16 September 2015

Liang Guang Yao Jian (兩廣藥箭)

Ming Chinese Poisoned Quarrel
Drawing of a crossbow with poisoned quarrel, from 'Chou Hai Tu Bian (《籌海圖編》)'.
Liang Guang Yao Jian (兩廣藥箭, lit. 'Poisoned arrow from Liangguang') is a type of poisoned arrow commonly found in Guangdong and Guangxi region. As simply smearing the arrowhead with poison often proved ineffective in warfare because the poison can be easily wiped off if the arrow hit its target through his clothes, Liang Guang Yao Jian has its arrowhead specifically drilled hollow and filled with poison.

It was the preferred weapon of Lang Bing (狼兵).


  1. Hi, I'd be interested in your thoughts on the use of the crossbow in the mid/late dynasty. I've read some suggestions that they'd have been found more in the militia than the main armies, which would have mainly used firearms. From the few wargames army lists I've seen of the Ming they often contain fairly large amounts of crossbow or even repeating crossbow troops.

  2. @Clibinarium
    Indeed. Crossbow was never popular in the Ming armies, even during the founding years of the dynasty. Ming armies during the Hongwu reign (that is, the first Ming emperor) had 20 shieldmen, 40 spearmen, 30 bowmen, and 10 hand gunners per 100 troops - no crossbowmen at all.

    Qi Jiguang's army (mid Ming) was all melee/bow/firearm/rocket, again no crossbowmen.

    Wagon army of Sun Chengzong (late Ming) had no crossbowmen as well.

    Koxinga's army (post-Ming)...had no crossbowmen.

  3. Overrepresented crossbow, particularly repeating crossbow in Chinese army is actually one of my major gripe on the depiction of Chinese armies in gaming, whether video game or tabletop war game.

  4. @Clibinarium
    Note that Qi Ji Guang's army had crossbowmen outside of his Mandarin Duck Formation structure.

  5. What sort of effects did the poison on this arrow have, and how fast acting was it?

    1. It kills people.

      The most common arrow poison during Ming period was made of concentrated aconite (wolf's bane), which was smeared on most projectile weapons in China. However the Zhuang people was renowned for their use of poison, so maybe they had other more potent concoctions.

      There's no way to do a scientific test on how fast arrow poison can act on human. In very high dosage, aconite poison can kill in minutes, although wikipedia cites 2~6 hours for most cases of fatal poisoning.

  6. Do you know what type of poison they used for their crossbow bolts? I heard that the armies from the Guang region preferred to use the poison from Antiaris toxicaria (Chinese name: 見血封喉树) rather than the more common wolf's bane.

    1. The poison is called Mian Yao (綿藥 or 眠藥). Yes the poison is likely derived from Antiaris toxicaria.


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