4 May 2015

Bastion and Star Fort

Ming Chinese Angled Bastion
Drawing of a simple star fort, from 'Shou Wei Quan Shu (《守圍全書》)'.
Star fort or trace italienne is one of the great inventions that truly put the Europeans ahead from the rest of the world militarily. Star fort, along with sailing ship and great cannon, are what make the colonial era possible, as it allows the Europeans to hold and defend occupied territory with relatively few manpower.

Late Ming Dynasty Chinese Catholics such as Xu Guang Qi (徐光啟), Sun Yuan Hua (孫元化), Han Yun (韓雲), Han Lin (韓霖), and Ma Wei Cheng (馬維城), many of whom were advocates of the adoption of European cannon, also realised the danger possessed by these powerful cannons if they fall into the wrong hands. They tried to introduce star fort as a safeguard measure, some of them even (partially) translated western fortification treatises such as Della Fortificatione delle Città with helps from Jesuit missionaries.

Chinese fortress builders experimented with, and eventually implemented European fortification technologies on a limited scale. These new fortifications, called Chong Cheng (銃城, lit. 'Gun fort'), and many other names, often proved effective. However the blessings of new technologies came too little too late. The Manchus, armed with European-style cannons they learned from the Chinese, simply bypassed these defences and attacked the now vulnerable traditional Chinese fortifications, and soon conquered China.


  1. Did the Manchus refurbish or rebuild Ming style fortifications later?

    1. Doesn't seems to be the case, at least to my knowledge.

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Then what did they build? They did not build any western style improved city walls did they? If not, do you know why?

    Sorry. Corrected several things in the previous post.

    1. I don't think they need it when most of their enemies lacked siege capabilities and heavy cannons.


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