|Conjectured image of Luo Gong Chen's shield formation. Image is cropped and doctored from 'Wu Bian Qian Ji (《武編前集》)', 'Ji Xiao Xin Shu (《紀效新書》)' and 'Wu Bei Zhi (《武備志》)'.|
Luo Gong Chen was the magistrate of the Songyang county of Zhejiang. Although he was not as famous as the legendary Yu Da You (俞大猷) and Qi Ji Guang (戚繼光), Luo Gong Chen was nevertheless a very capable military commander in his own right. He actively participated in the campaign against Wokou (倭寇), and was praised of being "capable of using a lone army to defeat great enemies" by the Ming court. Luo Gong Chen was renowned for his javelin-throwing skill, and apparently also very knowledgeable in the design and usage of shields as well. His comments about various Ming shields were transcribed into many Ming military treatises.
Like Mandarin Duck Formation, Luo Gong Chen's formation was very simple and straightforward. It consisted of a ten-man squad led by a squad leader. The squad consisted of three shieldmen armed with either Ai Pai (挨牌), short spears/Gou Lian Qiang (鈎鐮鎗), and sabres, or Yan Wei Pai (燕尾牌) and sabres only, four pikemen armed with long spears, and three shooters armed with either bows, crossbows, or Bian Chong (邊銃). All shieldmen and pikemen were also armed with light javelins. The squad leader was also armed with a long spear with attached military standard.
During battle, the shooters would shoot their missile weapons first to soften up the enemy. As the enemy got closer, shieldmen and pikemen would throw their javelins to disrupt enemy formation, then advance and engage them in close combat. The shooters did not sit idle after they had done their shooting. Instead they followed their comrades and supported them in close combat as well.
Luo Gong Chen's formation was evidently designed for small units that operated independently, since two of the shooters were tasked with guarding the flanks and rear of the formation against enemy ambush if there was no enemy in sight. Nevertheless, this formation could be easily adapted for large scale battle, where it essentially became a large block of pikemen protected by a shield wall at the first rank and supported by missile weapons from the rear ranks.
Comparison with Mandarin Duck Formation
One immediately noticeable difference between Luo Gong Chen's formation and Mandarin Duck Formation was the lack of Lang Xian (狼筅), which was rather unusual as Luo Gong Chen's formation also originated from Zhejiang, the birthplace of this unique weapon. On the other hand, the background of Luo Gong Chen (he was born in Guangxi) and inclusion of Yan Wei Pai into the formation strongly suggest Lang Bing (狼兵) influence.
Lacking protection from Lang Xian, Luo Gong Chen's formation could not prevent enemy troops from closing in as effectively, although it contained enough spears and pikes that charging the formation with shorter weapon was still a very bad idea.
Despite this formation contained more shields, it was actually more offensive oriented than Mandarin Duck Formation, as evidenced by large amount of javelins carried by its close combat troops (indicating that the troops were prepared to charge the enemy once they had thrown their javelins, rather than stood ground and receive the charge). Luo Gong Chen might have intentionally removed Lang Xian from the formation for this purpose, since even Qi Ji Guang himself commented that Lang Xian usually became more of a liability than asset in an elite and determined army.
Other blog posts in my Shield Formation series:
Shield formation of Luo Gong Chen — Part 1
Shield formation of Luo Gong Chen — Part 2