4 January 2019

Square formation of Xu Lun (許論) — Part 3

Xu Lun's War Cart Formation
While Xu Lun (許論) obviously preferred cheval de frise over war carts, he also understood that his army could not rely on just one type of mobile obstacle and tactic. As thus, he also devised a war cart formation in case his army was required to fight in a more conventional way.

Organisation and Equipment
Xu Lun did not discuss the organisation and equipment of his war cart formation in detail, as it was simply adapted from his original square formation. Instead of assigning three Ju Ma (拒馬) to every forty-five infantry, a war cart, which could be a Qing Che (輕車), a Zhan Che (戰車), or some other types, was assigned to every seventy-five infantry. Additionally, a supply cart was given to every twenty-five support personnel. As such, a 3,000-strong army would own twenty-four war carts as well as twelve supply carts. The seventy-five troops unit consisted of twenty-five spearmen, twenty-five archers (Xu Lun included crossbowmen this time), and twenty-five handgonners.

Cavalry arm of the war cart formation was largely unchanged, although some cavalrymen fought dismounted in the new formation.

Formation and Tactics
Ming Chinese wagon fort
Simplified drawing of Xu Lun's new formation. From 'Chou Bian Zuan Yi (《籌邊纂議》)'
Xu Lun's new formation was also a square formation with no vulnerable flanks or rear. However, it was much smaller, deeper, denser and more robust, being five ranks deep instead of alternating one and two ranks like the original formation. Its five ranks consisted of spearmen crouching in the first rank, archers and crossbowmen partial squatting in the second rank, handgonners standing in the third ranks, cavalrymen in the forth rank acting as reserve force, and a mix of mounted and dismounted troops in the fifth rank. This allowed all troops in the second, third and forth rank to shoot at the same time.

The formation was in essence a very standard wagon fort, utilising massed projectile weapons to thin down and demoralise the enemy as well as compel them to attack, chained war carts and deep infantry ranks to receive and resist enemy charge, and reserve cavalry to counterattack once the enemy lose the impetus of the charge.

Cavalry charging out of all eight gates of the formation. From 'Chou Bian Zuan Yi (《籌邊纂議》)'.
Like its predecessor, this war cart formation also had eight "gates" from which the cavalry could move in and out of the square. These specifically prepared gates ensured that no matter which direction the enemy attacked, Xu Lun's cavalry could always move out of the formation through another unthreatened gate to flank or even encroach the enemy.

Other blog posts in my Square Formation series:
Square formation of Xu Lun — Part 1
Square formation of Xu Lun — Part 2
Square formation of Xu Lun — Part 3
Square formation of Xu Lun — EXTRA (Patrons only)


  1. did premodern china have any form of teaching like scholasticism? which allowed the union of physics, mathematics and geometry, consequently the scientific revolution


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