Qi Ji Guang's Che Ying (車營) — Part 2

Tactics of Che Ying (車營, lit. 'Cart regiment')
Mign Dynasty wagon tactics
Drawing of a Pian Xiang Che, from 'Lian Bing Shi Ji (《練兵實紀》)'.
At its core, wagon fort tactics is surprisingly simple: war wagons are arranged into a square, rectangular or ring formation to form a makeshift fortification, protecting cavalry and infantry inside from enemy cavalry charge. Che Ying was no exception. What set it apart from other wagon fort tactics of the time was the fact that Mongol and Chinese armies almost never fought set piece battle with each other. As most battles were fought as raids, skirmishes, or rapidly escalating meeting engagement, Che Ying emphasised on speed, flexibility, reconnaissance, as well as the ability to form into wagon fort as quickly as possible, rather than the robustness of the formation or vehicles.

War cart specifications
Unfortunately, Qi Ji Guang (戚繼光) did not provide a detailed blueprint for his war cart. Nevertheless, reconstruction drawing with some degree of accuracy is still possible thanks to the information found in his writings.

In essence, Qi Ji Guang's war carts were all two-wheeled "flatbed" mule carts with only one or two sides protected by protective screens known as Pian Xiang Pai (偏廂牌, lit. 'Side cabin shield'). While considerably less stable and durable than four-wheeled war wagons (such as those used by the Hussites), Chinese war carts were lighter and far more mobile, and could remain so even during battle. The flatbed design also allowed Chinese troops to mount and dismount easily, as well as move between carts.

Crew Positioning
Even with the endurance and greater pulling strength of a mule, Qi Ji Guang considered pulling a six hundred catties war cart with mules alone was too much, and wrote down several instructions on crew positioning for Che Ying (lest all troops went "tank desant" and overexert the draft animals).

Qi Ji Guang's guideline aimed to conserve the stamina of both men and mules, as Che Ying often had to operate at long distances from friendly territories. His guideline also ensured that there would always be troops on the ground to respond to unexpected or emergency events.

Che Ying on the move
While on the move, Che Ying formed into a rectangular formation that was protected on all sides — essentially a narrower and mobile wagon fort — as a precaution against unpredictable Mongol attacks. Scouting parties were sent out in all directions as Che Ying marched.

Once the enemy had been spotted, Che Ying would adjust its direction and then commence attack. Troops of Che Ying were drilled to respond to different levels of threat with appropriate use of force:
  • If the enemy launch a probing attack with a few horsemen, ignore them.
  • If the enemy launch a skirmish run with roughly one hundred horsemen, individual arquebusiers are ordered to shoot at their own discretion.
  • If the enemy launch a sizable offensive with several hundred horsemen or more, open fire with two arquebus volleys, followed by a barrage of rockets and cart-mounted guns. Repeat the process ad infinitum while continue pressing forward towards the enemy.

Defensive deployment
In the circumstances where direct assault was inadvisable (i.e. very large concentration of enemy force, unsuitable terrain, nighttime, etc.), Che Ying would deploy into a wagon fort, also known as Che Cheng (車城, lit. 'Cart fortress'), then waited for the enemy to attack. Che Cheng actually consisted of two layers of "wall", the outer layer was formed up by standard war carts, while inner layer was formed up by Chong Che (衝車) wheelbarrows. Should the need arise, Che Ying could also deploy into several smaller forts.

Troops of Che Ying responded to different levels of threat the same way they did in mobile formation, albeit with several additions:

Other blog posts in my Che Ying series:
Qi Ji Guang's Che Ying — Part 2

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