|Fragmented bronze scales salvaged from a sunken ship of Koxinga's fleet.|
Organisation and Tactics
Tie Ren were usually deployed in six-man squads. Each squad consisted of two swordsmen, two pikemen and two Tie Ren wielding Zhan Ma Dao (although pikemen were sometimes omitted to include more Zhan Ma Dao), supported by three porters. During battle, the squad would operate as independent three-man cells. The deployment of Tie Ren resemble a simplified version of Mandarin Duck Formation.
Every Tie Ren was also armed with bow and arrow. During battle they were organised into archer contingent and close combat troops with a ratio of 4:6.
Warrior par excellence
The level of training and discipline of Tie Ren was best demonstrated by the famous Battle of Zhenjiang (鎮江之戰, not to be confused by another battle fought between the Qing Dynasty and British force during the course of First Opium War) in 1659. Tie Ren not only withstood and drove off repeated cavalry charges by a superior force of Manchu heavy cavalry, but actually initiated a countercharge and proceeded to slaughter them almost to a man. They were also able to disengage at a moment's notice, so that friendly artillery could fire into the ranks of their enemy at point-blank range, and then quickly resume assault.
Tie Ren were notably disciplined and fearless to the point of recklessness. Chinese sources describe Tie Ren forcibly pulling out arrow from wounded leg and resume battle as if nothing happened, while Dutch witness described them as "establishing perfect order in the ranks" and "but when the enemy has been thrown into disorder, the sword-bearers follow this up with fearful massacre amongst the fugitives". Their skill in archery was also noted to be "contrived to handle their weapons with so great skill, that they very nearly eclipsed the musketeers".
Despite their discipline and training, Tie Ren still exhibited strong piratical tendencies, and would not hesitate to engage in pillage, rape and massacre when given a pass from their commander.