Equipment of a Ming soldier — Equestrian training equipment and exercises

As Chinese were sedentary people, horsemanship skill did not come to them as naturally as it did with the nomadic Mongols. Ming cavalrymen had to undergo additional training in order to keep up with their nomadic adversaries, and they employed several simple training equipment to this end:


Cheng Zu Li Mu Jia (稱足力木架, lit. 'Foot strength training wooden frame')
Ming Dynasty Equestrian training rack
Drawing of a Cheng Zu Li Mu Jia, from 'Bing Fa Bai Zhan Jing (《兵法百戰經》)'.
Cheng Zu Li Mu Jia is just a simple wooden frame with a handlebar and a balance board. The trainee learns to maintain lateral balance in a horse stance on the balance board, at first with the aid of handlebar, then without.

Ming Chinese Equestrian Training Equipment
Left: Trainee balances himself in horse stance with the aid of handlebar. Right: Trainee practising with archery postures while standing on the balance board. Both images are taken from 'Bing Fa Bai Zhan Jing (《兵法百戰經》'.


Wooden semicylinder
Ming Chinese Balance Board Training
Trainee practising with archery postures while in horse stance. From 'Bing Fa Bai Zhan Jing (《兵法百戰經》)'.
Essentially a split log used as a variant of the standard balance board. The trainee learns to maintain fore/aft balance in horse stance while standing on the flat of the semicylinder. This training is significantly more difficult than lateral balance training.


Wooden practise horse
Wooden practise horse can be used to practise mounting a horse. Ming cavalrymen were required to master the skills of mounting a horse without stirrups from both sides, as well as mounting a horse from both sides without using hands.
Ming Dynasty Wooden Horse
Left: Trainee tries to mount a wooden horse without stirrups from the right side. Left: Trainee tries to mount a wooden horse without stirrups from the left side. Both images are taken from 'Bing Fa Bai Zhan Jing (《兵法百戰經》)'. 
Mounting a horse without hands
Left: Trainee tries to mount a wooden horse from the right side with both hands behind his back. Right: Trainee tries to mount a wooden horse from the left side with both hands behind his back. Both images are taken from 'Bing Fa Bai Zhan Jing (《兵法百戰經》)'.


Equestrian training equipment and cavalry tactics
Chinese equestrian training equipment can be compared and contrasted to similar equipment used by medieval knights-in-training, as these equipment reflected the approach to cavalry warfare of their respective cultures. Chinese did not employ quintain and and wheeled wooden horse in their training as couched lance charge wasn't their primary tactic, and lance precision as well as conditioning to deliver shock and withstand recoil were seen as less important.

On the other hand, Chinese put great emphasis on cultivating the rider's sense of balance as well as his ability to ride without reins as required by horse archery. They also practised mounting a horse in various less than ideal conditions, which seems to suggest that Chinese cavalry fought dismounted quite often.

6 comments:

  1. For archery on horseback, were they required to shoot with both left and right-handed?

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    Replies
    1. No, I don't think that's a requirement, although it is a nice bonus on top of normal skills.

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  2. I wanna know name of that surcoat (which is also appeared in dan dao fa xian)

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    Replies
    1. He looks like just wearing a normal cloth to me?

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  3. Does that type of clothes called any specific name?

    I Thought that long clothes were wore over the armor very oftenly [Base on many picture]

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    Replies
    1. I am not exactly an expert in hanfu (traditional Chinese clothing), but I think that's a Yuan Ling Pao (圓領袍, lit. 'Round collar coat') with long narrow sleeves. Pretty common from Tang Dynasty onwards.

      For the practice of wearing an overcoat over armour (common in Song period, and to some extend Ming), the practice is called Zhong Jia Zhi (衷甲制, under-armour practice). The overcoat itself is usually called Xiu Shan (繡衫, 'Embroided coat') or Kuan Pao (寬袍, 'Broad robe') depending on its type.

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