13 July 2015

Da Jiang Jun Pao (大將軍砲)

Ming Chinese General Cannon
Drawing of a Da Jiang Jun Pao, from 'Wu Bei Yao Lue (《武備要略》)'.
The famous Da Jiang Jun Pao (大將軍砲, lit. 'Great general cannon'), a type of muzzle-loading iron cannon, is one of the most powerful and most widely used cannon developed locally by Chinese gun masters. A typical Da Jiang Jun Pao has a length of about three chi six cun. It is usually loaded with one 4-5 catties lead ball together with one hundred lead pellets weighing six maces. Alternatively, a single 8 catties lead ball can be used.

Ming Dynasty Great General Cannon
Surviving Da Jiang Jun Pao on top of the Great Wall of China.
Early Da Jiang Jun Pao could weigh up to 600 catties (this could be referring to early Ming Dynasty bronze bombard, also known as Da Jiang Jun Pao, but very different from the iron version), although mid-late Ming models tend to be lighter, ranging from 250 to 500 catties. Heavier variant also existed in the form of Da Shen Chong (大神銃), which can weigh as much as 1,050 catties, although the distinction (if exists) between Da Jiang Jun Pao and Da Shen Chong is unclear.

At the beginning of the seventeenth century, the role of Da Jiang Jun Pao as heavy field artillery had been supplanted by more advanced European cannons such as Hong Yi Pao (紅夷砲), although it was never entirely phased out.


  1. How would such a piece have been deployed, assuming it has no carriage? Would a temporary wooden frame like the stone base in the photo have been used, or perhaps was it propped up on rice bales, as one sees occasionally in Sengoku era Japan?

  2. @clibinarium
    Most of the time they simply laid the cannon on the ground or some sort of earthworks, as shown in top right corner of the picture below:


    Nevertheless, wooden frame or 'bedding' was definitely used, as some Da Jiang Jun Pao and early Ming Dynasty bombard-type cannons are fitted with trunnions. It was also used on Fo Lang Ji.

    To my knowledge the Chinese did not use the rice bales/haystacks like the Japanese.

  3. Thank you for the reply. I do find it quite puzzling though that cannons are simply laid on the ground (and I do not mean to dispute this, its very clear in a number of images), since this must limit their effectiveness and range, though perhaps in such cases they are being used in the "giant shotgun" sense of being fired at a closing enemy?
    Even a temporary propping-up of a piece must have been utilised where circumstances allowed?

  4. @Clibinarium

    Most of the are indeed utilized as 'Giant shotgun', as you can read from my previous entries of Ming cannons. Temporary prop-ups *might* had been used, but I don't have any info on them.

  5. @Clibinarium

    On second thought, Wu Bei Zhi did depict wooden props on other cannons.

  6. Wasn't there a series of jiangjunpao, with at least an erjiangjunpao and maybe a sanjiangjunpao?

    1. Yes, although as far as I can recall, the numbered (Da, Er, San) Jiangjunpao were mostly limited to early Ming (bronze) cannons.

    2. Ah okay. Were they all artillery or were they handheld too? Maybe they were later upgraded to artillery?

      The earliest Korean guns had the same names: taejanggunp'o, ijanggunp'o, and samjanggunp'o, the latter two being a wall gun or gingall and a normal-sized handgonne, respectively.


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