24 November 2023

Patreon supporter only: Firearms regiment of Wen brothers

Some firearms commonly used in Northwest China (in particular Shaanxi and Xuanfu Garrison) around 1600s, roughly to-scale to the soldier.


The reluctance of various garrisons in North China to adopt matchlock gun on a large scale, criticism by general Qi Ji Guang (戚繼光) regarding Ming northern troops' impatience and indiscipline, and the bad impression northern troops left on the Koreans during Imjin War, sometimes give an impression that northern troops were somehow unsophisticated, close-minded and hidebound compared to their southern brethren who eagerly absorbed European science and technology.

However, this is evidently untrue. Ming northern troops were very much shaped by their environment (i.e. strong winds common in North China often blow away gunpowder inside priming pan, whcih makes matchlock gun unreliable), limitations (i.e. difficulties in acquiring good quality iron ore which were mostly produced in Fujian) as well as challenges they faced (i.e. Mongols horsemen), and refined their tactics and equipment along a very different path.

Di Lei Lian Pao (地雷連砲) and Xun Lei Pao (迅雷砲)

Di Lei Lian Pao (地雷連砲, lit. 'Ground thunder rapid cannon')

Drawing of three soldiers firing three Di Lei Lian Pao, from 'Wu Bei Zhi (《武備志》)'.

Di Lei Lian Pao is a small volley gun that consists of 10 small cannons brazed to a solid iron stock in a fan shape. Originated from Shaanxi (陝西) region of Northwest China, Di Lei Lian Pao is a very lightweight weapon weighing only twenty catties (11.8 kg or 26 lbs) which allows the weapon to be easily deployed and transported without a wheeled gun carriage——an important feature allowing the weapon to be used more effectively against fast-paced Mongol horsemen. Despite being a volley gun that fires its shots in a spread, Di Lei Lian Pao is still fitted with an iron sight.

To prevent the huge recoil generated by all ten barrels firing simultaneously from throwing off such a light weapon, potentially even hurting its user, the iron stock of Di Lei Lian Pao has an integrated ring that allows the weapon to be staked to the ground during use.

Drawing of one soldier firing multiple Di Lei Lian Pao, from 'Wu Bei Zhi (《武備志》)'.
Di Lei Lian Pao was originally a tripwire gun that uses Gang Lun Fa Huo (鋼輪發火) as its triggering mechanism (hence 'Di Lei [地雷]' in its name), although this was later changed to having a gunner to manually fire the volley gun, as this was found to be much more convenient and responsive.

Di Lei Lian Pao utilises a two-stage fuse, which consists of a very short section of normal fuse (i.e. Chinese paper fuse), known as Zou Xian (走線, lit. 'Walking thread'), which connects to a much longer section of flat quickmatch fuse, known as Bian Xian (扁線, lit. 'Flat thread') that extends all the way to the touch hole of the volley gun. The use of long fuse to ignite Di Lei Lian Pao allows the gunner to stand at a safe distance from the weapon, as well as for a single gunner to operate multiple guns by himself.

Xun Lei Pao (迅雷砲, lit. 'Quick thunder cannon')

Drawing of a Xun Lei Pao, from 'Li Qi Jie (《利器解》)'.
Xun Lei Pao is basically a larger, lighter, more powerful, but single shot version of Di Lei Lian Pao. It is a small iron cannon weighing only 10 catties (6 kg or 13 lbs) and comes with a slightly flared muzzle, front and back iron sight, as well as an extended solid portion behind the cannon breach with a hole punch through it, which allows the cannon to be staked to the ground during use, much like its multi-shot counterpart.

Xun Lei Pao should not to be confused with Xun Lei Chong (迅雷銃), a weapon with similar name.

15 October 2023

Patreon supporter only: The twenty-four generals of Yue Gang (月港)

Scenic photo of Yuegang Ancient Town, now a tourist attraction.

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