17 April 2015

Ye Meng Xiong's cannons

Ye Meng Xiong (葉夢熊) was a talented civil official-turned-military general-turned-Minister of Defence, as well as a gun engineer and military innovator. Many a weapon that represented the pinnacle of indigenous Chinese artillery technology was designed by him, and he was honoured as Ye Gong (葉公, lit. 'Lord Ye') due to his military achievements. Unfortunately, Ye Meng Xiong's honesty and outspoken nature as well as his hardline stance against the Mongols made him many enemies within Ming court, and he was often criticised and defamed despite his contributions, to the point that he was disheartened and went into early retirement. 

Ye Meng Xiong's undeserved bad reputation also causes him to fall into obscurity (unbeknownst to him, intentional smearing on his reputation actually persisted after his death). Sadly, his contributions was often overlooked by modern scholars in favour of more celebrated heroes like Qi Ji Guang (戚繼光) due to this reason.

Ye Gong Shen Chong Che Pao (葉公神銃車砲, lit. 'Lord Ye's divine gun with gun carriage')
Ye Gong Shen Chong
Drawing of a Ye Gong Shen Chong Che Pao, from 'Wu Bei Zhi (《武備志》)'.
Ye Gong Shen Chong (葉公神銃, lit. 'Lord Ye's divine gun') is the invention of Ye Meng Xiong. It is a cannon modified from the chamber of Wu Di Da Jiang Jun (無敵大將軍), a Chinese-made, oversized version of the Portuguese breech-loading swivel gun. Ye Meng Xiong discarded the bulky bronze barrel of the breech-loading cannon, and lengthened its chamber to six chi so that the chamber can be used as a cannon in its own right. The new cannon only weighs two hundred and fifty catties.

Ye Gong Shen Chong is typically loaded with a seven catties lead ball called Gong Dan (公彈, lit. 'Grandfather cannonball'), a three catties lead ball called Zi Dan (子彈, lit. 'Son cannonball'), another one catty lead ball called Sun Dan (孫彈, lit. 'Grandson cannonball'), two hundred lead pellets weighing two to three maces called Qun Sun Dan (羣孫彈, lit. 'Crowd of grandchildren pellet') at the same time, in addition to numerous poisoned shrapnel.

Seventeenth century military treatise Wu Bei Zhi (武備志) also contains several different version of Ye Gong Shen Chong that are shorter than the original.

Da Shen Chong Gun Che (大神銃滾車, lit. 'Great divine gun with rolling cart')
Ming Dynasty Great General Cannon
Drawing of a Da Shen Chong Gun Che, from 'Deng Tan Bi Jiu (《登壇必究》)'.
Da Shen Chong (大神銃, lit. 'Great divine gun'), also known as Da Shen Pao (大神砲, lit. 'Great divine cannon') is a variation of, or perhaps just another name for, Da Jiang Jun Pao (大將軍砲, lit. 'Great general cannon'). It is a heavy low carbon steel muzzle-loading cannon which weighs one thousand catties. Its four chi five cun long barrel is reinforced by nine iron hoops. Although Da Shen Chong is similar in appearance to early European hoop-and-stave guns constructed using "à tonoille" method, it is constructed in a different way.

A lighter variant that only weighs three hundred and fifty catties was also recorded in Xi Ning Fu Xin Zhi (《西寧府新志》). This variant is loaded with five iron balls that weigh seven catties, four catties, one and a half catty, one catty, and half catty respectively, as well as one hundred and fifty iron shots that weigh five taels, and fifty lead pellets that weigh eight maces.

Da Shen Chong is the most powerful field gun developed indigenously by Chinese people in the sixteenth century. 

Mie Lu Pao Che (滅虜砲車, lit. 'Barbarian-destroying cannon with gun carriage')
Ming Chinese organ gun
Drawing of a Mie Lu Pao Che, from 'Deng Tan Bi Jiu (《登壇必究》)'.
Mie Lu Pao (滅虜砲, lit. 'Barbarian-destroying cannon'), also known as Mie Kou Pao (滅寇砲, lit. 'Bandit-destroying cannon'), is a small low carbon steel cannon that fires lead shots. Weighing only one hundred catties with a barrel length of two chi, up to three Mie Lu Pao can be mounted on a three-wheeled gun carriage called Gun Che (滾車, lit. 'Rolling cart'). The barrel of Mie Lu Pao is reinforced by five iron hoops.

A variant known as Da Mie Lu Pao (大滅虜砲, lit. 'Great barbarian-destroying cannon'), supposedly an up-gunned version of normal Mie Lu Pao, also exists.


  1. Is there any information recorded about the dimensions of these pieces?

  2. Oh, I should modify my post then.

    Mie Lu Pao: 59kg, 64cm
    Da Shen Chong: 206kg, 112cm, note that there are surviving great general cannons that are larger than the recorded dimensions.

    Heaven class Ye Gong Shen Chong: 165 kg, 112cm.

  3. Thank you that is very useful. I am currently trying to design some of these Ming artillery pieces, and its not easy working from illustrations without being able to read Chinese characters!

  4. There are some mistakes and conflicts when I tried to interpret the ancient text, as there is another
    six chi (192cm) cannon that I confused with the Da Shen Chong.

    I might need to revise this blog post later. Until then, please regard the information given in this blog post as inaccurate.

  5. New measurement:

    Shen Chong (Original version) : 192cm, 147.5kg
    Heaven class Ye Gong Shen Chong (Wu Bei Zi version): 112cm, 165kg
    Da Shen Chong/Great General Cannon: 144cm, 590kg
    Mie Lu Pao: 64cm, 59kg

  6. Thank you for the updated post, especially the lengths of the pieces.
    In the image of the multiple Mie Lu Pao barrels on the rolling cart, I count five; is the drawing inaccurate and should only show three (perhaps specified in the text)?

  7. The textual description specifically mentions three cannons.

    The images found in Ming military manuals are usually not very reliable (not that the textual description is any better though), some like Wu Bei Zhi was written by scribe instead of military men, and many treatises copied from each other, many books underwent hand-copies and reprints, and may contain latter edits and additions, and then there is the Qing Dynasty literary inquisition.

    There are many cases where written description contradict the picture or even contradict itself in the same book, etc.


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