29 April 2023

Zhao Shi Zhen's Hu Tou Che (虎頭車) and Hu Yi Che (虎翼車)

Hu Tou Che (left) and Hu Yi Che (right) on the move, from 'Xu Shen Qi Pu (《續神器譜》)'. Note that while the protective screen of Hu Tou Che has to be dismantled and transported on the wheelbarrow, the blanket of Hu Yi Che can be simply rolled-up and carried by a soldier.
Hu Tou Che (虎頭車) and Hu Yi Che (虎翼車) are two types of war wheelbarrow meant to be used together in a formation. They are comparatively simple designs devised by Ming firearm specialist Zhao Shi Zhen (趙士楨) before he went on to develop the more complex Ying Chang Che (鷹揚車).

Hu Tou Che (虎頭車, lit. 'Tiger head cart')

Drawing of a Hu Tou Che and its sloped protective screen (highlighted), from 'Xu Shen Qi Pu (《續神器譜》)'.
Hu Tou Che is essentially a wheelbarrow of a fairly typical Chinese design, with a two handle bars and a large single wheel placed at the bottom of the barrow. Unlike its civilian counterpart, Hu Tou Che is fitted with a front wooden rack to mount the protective screen, as well as two water tanks beside its wheel that double as counterweights. Its sloped protective screen—reminiscence of frontal armour of modern tank—is the most unique component of the war wheelbarrow. Made of two layers of wooden planks, plus a row of split bamboos nailed to its outward-facing side, the lightweight yet sturdy protective screen is constructed in such a way that there is empty space between its two wooden layers that can be filled with dirt (as a defence against firearms). It is usually equipped with two large gun ports designed to accommodate the powerful Ying Yang Pao (鷹揚砲), although some variants may have one additional gun port for either heavy Fo Lang Ji (佛朗機) or Hu Dun Pao (虎蹲砲).

Hu Yi Che (虎翼車, lit. 'Tiger wings cart')

Drawing of a Hu Yi Che and its protective blanket, from 'Xu Shen Qi Pu (《續神器譜》)'.
Hu Yi Che is similar to Hu Tou Che in most respects, only differ in that it has an additional set of handle bars, two wooden racks so that its protective screen can be hung on either side of the wheelbarrow, as well as only one water tank to act as counterbalance to its protective screen. In place of rigid wood-and-bamboo composite plating, Hu Yi Che uses a large rectangular blanket as its protective screen, made in the exact same way as the canopy of Ju Ma San (拒馬傘).

Proposed wheelbarrow regiment

Hu Tou Che and Hu Yi Che deployed together, from 'Xu Shen Qi Pu (《續神器譜》)'.

Zhao Shi Zhen proposed a powerful regiment-sized unit for his war wheelbarrows, likely as a throwback to the then-active Ji Garrison war cart regiments raised by Qi Ji Guang (戚繼光) decades before. A detailed breakdown of Zhao Shi Zhen's proposed regiment is available on my Patreon!

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