1 August 2018

Ye Meng Xiong's Qing Che (輕車)

Ming Chinese Light gun cart
Drawing of Ye Meng Xiong's Qing Che, from 'Deng Tan Bi Jiu (《登壇必究》)'.
The success of wagon tactics of Yu Da You (俞大猷) and Qi Ji Guang (戚繼光) inspired many Ming generals to come out with their own designs. Among them was Ye Meng Xiong (葉夢熊), a talented military innovator that that designed some of the best cannons for the Ming military.

Ye Meng Xiong noted that Qi Ji Guang's war cart design, while viable and effective, required no less than ten men and two mules to move around. He deemed Qi Ji Guang's design too cumbersome and only suitable for defensive deployment on relatively clear terrain, and sought to design a better alternative — a lighter, more mobile, more cost effective, and more powerful war cart known as Qing Che (輕車, lit. 'Light cart').

Ye Meng Xiong's war cart is somewhat similar to Qi Ji Guang's Zheng Xiang Che (正廂車) and Yu Da You's Shuang Lun Zhan Che (雙輪戰車), with a protective wooden screen mounted at the front. It is however much lighter than either, requiring only two men to operate on flat ground, and four men to carry on rough terrain. Despite this, Ye Meng Xiong's war cart is considerably more heavily armed than Qi Ji Guang's. It is equipped with six spears in front to deter cavalry charge, two Fo Lang Ji (佛狼機) breech-loading guns, two small Bai Zi Chong (百子銃) muzzle-loading guns, as well as three stacks of rockets. The light weight of Ye Meng Xiong's design grants it increased mobility, allowing it to not only form into wagon fort much faster, but also break formation quickly to countercharge, and even proactively bring the fight to the enemy.

Qing Che unit
While Ye Meng Xiong's war cart requires only two men to operate, his Qing Che unit actually consisted of twenty-five men, which was slightly larger than Qi Ji Guang's Pian Xiang Che unit. Qing Che unit's twenty-five man squad was made out of one cart leader, two helmsmen, two Fo Lang Ji gunners, two Bai Zi Chong gunners (also responsible for firing cart-mounted rockets), six shieldmen armed with specialised shields with built-in, nine-shot nest of bees rocket pod, two pikemen, two troopers armed with either hooked spears, war axes, or Zhan Ma Dao (斬馬刀), as well as five to eight horsemen with horse-mounted Bai Zi Chong. A pack mule was also assigned to the unit, carrying one Mie Kou Pao (滅寇砲) of Ye Meng Xiong's own design, as well as ten additional Bai Zi Chong. The squad also carried several cheval de frise.

Although Ye Meng Xiong devised his Qing Che unit to defend against Mongol incursions from the north, he preferred to employ Southern troops to man his war carts. He also recruited Miao, Bouyei, and Yi auxiliaries to supplement his army. These auxiliary troops usually served as crossbowmen on foot and skirmishers (carrying javelins) on horseback.

With a whopping twenty-three light cannons per squad on top of numerous rockets, Ye Meng Xiong's Qing Che unit could bring forth a truly unprecedented level of firepower. In fact, his war cart army at envisioned full strength (10,000 troops with 400 war carts) had as much firepower as ELEVEN Qi Ji Guang's Che Ying (approximately 35,000 troops with 1,408 war carts) put together. Ye Meng Xiong would later employ his war cart army to great effect during Ningxia campaign, defeating the Mongol rebels in field battle and forcing them to hole up inside the Ningxia city.

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