|Conjectured image of Luo Gong Chen's expanded formation, showing only a single file. Alternatively, shieldmen, pikemen and archers could form only three ranks, similar to the original shield formation. Image is doctored and pieced together from 'Wu Bian Qian Ji (《武備前集》)', 'Ji Xiao Xin Shu (《紀效新書》)', 'Shen Qi Pu (《神器譜》)' and 'Wu Bei Zhi (《武備志》)'.|
Luo Gong Chen's new formation was twice the size of his previous one, consisted of twenty men — four light shieldmen armed with sabres and Yan Wei Pai (燕尾牌), four heavy shieldmen armed with short spears and Ai Pai (挨牌), four troops armed with either long spears, Lang Xian (狼筅) or short polearms such as Tang Pa (钂鈀), four archers and four crossbowmen. All troops also carried javelins, and presumably sabres as backup weapon. This unit was accompanied by another team of arquebusiers of unknown (presumably equal or greater) number.
Luo Gong Chen's battle tactic was essentially the same as his original formation, although he did lay down a more detailed shooting discipline for his troops due to increased specialisation of ranged weapon in the formation. During battle, archers would be the first to start shooting at their enemy, using Bian Jian (邊箭) at the range of two hundred paces (~350 yards or ~320 metres) and beyond. Once the enemy moved within two hundred paces, the archers switched to normal arrows and the arquebusiers would commence firing. At one hundred paces (~175 yards or ~160 metres) distance, crossbowmen would start shooting as well, peppering their enemy with poisoned quarrels. If the enemy still did not break and moved within thirty paces (~52 yards or ~48 metres), entire team would throw javelins at the enemy and then engage them in close combat.
It also seems that shieldmen in this unit, both light and heavy variety, were able to detach from their parent unit to fight in rough or cramped terrains, where their shorter weapons were the most useful.
The reinvigorated Ming army
The refinement of Luo Gong Chen's formation reflects the rapid advancement and diffusion of military technology, ideas and tactics among various Ming armies during Wokou era. Great numbers of troops from all corners of China were mobilised to battle the Wokou, and bought with them their preferred weapons, martial arts and method of warfare. While the process wasn't always smooth, these troops were eventually integrated into preexisting Ming military structure, and the reorganised Ming army now represented the combined might of all of South China instead of local traditions.
In a sense, Luo Gong Chen's new formation can be seen as the "standard" Ming infantry formation of this period.
Other blog posts in my Shield Formation series:
Shield formation of Luo Gong Chen — Part 1
Shield formation of Luo Gong Chen — Part 2