28 November 2022

Movie review: Hansan: Rising Dragon

As someone with a deep interest in Imjin War, I actually enjoyed Hansan: Rising Dragon way more that I thought I would, even though objectively speaking Hansan: Rising Dragon isn't nearly as good as its critically acclaimed previous installment, The Admiral: Roaring Currents. The main reason, I think, is because I only had passing knowledge about Imjin War back then, so my excitement of watching historical events unfold in the movie wasn't as high as I do now.

My first "ha, I know that guy!" moment to the film is the debut of young naval commander Yi Un-ryong (이운룡 or 李雲龍). If only he was as heroic and good-looking during Siege of Ulsan as he did in this film...
As with most big-budget Korean films, production quality of Hansan: Rising Dragon is top notch, and I dare say in general Korea produces far better historical epics than both China and Japan. That said, the director Kim Han-min really picked a difficult battle to adapt. Whereas The Admiral: Roaring Currents focus on the struggle of Yi Sun-sin (이순신 or 李舜臣) against overwhelming odds during Battle of Myeongnyang, which greatly humanised the legendary hero and makes for a compelling story, Hansan: Rising Dragon is set during Battle of Hansan Island, of which the Koreans smoked the Japanese without much trouble, and there wasn't much of anything interesting to tell. Throughout the film I can really see the director pulls out all the stops and crammed as many artistic licenses as possible just to make the story more palatable. This ironically makes the planning, espionage and build-up of the first half far more interesting and entertaining to me than the climactic naval action of the second half, and for all the wrong reasons.

(Major spoilers ahead, be warned!)

8 November 2022

(Patreon post) Auxiliary armours of Qing brigandine


This is a companion article to my Japanese armour post post, exploring various lesser-known auxiliary armours of Qing brigandine. As of now, it is available to my patrons for one month early, but it is opened to public now!

The article can be accessed here. If you like my work, please support me via Patreon!

30 October 2022

Niao Chuan (鳥船)

A replica Zhejiang Niao Chuan built in 2003. Although seaworthy, the replica's sails appear much smaller than historical ships.
The last of the "Four Great Ancient Ships" of China, Niao Chuan is perhaps the least known of the four, owing to its confusing history and relatively short (but no less crucial) period of military significance. 

Niao Chuan first came into prominence in the early 17th century, during a period when a beleaguered Ming Dynasty was facing unprecedented threats from the sea due to the rise of powerful Chinese pirate lords and arrival of Dutch East India Company with their powerful great ships. Being one of the few ship types capable of meeting the new challenge, Niao Chuan quickly displaced older types of war junks and became the premier warship favoured by Ming navy and pirate lords alike, and later also adopted by the ascending Qing Dynasty. Unfortunately, its heyday ended almost as quickly as it came. After the downfall of Ming Dynasty, the Dutch were evicted from Formosa by Ming loyalist Koxinga, whose kingdom he founded was in turn defeated by the Qing. With the naval threats subsiding, Niao Chuan was also retired from military service, although it continued to play an important role as an armed merchant ship long after.

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