12 April 2015

Unique weapon of the Ming Dynasty — Yi Wo Feng (一窩蜂)


Yi Wo Feng (一窩蜂, lit. 'Nest of bees')

Ming Chinese Multiple Rocket Pod
Drawing of a Yi Wo Feng, from 'Wu Bei Zhi (《武備志》)'.
The famous Nest of Bees is a thirty-two shot multiple rocket launcher. Although often lauded as the "first handheld multiple rocket launcher", the Nest of Bees is in fact a wagon-mounted weapon. Unlike most other Chinese multiple rocket launchers that use smaller rockets, Nest of Bees carries thirty-two full sized Shen Ji Jian (神機箭) rockets, and has a maximum range of three hundred paces.
This weapon got its name not just from the swarm of rockets it can unleash, but probably also from its hexagonal wooden rocket pod. When multiple pods are stored together, they look like a beehive.


China's CCTV-9 television channel created a replica of Yi Wo Feng rocket pod. During the experiment it is revealed that the replica rocket is capable of achieving a range of 252 ~ 270 metre when fired at 45° elevation, or about half the recorded range. The rocket also packs enough power to pierce a mannequin clean through. When fired at 20° elevation, a Yi Wo Feng rocket pod has an effective range of 90 metre, with a 40 metre spread. This makes the rocket pod an extremely effective and deadly weapon, especially at close range.

Regrettably, the team did not attempt to replicate the poison-incendiary warhead on the rocket, nor did they replicate the counterbalance on the arrow.

Da Yi Wo Feng (大一窩蜂, lit. 'Big nest of bees')

Ming Chinese Naval Rocket Launcher
Drawing of Da Yi Wo Feng, from 'Bing Lu (《兵錄》)'.
Da Yi Wo Feng is the fifty shot version of Nest of Bees, although it shoots smaller rockets. It is designed for naval combat, where it is one of the few weapons capable of engaging enemy ships from headwind position. Unlike the original Nest of Bees, Da Yi Wo Feng is a handheld weapon.


  1. Very interesting, I was under the impression that the Nest of Bees was a hand launched weapon.It is true though that there were hand launched rocket containers such as those depicted in this illustration?

  2. Definitely. Ming Dynasty developed many types of handheld multiple rocket launcher, just that Nest of Bees is not one of them. Nest of Bees is still light enough to be carried by one man though.

    1. ahmm what you meant with that "Ming dynasty developed many types of handheld rocket launcher, just that Nest of Bees is not one of them..I mean what you meant with "just that Nest of Bees is not one of them"


    2. Nest of bee is not designed to be used as a handheld rocket launcher (it is usually mounted on a cart or other platforms). Handheld launchers have othet names.

    3. Thank you for your help i really apreciate it :)

  3. According to Wikipedia, the "Chinese pace" is called a "bu," and is equal to five "chi" - supposedly equivalent to the Imperial "foot." If that's correct, the range on this thing is something along the lines of 450 meters.

    Is any of the above correct?

    1. During Ming Dynasty, "chi" used for land measurement is 32.7 cm, so it range is 490.5 m

  4. How effective would this thing have been really? In the CCTV doco they were clearly using foam plastic dolls that you can probably punch through. (The hole itself seem to be made by the bluntheaded rocket motor) Seem more like an intimidation weapon than anything else.

    1. Very effective. Rocket can punch through armour in a way that no muscle-operated bow/crossbow can, not to mention the warhead on the rocket can set things on fire and cause mayhem. It is also comparatively lightweight for the destruction it can cause, and can be launched from any platform, or from no platform at all.

      It is only an "intimidation" weapon in the same sense that a Roman pilum is an intimidation weapon, or a heavy machine gun is an intimidation weapon. "Suppression" is a much better description.

    2. Also, those mannequins don't look very fragile to me. There are hard enough that some rockets that embedded in them end up with broken shafts.


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