a plan to train volunteers to defeat the invaders. His plan met with the approval of the supreme commander, Hu Tsunghsien , in 1557, and he trained three thousand men from the Shao_hsing area. In 1558, when he took part in the unsuccessful campaigns against the pirates on Chusan Islands, he found the Shao_hsing natives disappointing. He decided that it was difficult to turn urbanites into good soldiers and suggested training farm boys only. In the following summer, because of his failure to dislodge some pirates from his territory, he was cashiered. Thus freed from command, he was assigned to train three thousand volunteers from I_wu, about 60 miles south of Hangchow. One of his innovations in the training program was the tactical formation known as the yuan_yang chen (mandarin duck formation) composed of basic units of twelve men each, consisting of one leaders, two shield men, two with bamboo lances, and four with long lances, two fork men, and a cook. They were to advance in that order, or in two five man columns dividing the weapons equally, but with the strict ruling that all acted to protect the leader from being wounded. If the leader lost his life, during a battle that ended in defeat, any survivor in his unit was to be executed. Thus each man was drilled in the spirit of win or die. At the same time the weapons were ere designed especially to fight the Japanese whose long bows were deadly and whose sharp swords could sever any Chinese hand weapon. In Chi's tactics the shield was to take care of the arrows, and the bamboo lance, with its bushy branches intact, could slow down the onslaught and entangle the swordsman making it possible for the other lancers to dispatch him. In his experience the Japanese swordsmen were f ormidable combatants and he needed these five_to_one odds. He organized four basic units to a platoon, four platoons to a company, three companies to a battalion of about six hundred men. To each company was assigned a few muskets and to each battalion, a battery of cannon. But these firearms were not the decisive factor in the 1560s on the China coast. It was Chi's trained volunteers. In March, 1560, he was reinstated as assistant commander of the area of Tai_chou, Yen_chou, and Chin_hua and continued the training. A year later, when the Tai_chou coast was invaded by a large fresh contingent of pirates, Chi led his newly trained volunteers to fight them, and of nine engagements within a single month he won every one. The enemy was annihilated, with only a few casualties among his own men. This complete victory won him promotion to regional commissioner. It also gained for him such prestige that the authorities in Kiangsi requested his help to fight a local uprising in that province. The expedition took place in November 1561, and within a month it was crushed, The people of Kiangsi noticed a new phenomenon in China, the marching of a disciplined army, well fed, well led,and well trained in coordinated fighting.

In. June, 1562, Chi led a relief expedition to Fukien against the pirates who had drifted south out of Chekiang. After several victories, Chi returned to Chekiang. Then in December the wo_kou, reinforced by newly arrived Japanese, captured a large area in Fukien, including the guard city of Ping_hai and the prefectural city of Hsing_hua. Early in 1563 Chi was appointed vice_commander on the north Fukien coast, while Tan Lun was made grand coordinator. They cooperated in dealing the pirates several heavy blows, recovering both cities by May. Chi received a raise in rank to central vice commissioner_in_chief

Near the close of 1563 he was transferred to Fukien and became area commander for the coasts of Chekiang and Fukien. Chi's success against the pirates may be attributed not only to his selection and training of troops, but also to his defense plans and his close collaboration with civil authorities. He chose to recruit his men primarily from places near the area of conflict. He hired them with the help of the local magistrates, and paid them well. He trained and disciplined them so that they charged at the wo_kou rather than turning back. While in Chekiang in 1560 he wrote down his training methods in Chi_hsiao hsin_shu (A new treatise on disciplined service). A major debate of the day among authorities involved in fighting the pirates was whether to meet them on water or on land. Because it was difficult to move men overland, and the troops were not numerous enough to distribute evenly in great numbers along the coast, some thought it wise to meet them on the sea. On the water, others argued, the pirates were in their element and at their best. Chi preferred to meet them on the land and set up a three_tiered defense system which entailed an early warning net on the islands off the coast of Fukien, a number of strong garrisons defending important cities, and a highly mobile group under his own personal command to rush to the area of invasion once given warning by this net, In this plan he had the close cooperation of the governor, Tan Lun, and the army inspector, Wang Tao_kun. By 1567 Chi and his forces had cleared the Fukien coast of the pirates. In honor of the general the local people erected a shrine in that year called Chi kung tzu in Fu_ching_hsien (near Foochow); it was restored in 1733, and again (when the Japanese were attacking north China) in 1937. A major reexamination of the defense of the northern frontier was under way at Peking, and Chi was recommended as a successful trainer of troops to take command of the forces north of the capital. When he took leave of the Chekiang and Fukien region, he left many of his former subordinates in important positions of military leadership. In the years after 1574 three former members of the "Chi army" were simultaneously area commanders of Chekiang, Fukien, and Kwangtung. Chi arrived in the capital in November, 1567, and was appointed vice commander of the firearms division of the Capital Army in which his father had served before him. This was not close enough to the action for Chi; so he requested the command of Chi_chou, Liaotung, Chang_ping and Paoting defense areas. Tan Lun had preceded Chi to the capital and was supreme commander of those four areas; he joined in recommending Chi's appointment. At the end of May, 1568, Chi was made superintendent of training for the three defense areas of Chi_chou, Chang_ping, and Paoting, and the following year was given the title of concurrent area commander of Chi_chou.

Chi's fifteen years along the Great Wall in charge of the defense against the Mongols were quiet compared with the active days of fighting the pirates on the coast. This was chiefly due to the peace treaty concluded with the Mongols in 1571 but Chi's training of an effective corps and the defenses setup by him under the direction of Chang Chucheng and Tan Lun certainly served as deterrents. First, Chi succeeded in making the shift from tactical commander to military administrator with ease and with enthusiasm. He reorganized the defense of the Chi_chou area in four tiers, much in the same way in which he had reorganized the Fukien coastal defense. He repaired the Wall, built more observation towers (to serve as his early warning net), organized training centers,and concentrated on drilling cavalry and wagon troops. He thought that the Mongols, like the pirates, were strongest in their element: in their case, on horseback on hard ground. Chi's defense strategy emphasized attacking the Mongols once they had either penetrated, or been allowed to penetrate, the Great Wall. In his training efforts, Chi requested the transfer of some of the military officers and personnel of his Chekiang days. This was refused on principle, although some of his junior officers did come north with him, and eventually nine thousand troops were sent to help him. While at the Chi defense area, Chi compiled the Lien_ping shih_chi (A practical account of troop training), a manual and record of the drilling and defensive tactics which he implemented in that area.

Tan Lun left his post as supreme commander in 1570, and became minister of War, but Chi remained at the Chi defense area under four more supreme commanders. During these years Chi received several promotions and various awards. In 1570 he was named junior commissioner_in_chief. A year later, on the partial completion of the construction of towers on the Great Wall, Chi received the hereditary rank of a chiliarch in the Teng_chou guard. In 1574 he became senior commissioner_in _chief, the highest military rank in the empire. Seven years later he was awarded an additional hereditary rank, that of centurion in the Embroidered_uniform Guard and,besides, the exalted title of junior guardian and concurrently senior guardian of the heir apparent. He was the only miltary officer not of the nobility in the entire dynasty to receive such a designation, although four others received the higher title of grand tutor. Also quite extraordinary was his long tenure of fourteen years as area commander at Chi_chou, where, in the previous fifteen years there had been eight holders of the post. This lengthy tenure was due not only to Chis proven ability as a military officer, but perhaps also to his having friends in power in the capital: Tan Lun as War minister and Chang Chfi_cheng as grand secretary until his death in 1582.

Less than six months after Changs death, Chi was impeached and in the following year removed from his post (February, 1583). He returned to Tengchou, was later recalled for duty in Kwangtung, but retired in 1585, and returned again to Teng_chou where he died. The great scholar, Wang Tao_kun, then in retirement, penned his tomb inscription. Three decades later the court awarded him the posthumous name Wu_i. Shrines in his memory were erected at the places where he readered service, at least three of them being recorded at Hsinghua. Chi had a younger brother named Chi Chi_mei, who, rose to be regional commander of Kweichow (July, 1582).


It is interesting to note that, whereas, the late president, Yuan Shih_kai, placed him high on his list of Chinas military heroes, he is said to have been a hen_pecked man and afraid of his wife, a woman of strong character who in 1561 took charge of the defense of a fort surrounded by pirates. They were married in 1545 and she bore no children. After 1563 he took several concubines but hid them from her. By these women he had five sons; the eldest, Chi Tso_kuo, was born in 1567. In May, 1630, his third son, Chi Chang_kuo (b. 1573), who was serving as a commander in charge of the police court of the Embroidered_uniform Guard in Peking, memorialized on the distinguished exploits of his father, and requested an official designation for the shrine in Teng_chou. The emperor granted it the name Piao_chung tzu.

Chi Chi_kuang's two manuals on military training, reprinted many times, have come to be regarded as classics on military matters.....

_____________________THE END________________________

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