Unique weapon of the Ming Dynasty — Lang Xian (狼筅)

Wolf Brush
Drawing of a Lang Xian, from 'Ji Xiao Xin Shu (《紀效新書》)'.

Lang Xian (狼筅, can be written as 筤筅, lit. 'Wolf brush'), sometimes translated as "wolf bamboo" and "multiple tipped bamboo spear", is arguably the MOST uniquely Chinese weapon ever devised. It is essentially an extremely long bamboo shaft mounted with an iron spike, with branches and leaves still attached. The branches are sometimes fire hardened or attached with blades and hooks and smeared with poison.

The use of Lang Xian was first recorded during a miner's revolt, headed by Ye Zong Liu (葉宗留), around 1444 AD. It was later adopted by Ming army.

Lang Xian is a heavy and unwieldy weapon, and deals very little damage on its own. However if used in conjunction with other weapons, it turns into a very potent force multiplier. The primary advantage of Lang Xian is its length. At one zhang five chi, it is almost as long as a European pike.

When used in numbers, Lang Xian can be used to:
  • Present a wall of bushes directly onto the face of the approaching enemies. The constantly moving and shaking branches and leaves can be greatly distracting and blind the enemies from other dangers (i.e. a sudden spear thrust through the bush, or a charging swordsman).
  • Prevent friendly troops from seeing the face of their angry, screaming enemies directly, thus maintaining morale and cohesion. This is especially important for poorly-trained troops.
  • Entangle, deflect or at least throw off the aim of spear thrusts or sword slashes.
  • Branches and barbs on the Lang Xian can prevent enemies from closing in by hooking on their clothes.
  • If opportunity presents itself, the wielder of Lang Xian can attempt to catch enemy banner in order to torn it or bring it down. Losing an important banner amidst heated combat tend to cause adverse army-wide morale effect.
  • Owing to its length, a Lang Xian can be used to fend off cavalry charge (preferably with support from other polearms). If held upright, Lang Xian serves additional purpose of deflecting incoming arrows, much like how ancient Macedonian used their Sarissa.
In short, Lang Xian allows poorly trained troops to fight on equal footing against much better trained troops armed with conventional weaponry.

Over the centuries various improvements were applied to the base design of the Lang Xian, such as replacing the bamboo branches with artificial branches made of iron. Another design, called Xian Qiang (筅槍, lit. 'Brush spear'), mounts an actual spearhead onto a Lang Xian. Because of the increased weight, the number of branches on such weapons must be reduced, sacrificing some defensive potential for increased lethality.


  1. Is this weapon only use for formation? Did people also use this weapon for duel or self defence?

    1. The weapon is very heavy and bulky, so I doubt its usefulness as a self defense weapon. It could have been used in small scale "gangster fight" though.