11 February 2016

Yu Da You's Du Lun Che (獨輪車) — Part 1

Contrary of popular misconception, war wagons formed an integral part of the Song, Ming and early Manchu armies, particularly in North China. Massive numbers of war wagons once roamed China's soil, defending Ming territories against Mongol raiders, and much of the battles between Ming Chinese and Manchus were fought with war wagons from both sides.

While mentions of Ming period war wagons are plentiful, famous Ming general Yu Da You (俞大猷) was one of the earliest pioneers to discuss in detail the deployment and tactics of these war machines. He also designed Du Lun Che (獨輪車, lit. 'One wheeled cart'), which is basically a giant armed and armoured wheelbarrow.

Early Version
This version of Du Lun Che was designed by Yu Da You before his transfer to Datong garrison. Early Du Lun Che is a simple cart armed with two long spears. It is manned by ten crews and supported by ten infantries, twenty horsemen and twenty packhorses. The infantries were armed with Gou Lian Dao (鉤鐮刀)Hu Cha (虎叉, lit. 'Tiger fork', a trident that is similar but much larger than Tang Pa (鎲鈀). Its use was more common during Qing period.), Long Dao Qiang (龍刀鎗), as well as round shields paired with Huan Dao (環刀, lit. 'Ring sabre', this is an archaic Yuan period term referring to a sabre. Korean continued to use this terminology in the form of Hwando or 환도 to refer to their sabre).

Unlike its more advanced variant, early Du Lun Che is not equipped with shield or firearm. 

Late Version
Yu Da You war cart
Basic layout of Du Lun Che, from 'Zheng Qi Tang Ji (《正氣堂集》)'.
After his transfer to Datong garrison, Yu Da You redesigned the Du Lun Che, equipping it with new armament and support legs. This new Du Lun Che has four spearheads, one large Fo Lang Ji (佛狼機) and two smaller Fo Lang Ji. It is also equipped with two very large leather shields, one cloth curtain (which probably also functions as a sail), and two battle standards.
Ming Chinese War Cart
Fully armed and crewed Du Lun Che, from 'Zheng Qi Tang Ji (《正氣堂集》)'.
A basic Du Lun Che unit consisted of sixteen crews, divided into two eight-man teams that take turns to push the cart. Each team was led by one officer who also served as "helmsman" that steered the cart. Crewmen that were not currently pushing the cart would serve as its guards, armed with short Bō Dao (撥刀)Shen Qiang (神鎗) and arquebuses.

Entire Du Lun Che, including its attached spearheads, shields and cannon, weighs less than three hundred catties. It can be easily lifted by its crews to bypass difficult terrain should the need arise. This feature gives the war cart unprecedented mobility compared to other (normally slow and cumbersome) war wagons, and the ability to deploy in rough terrain.
Ming Dynasty War Wheelbarrow
A full Du Lun Che unit, from 'Zheng Qi Tang Ji (《正氣堂集》)'.
A full Du Lun Che battle unit consisted of one cart (and its crews) supported by two seven-man infantry teams, ten horsemen and four packhorses. Each team consisted of one standard bearer, two shieldmen armed with large circular Ai Pai (挨牌), two troopers armed with Hu Cha, one trooper armed with Gou Lian Dao (鈎鐮刀) and one trooper armed with long Bō Dao. Entire unit was also armed with sabres, bows and arrows, which were carried by the packhorses when not in use.

The foot component of Du Lun Che unit (cart guards and supporting infantry teams) bore some resemblance to the redesigned Mandarin Duck Formation of Qi Ji Guang (戚繼光), although they were not directly related. As troopers in the unit could rely on Du Lun Che (formed into wagon fort or line formation) to repel cavalry charge, they were armed with shorter polearms in preparation for countercharging enemy cavalry (read more at my blog post about Ming Chinese infantry tactics).

Yu Da You once deployed one hundred war carts supported by three thousand troops (both mounted and on foot) to decisively defeat several tens of thousand Mongol raiders at the Battle of An Yin Zi Pu (安銀子堡), which was the first ever Ming victory against the Mongols after the humiliating defeat at Tumu Crisis. His success restored the morale and confidence of Ming army, and inspired other garrisons to develop their own designs.

Other blog posts in my Du Lun Che series:
Yu Da You's Du Lun Che (獨輪車) — Part 1
Yu Da You's Du Lun Che (獨輪車) — Part 2
Yu Da You's Du Lun Che (獨輪車) — Part 3
Yu Da You's Du Lun Che (獨輪車) — Part 4
Yu Da You's Du Lun Che (獨輪車) — Part 5


  1. I know the Ming used a lot of war wagons, but did the Song really use war wagons? I'm under the impression that the Song mostly relied on crossbowmen, heavy infantrymen, and mountain fortresses to fend off Jurchen and Mongol attacks.

    1. Yes they did. For example the "如意戰車” designed by early Southern Song 魏勝.

  2. Replies
    1. Good day Thomas. You are THAT Thomas right?

    2. Yes, I am that Thomas Chen...

    3. Your site is one of the rare English-language sources for Chinese swords. I especially love the two-handed sword part, which list out the surviving two-handed systems (which inspired me to make a list of my own)

    4. Glad u like my website. Have u posted your two handed sword style list online ? I would love to compare notes... Two handers are my greatest love

    5. Not specifically two-handed sword systems, but a list of all Ming period martial arts. Mostly complete, but missing some pieces here and there.

    6. It is in this blog, under the martial arts tab.


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