Chong Di Tie Tou Che (沖敵鐵頭車)

17th century Chinese armoured assault wagon
Drawing of a Chong Di Tie Tou Che, from 'Yu Zi Shi San Zhong Mi Shu Bing Heng (《喻子十三種秘書兵衡》)'.
Chong Di Tie Tou Che (沖敵鐵頭車, lit. 'Enemy-charging iron headed wagon'), also known as Chong Zhen Tie Tou Che (沖陣鐵頭車, lit. 'Formation-charging iron headed wagon'), is an unusual but straightforward war wagon developed during the last years of the Ming Dynasty. Like its namesake, it is a four-wheeled wagon with an iron plough mounted at the front — essentially, a human-powered medieval bulldozer.

A Chong Di Tie Tou Che is ten chi long, seven chi wide and fifty cun tall and comes with two sets of wheels. Similar to a front loader, the front wheels are smaller than the rear. A V-shaped iron plough is mounted at the front of the wagon. Each wing of the plough is three chi and six cun wide, and comes with several sharp blades to deter enemy assault. The wagon also has two wooden fences on both sides in addition to a passenger/cargo compartment mounted directly above its rear wheels, protected by wooden parapets on four sides. To traverse rough terrain such as ditch or narrow river, the wagon carries two long wooden planks inside a rack at its underside.

Chong Di Tie Tou Che is designed with but one primary purpose in mind — to spearhead assault against enemy formation or encampment, using its heavy frontal armour to protect other troops from enemy arrows, firearms and even small cannons, as well as clearing various obstacles and barricades such as caltrops, abatises and cheval de frise. Although Chong Di Tie Tou Che is not a true battering ram, it can still ram down palisades and other light fortifications using its heavy plough.

Nevertheless, despite being a fast (for a wagon) and heavily armoured assault weapon, it is still quite sluggish, and requires support and protection from other troops to function properly. Given the sorry state of Ming military during its twilight years, it was most likely that this wagon never saw actual deployment.

2 comments:

  1. Have the Ming ever thought of chain-linking their battle wagons when facing the Manchus/Mongols in the open field? Similar to Jurchen chain-linked cavalry myth. Except individual wagons don't fall or "die" to drag down the entire line, and they have the option to de-link if things goes bad.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, that was the standard practice.

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