19 November 2016

Shield formation of Luo Gong Chen (羅拱辰) — Part 2


Ming Dynasty Infantry Formation
Conjectured Luo Gong Chen's full formation. Alternatively, shieldmen (both light and heavy), pikemen and archers (both bow and crossbow) may form only three ranks, similar to his original formation. This image is doctored and pieced together from 'Wu Bian Qian Ji (《武編前集》), 'Ji Xiao Xin Shu (《紀效新書》)', 'Shen Qi Pu (《神器譜》)' and 'Wu Bei Zhi (《武備志》)' by myself.
During his station at Zhangzhou in 1567, Luo Gong Chen (羅拱辰) wrote down Zhan Shou Tu Ce (《戰守圖策》) which contains a section that discusses about military equipment and battle tactics. While Luo Gong Chen only briefly discussed about the administrative organisation of his army, it was seemingly built and expanded upon his original shield formation.

Basic Tactic
Luo Gong Chen's new formation was twice the size of his previous one, consisted of twenty men—four light shieldmen armed with sabres and Yan Wei Pai (燕尾牌), four heavy shieldmen armed with short spears and Ai Pai (挨牌), four troops armed with either long spears, Lang Xian (狼筅) or other polearms such as Tang Pa (鎲鈀), four archers, and four crossbowmen. All troops also carried javelins, and presumably sabres as backup weapon. This unit was accompanied by another team of arquebusiers of indeterminate (presumably equal or greater) number.

Luo Gong Chen's battle tactic was essentially the same as his original formation, although he did lay down a more detailed shooting discipline for his troops due to increased specialisation of ranged weapon in the formation. During battle, archers would be the first to start shooting at their enemy, using Bian Jian (邊箭) at the range of two hundred paces and beyond. Once the enemy moved within two hundred paces, the archers switched to normal arrows and the arquebusiers would commence firing. At one hundred paces distance, crossbowmen would start shooting as well, peppering their enemy with poisoned quarrels. If the enemy still did not break and moved within thirty paces, entire team would throw javelins at the enemy and then engage them in close combat.

It also seems that shieldmen in this formation, of both light and heavy variety, were able to detach from their parent unit to fight in rough or cramped terrains, where their shorter weapons were the most useful.

The reinvigorated Ming army
The refinement of Luo Gong Chen's formation reflects the rapid advancement and dissemination of military technology, ideas and tactics among various Ming army groups during the Wokou (倭寇) era. Great numbers of troops from all corners of China were mobilised to battle the Wokou, and bought with them their preferred weapons, martial arts and tactics. While the process wasn't always smooth, these troops were gradually integrated into preexisting Ming military structure, and the reorganised Ming army now represented the combined might of all of South China instead of local traditions.

In a sense, Luo Gong Chen's new formation can be seen as the standard Ming infantry formation of this period.

Other blog posts in my Shield Formation series:
Shield formation of Luo Gong Chen — Part 1
Shield formation of Luo Gong Chen — Part 2


  1. Very interesting, especially the use of javelins and the spear and shield combination (I thought the sword was nearly always paired with the shield and spears were generally wielded two handed).
    To go off topic, and I can't ask it any other way; are you aware of the text in this link
    Xing jun ji xiang yi tu apparently meaning "Prophecies for Success in Military Campaigns", written during the Ming dynasty (unhelpfully it doesn't say which period). It looks like it could be full of interesting information, and the colour depiction of troops is especially interesting from a sculptor's point of view.

    1. I already mentioned elsewhere that Ai Pai can be used together with a weapon requiring both hands, as it is hanged from the neck (You can check out my blog post about that shield). It is still usually paired with a sabre or used alone though.

      I am aware of the news for quite some time, but no online source of the complete book surfaced. I think I DID see somewhere (on Facebook, perhaps) regarding the other pictures in the same book/similar book. Will let you know if I find it.

    2. Thank you very muchfor the pictures, Wansui was kind enough to pass them on to me.
      The book in question, is it more about divination and prophesy than the practicalities of military matters? Perhaps I hoped it would be more enlightening than it actually is.

    3. Yes, the book is about divination and weather checking, unfortunately. (Actually most Ming military treatises include a section about divination too, so maybe ancient Chinese considered them practical).

  2. Did the author have comments on how troops are supposed to conduct casualty coverage? That is, if one of the light or heavy shield men are struck and are unable to continue the fight (death or injury), what is the formation expected to do to cover this?

    1. Good day and welcome to my blog.

      No, even this formation is conjectured from his previous formation, which in itself is also very vague.

      However, if the writings of Qi Ji Guang is any indication, other troops are supposed to ignore the wounded and continue to fight on as if nothing happened.


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