Equipment of a Ming soldier — Arquebusier

Basic equipment
Chinese Arquebusier Equipment
Equipment of an arquebusier, from 'Ji Xiao Xin Shu (《紀效新書》)'.
Basic equipment for a Ming arquebusier include:
  • Qian Zi Dai (鉛子袋, lead bullet bag): Shot bag.
  • Yao Dai (藥袋, gunpowder bag): Gunpowder bag for carrying extra gunpowder.
  • Xian Yao Qi (線藥器, lit. 'Cord gunpowder tool'): Priming flask.
  • Chong Yao Qi (銃藥器, lit. 'Arquebus gunpowder tool'): Powder horn. Used as a cheaper but slower alternative to Zhu Guan.
  • Zhu Guan (竹管, bamboo tube) or Yao Guan (藥管, gunpowder tube): Small bamboo tube filled with pre-measured charge of gunpowder. Chinese equivalent to bandolier.
  • Zhu Guan Yao Dai (竹管腰袋, lit. 'Bamboo tube waist bag'): A belt with numerous pockets to store Zhu Guan. Chinese equivalent to collar of bandoliers.
Note: The correct terminology for leather baldric worn by a musketeer is "collar of bandoliers"  instead of simply "bandolier". The term "bandolier" actually refers to individual charges hanged on the collar.

The many names of gunpowder container
Powder flask was known by a variety of names in Chinese language. Most names for powder flask are simply the combination of Yao (藥, medicine, used as an abbreviation for gunpowder) and a container name, i.e. Ping (瓶, bottle), Tong (筒, tube), Guan (罐, pot or can), Dai (袋, bag) and Nang (囊, pouch). While these names are easily recognizable by someone that reads Chinese, they can get very confusing when written in Pinyin.

Fa Yao Guan (發藥罐, priming gunpowder can) and Yao Guan (藥罐, gunpowder can)
Chinese Priming Flask
Fa Yao Guan (above) and Yao Guan (below), from 'Chen Shou Chou Lue (《城守籌略》)'.
Fa Yao Guan is another name for priming flask, while Yao Guan is another name for powder flask.

Yao Ping (藥瓶, gunpowder bottle) and Yao Nang (藥囊, gunpowder pouch)
Ming Powder Flask
A Yao Ping with powder measure (left) and a Yao Nang (right), from 'Wu Bei Zhi (《武備志》)'.
Yao Ping is yet another name for powder flask. Yao Nang is a small gunpowder pouch used to refill powder flask.

Yao Tong (藥筒, gunpowder cylinder)
Ming Bamboo Powder Flask
Drawing of a Yao Tong, from 'Wu Bei Yao Lue (《武備要略》)'.
Yao Tong is a bamboo powder flask with an attached bamboo powder measure.

Other equipment
Qian Zi Mo (鉛子模, lead bullet mold)
Chinese arquebus bullet mold
Two halves of the Qian Zi Mo, from 'Ji Xiao Xin Shu (《紀效新書》)'.
Ming period bullet mold is made out of stone. It is a company-level equipment to ensure uniformity in calibre.

Cang Huo Tong (藏火筒, lit. 'Fire-storing cylinder')
Matchlock Match Cord Holder
Drawing of a Cang Huo Tong, from 'Wu Bei Zhi (《武備志》)'.
Cang Huo Tong is a bronze container used to store lighted match cord. It consists of two bronze tubes, one larger than the other. A match cord is stored inside the smaller tube, which is drilled with thirteen vent holes to ensure air flow. The smaller tube is then placed inside larger tube for ease of carrying.

Cang Huo Tong allows an arquebusier to safely carry lighted match on the march and ready his matchlock gun at a moment's notice and protects the match cord from being spoiled by bad weather. It is essentially the same thing as grenadier's slow match case.


  1. Are there any images of this equipment in use? I ask because the images from manuals that I've seen omit some of these items, though that may be for the ease of the artist, or troops on the exercise yard, or some such reason. For instance;
    (on a side note this image has always puzzled me as the men appear to wear swords on their right hips).
    Would musketeers have gone armoured or unarmoured? I've long thought they'd probably be armoured, but perhaps it varies with time and place?

  2. @Clibinarium

    Those Ming musketeers in your picture actually had what appear to be powder flask on their belts. Other than that, we only have few sources. (Period artworks of arquebusier were scarce). Even the equipment in this blog post were not universally equipped.

    No idea on why the men wear their swords like that.

    Yes, it varies with time and place. Most (Personally I assume all unarmoured unless stated otherwise) were unarmoured though.

    One notable exception was the late Ming "New army" proposed by Xu Guang Qi (徐光啟), but he didn't get enough funding to completely realise his proposal.

  3. Indeed yes the musketeers in the picture do have equipment appropriate to the weapon, I just just struck by the omission of the charge belt, which is the most distinctive part in the manual illustration.
    My mental picture of a later Ming musketeer was in part based on the appearance of those well armoured men in the film "Fall of the Ming", though granted that's not a historical source. I've seen some similarly well protected versions on the net, but again I am not sure what the sources for these troops are, they may be partially conjectural.

  4. @Clibinarium
    Indeed the belt is not found on any Ming artwork that I know of, although I think a Qing period photo do depict similar belt.

    The movie "Fall of Ming" is quite accurate by the standard of Chinese historical movie, although the troops are wearing black armour probably for the "cool" factor. The arquebusiers in the movie are probably wearing the so-called "studded cotton armour", or brigandine without iron plates inside.

    A 1984 movie known as 雙雄會 has the most accurate depiction of Ming armour, I think. If you want I can give you a url for streming movie. It is in very low resolution though.

  5. Thank you for the movie reference, in fact I searched youtube and it appears to be there;
    Resolution is not too bad, but the film stock has seen better days.
    If it is the same movie,and I think it is, it does indeed have some nice depictions of Ming soldiers in it, especially in the first 15 minutes. I saw plenty of stuff I recognised. Not being able to understand the dialogue I haven't watched the whole movie.

    The reason for my curiosity is that I am starting to sculpt some musketeers, and I have to make some difficult choices about what would the most representative dress/equipment be, since I can't afford to do a multiplicity of types.

  6. @Clibinarium

    Yup, that's the movie. That part is actually the second portion of the movie, the first portion is also on YouTube. Not too many scene with soldiers, though.

    I will see what I could find, but if nothing turns out, defaulting to "Fall of Ming" style (but with proper colour, and preferably some scarfs)seems like a good bet.

    Do Wansui have any input on this topic?

  7. @Clibinarium
    Are your sculps going to be for sale? If so, I'm excited!
    I thought the amount of Arquebusiers in "The Fall of Ming" was a bit much, but I agree that it is one of the most historically accurate Chinese movies.
    Also the only ones to show use of folangji

  8. @Alex,

    Sorry I missed your question, but yes hopefully my work will be for sale some time this year. I am preparing sculpts for a Kickstarter campaign, with a view to launching around April. I have been spending the last year or so working out some of the practical hurdles, and I am waiting to see the results of some 3D printing of weapons and equipment. Then I should be ready to move forward.

  9. @Clibinarium

    So any news with your arquebusier sculpt? I think I might have found something useful.

  10. Hi, yes I am working now on a prototype musketeer. I missed this message, but I understand you and Wansui have been in contact on the subject?

    Best regards

  11. @Clibinarium

    Yes, we are currently discussing Ming range as a whole. Both of us certainly need more research.