1 July 2015

Interesting comparison between different warships of the Far East in the sixteenth and seventeenth century

I came across this interesting comparison at Baidu Tieba, although the original post has since been deleted. The original comparison is a simple table written entirely in Chinese, so I translated the table to English and added a few commentaries.

Weight of Cannon (lbs)*
Sixteenth Century Portuguese Galley

Ming Dynasty Feng Zhou (early)

Ming Dynasty Feng Zhou (late)

Mark 1 Warship of Qi Ji Guang's fleet (early)

Mark 1 Warship of Qi Ji Guang's fleet (late)

48 – 70

20 – 30+

Advanced Ming Dynasty War Junk
30+14 – 22

6 – 8
Kingdom of Tungning Gong Chuan
100 – 200+20+

Dutch Hired Vessel 'Graaf Hendrik'
Mông Đồng

1 – 2
* Although weight of shot is a more reliable measure of firepower, Chinese records seldom mention them. Chinese troops also frequently loaded their guns with multiple smaller shots in addition to the main shot (which made them less powerful), making measurement purely by weight of shot very misleading.
** This assume a late variant of Geobukseon/Turtle ship with significantly improved armaments, due to the fact that very little is known about the early, Imjin War-era Geobukseon.

Feng Zhou (封舟, lit. 'Investiture ship')
Chinese Feng Zhou
A Qing Dynasty Feng Zhou, from 'Ce Feng Liu Qiu Tu (《冊封琉球圖》)'.
Feng Zhou, known as Ukwanshin (おかんせん or 御冠船, lit. 'Crown ship') in Japanese, is the largest non-treasure ship vessel built by the Ming Dynasty that serves as the primary vessel of the Coronation missions to Ryukyu Kingdom (the notions that Ming Dynasty stop building large ocean-going ships after the treasure voyages, or that their naval technologies regressed, are just myths). It is purposely overbuilt as a display of power and wealth, but generally underarmed as far as warship goes. Ponderous and unmanoeuvrable, it is still a force to be reckoned with.

Some Feng Zhou are partially armoured in "iron leaves (i.e. iron plates)".

Fu Chuan (福船, lit. 'Ship of Fujian')
Chinese War Junk Fu Chuan
Drawing of a Jiajing-era Fu Chuan, from 'Chou Hai Tu Bian (《籌海圖編》)'.
The quintessential Chinese junk and the largest warship in Qi Ji Guang's fleet, Fu Chuan is actually only one of the four main types of Chinese junk—the other three being Guang Chuan (廣船)Sha Chuan (沙船) and Niao Chuan (鳥船)—although it is the most prominent and recognisable one.

Fu Chuan is lsturdy and very well-armed (by East Asian standard), but can be unmanoeuvrable at times. With two thousand-pound cannons mounted as bow chasers, Fu Chuan primarily employ the so-called "galley tactic"—fleet of warships formed into line abreast formation, discharge their cannons several times, then proceed to ram into enemy ships and engage in boarding action.

Several Fu Chuan were built in anticipation of the naval battles during the closing phase of Imjin War, but the war ended before any of these ships could be completed.

Tekkōsen (てっこうせん or 鉄甲船, lit. 'Ironclad ship')
Japanese Tekkousen
Nipponmaru (日本丸), flagship of Kuki Yoshitaka (九鬼嘉隆), from '文禄癸巳六月於釜山海征韓水軍総督九鬼大隅守船柵之図'. Nipponmaru is believed to be one of the several atakebune that was upgraded with iron plating.
Japanese warships of this period were generally smaller and weaker than their Korean or Chinese counterparts, but there was one exception to the rule.

Known to be the largest and most powerful of pre-modern Japanese warships, tekkōsen, also known as ō-atakebune (大安宅船), is the souped-up and up-armoured version of atakebune (安宅船) warship. Although the size and durability of tekkōsen can rival, and in some aspects even surpass, that of the Korean and Chinese warships (in no small part thanks to its iron plating), it is woefully underarmed, with only three cannons—one mounted at the bow and two at the broadsides. To make up of this shortcoming, Tekkōsen crews often carry numerous ō-deppō (大鉄砲), which are basically handheld matchlock cannons, which for the large number of small cannons in the table above.

Although impressive on paper, tekkōsen has several terrible weaknesses: It has limited mobility and is extremely unstable (due to high centre of gravity), and functions more like a floating fortress rather than a true warship. It is also overcosted for what it can bring to the battlefield.

Geobukseon (거북선 or 龜船, lit. 'Turtle ship')
Geobukseon from an eighteenth century drawing.
The national pride of all Koreans and so-called first ironclad warship in the world (although whether it really has iron plating is disputed, and the claim of "first ironclad" is contested by Japanese tekkōsen and several other Chinese and European vessels), Geobukseon is a superbly designed warship, and serves its intended role as assault ship very well.

Geobukseon (and Joseon warships in general) is uniquely suited to the relatively shallow but very rough Korean waters. Though not a fast ship (but capable for a short burst of speed), it is very agile, and has a near-zero turning radius. Geobukseon is reasonably durable thanks to its pine construction and possibly iron plating, while its iron-spiked roof also renders it largely boarding-proof. The use of wheeled gun carriage is also remarkably advanced, although Geobukseon's small cannons do not make for a viable broadside warship.

Advanced Ming Dynasty War Junk
Peter Mundy War Junk
Illustration of a late Ming Dynasty war junk encountered by British merchant-traveler Peter Mundy in 1637. Although this particular war junk was built with two gun decks and gun ports, it was only equipped with very light (1-pounder) cannons. From 'Itinerarium Mundi'.
A type of unnamed warship recorded in the late Ming Dynasty military treatises Bing Lu (《兵錄》), this is one of the strongest Ming warshipone that actually pose a serious threat to European warships. Unlike earlier Ming warships, this advanced war junk is designed for broadside-to-broadside engagement, and comes equipped with gun ports, numerous heavy cannons, wheeled gun carriages as well as enclosed gun deck, no doubt inspired by European design.

Kingdom of Tungning Gong Chuan (熕船, lit. 'Gun ship')
Tai Wan Chuan
A late seventeenth century Tai Wan Chuan (臺灣船, lit. 'Taiwan ship'), from 'Tōsen no zu (唐船之図)'. This particular ship is a merchant vessel, although warships of Kingdom of Tungning were most likely derived from the same basic design.
Although Tungning fleet had other warships, this is the only one with its detailed armaments laid out. Gong Chuan seems to be a slightly toned-down version of the Advanced Ming Dynasty War Junk. It has weaker broadside batteries (albeit still vastly superior to that of earlier warships) but exceedingly powerful bow chaser. 

Ming navy had yet to develop a mature line of battle tactics at this point. Instead, Gong Chuan fought much like Mary Rose did in the sixteenth century: sailing towards the enemy, firing the bow chaser, before turning to present one broadside, the stern, another broadside, then making off to reload.

Portuguese Galley
Portuguese Galley Warship
A small Portuguese galley, likely a fusta, circa 1540, from 'Roteiro do Mar Roxo' by D. João de Castro.
The galley in this comparison is based on the Chinese description of Portuguese Wu Gong Chuan (蜈蚣船), which is probably intended as escort for the caravel fleet.

Galley is primarily built from oak, a superior shipbuilding material than pine wood in term of strength, sturdiness, hardness, and corrosion resistance. With its frame-first construction and carvel built, galley probably surpass even the Geobukseon in durability. It is also faster and nimbler than most East Asian warships, thanks to its slender hull and massive amount of oars. For a ship with such shallow draft, galley is surprisingly stable and reasonably seaworthy (galley was used in the North Sea, Indian Ocean, Strait of Malacca and Philippines, to name but a few).

In term of armaments, nothing short of European sailing ship and late Ming Dynasty war junks can surpass this formidable war machine (keep in mind that this escort galley has nowhere near the firepower of a Mediterranean war galley). Among other things, galley is equipped with a metal-tipped naval ram (although Renaissance period spiron is not designed to sink ship directly) that no East Asian warships have any equivalent for.

Dutch Hired Vessel 'Graaf Hendrik'
Dutch Sailing Ship
VOC East Indiaman Mauritius, from 'Het uitzeilen van een aantal Oost-Indiëvaarders' by Hendrik Cornelisz.
Graaf Hendrik is a 36-gun Dutch warship that participated in the second Anglo-Dutch war. Although it did not actually set sail to Asia, it is reasonably representative of the few better armed VOC East Indiamen that operated in East Asian waters.

The formidable power of European sailing ship need not to be further elaborated here — to some extent it can be considered invulnerable to everything East Asian warships can throw at it. Overwhelming numerical advantage and liberal use of fire ships were required in order to defeat even one East Indiaman or Jacht, thankfully Chinese had no lack of either.

By seventeenth century, European naval tactics had evolved to the point that cannons lighter than five hundred pounds were considered inconsequential to the outcome of a naval engagement (hence the question marks in the above table, as no one bothered to count them). 

EXTRA: Mông Đồng (艨艟)
Although not included in the original comparison, I personally think that Vietnamese Mông Đồng merits a special mention in this blog post. 
Vietnamese warship
Seventeenth century stylised drawing of a Mông Đồng, from 'Historia Et Relatione Del Tvnchino E Del Giappone' by Giovanni Filippo de Martini.
While Mông Đồng can trace its origin to a type of ancient Chinese warship called Meng Chong (艨艟 or 蒙衝, translated as 'Covered swooper' by Sinologist Joseph Needham), this Vietnamese warship probably stems from Southeast Asian shipbuilding tradition, as it has little in common with Chinese Meng Chong except sharing the same name.

Mông Đồng is an oared warship suitable for riverine and near-shore warfare. It has a characteristic roof-like structure that protects its crew from enemy fire, although it is not completely enclosed like that of the Geobukseon. The design of Mông Đồng limits its effectiveness in ramming and boarding combat, as much of the ship's space is taken up by rowers that are at least partially exposed. Nevertheless, some Mông Đồng are armed with disproportionately powerful cannons. The firepower combined with the fast speed of this nimble warship turn the Mông Đồng into a formidable weapon of war capable of punching above its class.


  1. Might I ask where you got the info on the ships of Tungning and the advanced ming warship?
    Terribly facinating!
    Seems like its hard to get access on the Bing Lu.

  2. @alex cheng
    Good day and welcome to my blog!

    I have an incomplete soft copy scans of Bing Lu (《兵錄》) in terrible quality, but the textual description of that warship isn't very hard to find on the web.

    Details of Tungning warship came from a victory report written by ex-Tungning naval commander that defect to the Qing side, Shi Lang (he later lead the Qing navy to destroy Tungning for good), known as 'Fei Bao Da Jie Shu《飛報大捷疏》'.

  3. Thank you for the response! This blog has become my favorite source of information for Chinese military history.
    Do you know what I should search for in Chinese or English for into on the Bing Lu ship?
    And thank you for the info on 飛報大捷疏!

  4. @alex cheng
    I will post the original text here, since it is not very long.

    銃共五六十門,多多益善。」 (from 《兵錄》)

    重七千餘斤,用炮子三十餘斤。」(from 《飛報大捷疏》)

  5. http://www1a.biglobe.ne.jp/ssm-kobe/gallery00_31/atakemaru_393_31.html
    Great pic of a model of an "Atakemaru", possibly a Tekkosen!

    1. Yes, that is one of the Tekkosen. The Atakemaru is actually the name of that particular ship.

  6. Thank you very much for all the information! I've been writing a dissertation/book on Chinese naval history for a while now, and I've found your blog to be very helpful!
    I would like to ask how I can give you credit for your work: as a translator, writer, blogger, or interpreter?
    You can contact me with my google account, and I can give you my other email if you need.
    Thank you again!

  7. @Alex cheng
    You're welcome.

    Since I hardly ever used Google+, I would like to get in touch via email.

  8. Sad that you did not include the Panokseon, the main Korean naval vessel. It contains 50 cannon and can rotate on the spot after a broadside in order to utilize all 50 cannons.

    1. It's not me. The original source did not include Panokseon.

    2. The actual number of cannons for a p'anoksŏn would have been closer to 25-30 but also with a large number of archers and handgonners, some of the latter having fairly heavy gonnes. There was some difference in armament and crew based on the size/rank of the ship within the overarching fleet.

  9. Good day!
    I am working on Junk model and will be glad to discuss a few things- if possible

    1. What is it you need to know? Am glad to help if it is within my knowledge to do so.

  10. were east asian ships mostly made of pine trees?

    "Galley is primarily built from oak, a superior shipbuilding material than pine wood in term of strength, sturdiness, hardness, and corrosion resistance"

    pine<oak<tropical hardwood

    oak and tropical hardwood are angiosperms, while pine is gymnosperm. Hardwood is high quality, however it grows very slowly and consequently difficult to reforest, China has more species of angiosperms than all of Europe put together and European direct access to tropical timbers did not come until the 15th century. For centuries, it was the peoples of the Indian Ocean (people around that oceanic basin live in tropical climate, semi-arid and deserts) who sailed to China and China took until the Song dynasty to become a force present in the Indian Ocean trade.

  11. well, oak is almost non-existent in the Mediterranean climate and is somewhat more of northern Europe and second, I do not know how much you know about Iberian geography, but Portugal is very poor in wood resource (except in the mountainous region in the far north where there is oak and oak was considered of inferior value by the Portuguese and many nations), most of the wood used in the Portuguese navy actually came from its colonies notably Brazil (pau-brasil), atlantic islands such as madeira archipelago (madeira means wood) and asia (indian sandalwood, teak, kapok and other tropical timbers). Portugal imported,exported and used a lot of tropical woods in european or asian shipyards, they not only served for carpentry (shipbuilding) but as well as dyeing, aromatization, oils, medicine among other purposes.
    The Portuguese sold iron tools or used slaves and under the direction of Portuguese locals, wood was stocked in warehouses:
    Lisbon is not in the north and has developed as a maritime capital in the estuary of a river since the beginning of its history, then it was very easy to import wood through ships as in 1506, about 65% of the state income was produced by taxes on overseas activity....
    I would also like to say that one of the reasons for the Roman Empire to expand out of Italy during the Punic wars was the lack of wood, phoenicians,english in north america and Greeks also went through the same thing, although more like an economic factor else in economic growth, not simple because they needed wood, but rather profitable and easily obtainable wood.
    Phoenicians, Medieval Italians, Aragonese, Carthaginians and Greeks were all excellent navigators in Western history, needless to say the Cedar-of-Lebanon (pine). Environmental determinism is one of the smallest factors in history, what really matters is not the resource itself, but the way you use it and your economic strategy

  12. greetings, I have been looking around your website for quite some time now, do you plan to do more about ships in the late ming period, especially those with european influences? or is there not enough source for reference?

    1. Good day and welcome to my blog.

      European influence on Chinese warships was most obvious on the Wu Gong Chuan/galley, and Jia Ban Chuan/European-style sailing ship (Carrack, galleas & jacht etc).

      While some late Ming war junks (particularly the "Bird ship") were more heavily armed than before, I am not certain how many (or if any at all) European shipbuilding technique was incorporated into these improved junks.

  13. for naval guns, what type of gun carriage did the Chinese used for dajiangjun pao and upsized folangji and what is the usual armament for the common fuchuan?

    1. I think it's some kind of wooden frame, with the occasional wheeled carriage.

      Till the end of sixteenth century, a Fuchuan usually mounted one or two Upsized folangji or Fagong at the bow, and smaller swivel guns/folangji at the broadsides. After sixteenth century, Fuchuan mounted heavy Red Barbarian cannon(s) at the bow, with either Fagong or smaller Red Barbarian cannons at the broadsides.

    2. was cementing the cannons common too? ive heard claims of the qing having stationary cemented cannons on ship during the opium war. Also why was wooden frame still used despite having less mobility for aiming and reloading the cannon?

    3. You mean fix the cannon on ship with cement? Why would anyone want to do that?

    4. My bad, i misinterpreted "fix emplacements" as "cemented onto the deck"

  14. Mediterranean-influenced galley was already present upon the european arrival:

    1. Thanks for the information. Wu Gong Chuan was explicitly adopted from the Portuguese design though.

  15. The turtle ship was highly specialized for charging attacks, ramming, and breaking formations. Only a few were ever in service at any time and they were always used in conjunction with mainline chŏnsŏn (p'anoksŏn) battleships and pyŏngsŏn/pangp'aesŏn single-decked auxiliaries.

    Also there is no evidence that the turtle ship had iron plating. The earliest versions built by Na Taeyong were quite small and had iron spikes, but that seems to have been abandoned once they started building them up from a larger p'anoksŏn base. Also the two versions in those two well-known depictions, the chwasuyŏng and t'ongjeyŏng types, were used at the same time; neither was the type used in the early 15th century of which we know almost nothing. The hexagonal pattern in that one depiction from the Yi Ch'ungmugong Chŏnsŏ of the late 18th century is specifically stated in that source to have been painted on.

    Most guns on the turtle ship would have been chija and hyŏnja types, which were equivalent in bore roughly to 9- and 5-pounders which aren't exactly small by East Asian standards. A few ch'ŏnja 14-pounders and hwangja 1-pounders would also have been used.

    Korean warships were all built with wide keels to accommodate extra space in their hulls for storage, cabins, etc. They also allowed for a shallow draught and tight turns necessary for Korea's southern and western coastlines which are typified by myriads of small islands and tight straights in very shallow water. Much of it is actually exposed as mudflats during certain periods of low tide.

    1. AFAIK most of what we know about turtle ship come from late 18th century Yi Ch'ungmu Kong chŏnsŏ. This comparison table also uses 18th century version (hence mentions of wheeled carriage)

      I personally find the notion of using Turtle ship for ramming rather dubious, as the boxy shape isn't very conductive to naval ramming. Are there any record of Turtle ship ramming?

      I also don't think 9-pdr gun (some of the the heaviest gun in East Asia during late 16th century) would've been very common on Imjin War-era warships. The recoil of a cannon is very unforgiving, especially when mounted on a ship. 1~2 large cannon mounted on the bow of a large warship (the rest are smaller guns) seems more plausible.

    2. @Eireviek I think you’re right about the iron plating, I’ve also heard similar things about the design and also the lack of records for the iron that would’ve been used. But this is the first time I’ve heard of the painted on Hexagonal pattern.
      @GMM I also agree that ramming is an odd tactic. Top of destroying the nice looking dragon figurehead, it also doesn’t utilize the main strength of the Korean broadsides. That being said, I think it’s highly plausible that the turtle ships would’ve faired well in close quarters against the Japanese ships, given how hard it would be to board one.
      Though i do wonder about the deck arrangement of the turtle ships: was it just 1 deck for the oarsmen and gunners? Separate decks? One can only make it so top heavy before the ship just capsizes.
      My own suspicion about the naval campaigns of the Imjin war was that the Korean navy didn’t need to do much aside from disrupting the Japanese fleets enough so that the “terrain” itself took its toll. Don’t think the small caliber cannons and firearms could sink ships on their own.

    3. BTW, estimation of cannonball weight from cannon size and/or bore size tend to be difficult and inaccurate. Where does the information of that 14-pdr Chŏnja come from?

    4. There was a demon head on the front transom that was used for ramming. Yi Sunshin himself mentions it ramming in his diary and the Imjin Changch'o. I don't remember it being mentioned very much though, so maybe it was an occasional tactic.

      Yi Sunshin also regularly mentions using the chija and hyŏnja guns (ch'ŏnja and hwangja to a lesser extent) on the turtle ship and more generally throughout his navy. Records also consistently list around 24 gunners (砲手) as separate from "shooters" (射手).

      I have also wondered about how exactly they managed the oars and the cannons since they were both on the same deck.

      The ch'ŏnja cannon's bore was 13 cm, which is why I said it was equivalent in bore to a 14 pdr. However it generally didn't fire a single ball during this period, but either a giant arrow weighing 56 catties or grapeshot, so it's somewhat comparing apples to oranges. The chija's bore was 10 cm and fired a 29 catty 8 tael arrow, the hyŏnja 6 cm, and the hwangja 4 cm.

    5. It's possible there were multiple gunners per gun (assuming some of the crewmen weren't involved in managing guns) but this still would make it a minimum of around 8-12 guns. This might agree with the number of "gunnery technicians" (火炮匠) which was typically around that number. The gunnery technicians were firearms experts/craftsmen. Honestly don't know. As far as I know we don't have a source that directly states how many guns were on the ships, just what types.

    6. @Eireveik
      Ch'ungmu Kong chŏnsŏ mentions the demon head, but AFAIK doesn't elaborate on its purpose.

      Imjin War-era Korean sources often report on damaged/destroyed Japanese ships using the term “撞破”, regardless of how they were damaged/destroyed (except fire, which was usually described with "焚滅"). So use of 撞破 does not indicate that ramming was involved.

      I recall in the Joseon Samsu system, Sasu (射手) refers to archers, and Posu (砲手) refers to matchlockmen.

      Also, 20 gunners were required to operate a single Dajiangjunpao (Heaviest Ming gun) during Imjin War. I'd assume Chonja cannon requires similar amount of crew? (granted, naval gun may require less crew, but I seriously have no idea), even a 10-Chonja Panokseon would've been seriously overcapacity.

    7. 20 gunners for the dajiangjunpao? Did later and larger European guns require that number of men to operate?

      That specific definition was in the context of the Hullyŏn Togam; I'd be hesitant to apply it to the navy.

    8. Although it remains a possibility it was musketeers.

    9. @Eireviek
      Later European guns required less crew. Napoleonic-era 12-pdr field gun was only assigned 15-17 gunners, I recall.

    10. Hmm. Not sure. European guns were generally larger and heavier.

      I honestly don't know I'll have to do some more digging. Don't actually know of any source that specifically states how many guns were on the ships.

    11. Keep in mind that it's been a few years since I've paid any attention to the Chosŏn navy so I have to reacquaint myself with the data.

      I found some old sources I had forgotten about/stored away. There is a roster from the late 18th century United Naval Command Station that probably sheds some light. It lists p'anoksŏn (including the turtle ship since it is technically a type of p'anoksŏn) carrying 20-30 火砲手 (presumably the same as the 火炮匠) and 24 砲手. Single-decked squadron flagships had 14 火砲手, and single-decked auxiliaries had 2 火砲手. Earlier sources put the number of 火炮匠 on the chŏnsŏn (the mainline p'anoksŏn) at 10-14 and as 8 on the turtle ship. Don't know how many men serviced each gun but it probably varied depending on size, probably generally less than 10. This may be why Yi Sunshin seems to have preferred the chija and hyŏnja guns, since they would presumably have been the most effective in terms of manpower requirements vs size.

      It also looks like either they increased the armament toward the late 18th century or the United Naval Command Station was better equipped than other stations.

    12. For clarification the single-decked squadron flagships and auxiliaries had 10 砲手 each.

    13. Also I meant each ship would generally have less than 10 guns, although I am skeptical of even the ch'onja gun being serviced, at least onboard ship, by more than 10 men.

    14. I will be very surprised if Chongja Chongtong can get away with just a crew of ten.

      A 19th century 8-pdr naval gun still generally required a crew of ten, while for smaller 4~6-pdr the crew could be shrunk down to six. Note that this is with advancement like flintlock mechanism and pulley-assisted gun carriage. I also don't know if Koreans used pre-packed gunpowder cartridge.

      (Granted, shorter and lighter gun requires fewer crew, although this would've been offset by the extra-long & heavy wooden dart).

    15. I'm no longer able to find it, but there was a South Korean paper a few years back that attempted to recreate the design of the turtle ship based on the Admiral's nephew's writings. The estimate that researcher came up with was that the forward armament was two cheongja, two jija, and one hyeonja, while there were two hyeonja aft and a dozen hwangja, six firing to port and six to starboard. I've been unfortunately unable to find estimates of panokseon armament by type of chongtong to compare to the paper's estimates of geobukseon armament.

    16. @STEPHEN
      Although I can't read Korean, I'd like to take a look at the paper too. Two large cheongja with others being smaller guns seems like a reasonable estimate.

    17. I am 99% certain this is the paper, because I remember the plans about 2/3 of the way down with color-coded markings for each type of chongtong. I don't read Korean either, but a combination of machine translation and looking at the plans made the reconstruction at least moderately understandable.

      I also found a (disappointingly brief) YouTube video that discusses the reconstruction:

    18. Thank you Stephen. I will take a good look to try to understand it.

  16. It's also possible that early versions of the turtle ship sometimes used ramming but it was later abandoned. I'd have to meticulously go through the records to see for sure.

  17. Any readable (accesible) reference about Feng Zhou? I'm curious about when they're first used, the range of years which they're used, their size and their description.

    1. There are, but you need to be able to read Chinese. The earliest Ming investiture mission to Ryukyu was 1372, but I am uncertain if special-built investiture ships were used that early. Investiture mission to Ryukyu continued well into Qing period, the last one was 1865.

      Obviously not all Fengzhou are of the same size, but they are all very big. Ming version with recorded dimensions range from 48~64m (length) x 8.3~19m (width) x 4~4.5m (tall).

      Although not a Fengzhou, the famous Chinese Junk "Keying" matches the size of Fengzhou pretty closely, and may be helpful to give you a general idea of the size of such ships.

    2. Well, I don't mind if you could only provide Chinese-language sources. I can use Google translate or ask my Chinese friend in helping to translate it.

      Also, why is the early Ming Fengzhou has more cannon than late Ming ones? And Gong Chuan really has 100-200 cannons?

    3. https://zh.m.wikisource.org/zh-hans/%E4%B8%AD%E5%B1%B1%E5%82%B3%E4%BF%A1%E9%8C%84

      This place should be a good start as it contains various works about Ryukyu Investiture missions. I don't think Google Translate works well on classical or pre-modern vernacular Chinese though...

  18. For the sake of clarity, I would like to add that what you call a Portuguese 'galley' should actually be called a Portuguese fusta.

    1. Sure, but is there any difference between galley and fusta? Or is fusta is simply a Portuguese name for galley?

    2. A fusta is one of the smallest galley types. They would typically have 12 to 18 banks of oars, where a galiot would be 18 to 20, a "true" galley 22 to 26, and a lanterna around 30 (although Don Juan's "Real" had 35 banks). A galley (one with 22 to 26 banks of oars) at the Battle of Lepanto would have had a centerline gun of 4,000 to 7,000 pounds flanked by four smaller guns, two of 1,500 to 3,000 pounds and two of 800 to 1,500 pounds, and they would also have up to 36 swivel guns.

    3. @Stephen
      Thank you for the detailed explanation. Ming records of Portuguese galley they encountered describe the ship as having 40+ oars on either side as well as 40+ guns of various sizes, which put it under "true galley" category rather than a fusta.

    4. That still seems like very light armament for a 40-banked galley, since a 35-banked galley from Aceh in 1629 had 5 cannon in the 4000+ category, 13 in the 2000 or 3000 category, and at least 80 in the smallest categories. It was also noted as being larger than anything the Portuguese had seen in Christendom. Is it possible it was 40 oars total instead of 40 oars per side? If it's 40 per side, then it seems to contradict what the Portuguese said about the size of their own ships, and it's larger than any galley Europe could put in the water at Lepanto. Don Juan's Real was noted as being the largest galley there, at 35 banks of oars, and even later Venetian flagship galleys (the galea bastarda) only got up to around 36 banks of oars. 40 banks would be larger than anything I've seen referenced, and anything that large would have a significant number of heavy cannon because it wouldn't be able to outmaneuver lighter galleys that could still carry heavy cannon (like those of Aceh, the chief threat to Portugal at Malacca).

    5. The description is a little ambiguous but I lean towards 40+ banks total, hence I put it in "true galley" rather than "Lanterna" category. It is definitely not comparable to Cakra Dunia.

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  20. I found an interesting article by Roderich Ptak that mentions the galleys. It's available in a PDF at https://www.icm.gov.mo/rc/viewer/40005. The mention of Portuguese galleys in Cochin having 15 to 30 oars on a side and that the 40-oared galleys were designed by a man named Pedro for construction at Longjiang Shipyard, I'm wondering if he tried to build something large to impress officials.

    From page 74 of the PDF, the dimensions on Wang Hong's memorial seem off, at 10 zhang long and 3 zhangs wide. That's too fat for a normal galley and too short for the number of oars (although those could also be Pedro's fault if he wasn't a good ship designer). A galley should be around 6 to 9 times as long as it is wide, and to have enough space for 40 rowers the ship should be at least 12 zhang long (roughly 1 meter per rower plus roughly 10% for the bow and stern as a minimum, and assuming a 3.58 meter zhang).

    Anyway, I just figured I'd mention it here since it's the first English-language source I've seen describing the background of those galleys even briefly.

    1. I kinda forget the context of the record about Wu Gong Chuan, but perhaps the witness only speaks in estimates, or perhaps the hull ratio had already been modified for Chinese sensibilities.


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