3K Armour, Weapons and Battle Tactics

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3K Armour, Weapons and Battle Tactics

Unread postby Sun Fin » Fri Oct 11, 2013 9:27 am

From what I’ve been reading over at CHF I know that we don’t know much about military techniques and books on these topics are rare and expensive.

However I suspect the scholars have some knowledge on this topic and I decided rather than clogging up the ‘Questions’ thread further I’d ask these questions over here.

This link has some interesting images of armour in it which was peer validated by the members at CHF so worth looking at:
http://www.chinahistoryforum.com/index. ... se-armour/

I’m also thinking about investing in Military Culture in Imperial China by Nicola Di Cosmo as well as Oriental Armour by H. Russell Robinson. However I don’t have money to throw at this topic and I only want to buy books if they are going to be relevant and of good quality so I was wondering if any of you know anything about these books?
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Re: 3K Armour, Weapons and Battle Tactics

Unread postby Jordan » Fri Oct 11, 2013 9:59 pm

I never read that particular book by Cosmo but I did read his Ancient China and its Enemies, which was very good.

David Graff mentions the 3k a bit in his book on chinese "medieval" military history, but his focus is more on the period of disunion following the Jin dynasty.

Otherwise I have no idea how to find out more about this. The only thing I really know about this is that the Chinese tended to wear lamellar armor.
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Re: 3K Armour, Weapons and Battle Tactics

Unread postby Aaron.K » Fri Oct 11, 2013 11:14 pm

I have a few images of actual period artifacts (tomb figurines, swords, shields), on my website here (it also hosts the "info sites" that I maintain on the Koei Forums under "Useful Links", and it contains some of the lost biographies from 3kingdoms.net (although I believe most of them can be found on these forums now, including the ones that I was not able to recover).

https://sites.google.com/site/threekingdomshistory/armour-and-weapons

Although it's a bit sparse, I'll probably add some more in the future, but coming across actual photos is a bit difficult. I might add some scans I've taken from some books. But those tomb figurines and actual weapons should at least show a little bit. Armour amongst troops at this time period was not entirely common. However, Zhuge Liang has been mentioned as inventing a type of armour for the Shu troops that was affordable and offered fairly good protection. Unfortunately no examples survive and all artistic renditions are speculative.

If you want to find out more about weapons, I'd suggest getting Yang Hong's book "Weapons in Ancient China". It is very rare, and extremely expensive (around $500+ for a used copy), but if you can find an affordable copy of it; get it, and get it fast. It's an indispensable resource. It is in English, in case anyone was worried.

Another book I'd recommend is: "Ancient Chinese Warfare" by Ralph D. Sawyer. This one is more affordable at around $30, but it also has a kindle edition. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that if you really want to study Chinese warfare, Ralph D. Sawyer is the way to go.

Here's his Amazon page: http://www.amazon.com/Ralph-D.-Sawyer/e/B000AP9EO8/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_pop_1

I have most of these books; Seven Military Classics, One Hundred Unorthodox Strategies, Ancient Chinese Warfare, The Complete Art of War: Sun Tzu/Sun Pin, The Tao of Deception, and Sun Pin: Military Methods. They really are quite excellent, and I'd be so bold to claim that Ralph D. Sawyer is truly an authority when it comes to Chinese military history. Note: He uses the Wade-Giles romanization (he gives reasons as to why he does so in the forwards to his books), so you might find it just a tad bit difficult to read some of the names if you're not used to it. But it's not especially difficult.
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Re: 3K Armour, Weapons and Battle Tactics

Unread postby Sun Fin » Sat Oct 12, 2013 6:09 pm

Good old Aaron, I knew you collected weapons but I didn’t know your interest stretched so far!

Yeah Yong Hong’s book is sitting in my wish list but for the foreseeable history it’s out of my price range!

I looked at Sawyer’s ‘Ancient Chinese Warfare’ on amazon.co.uk and it suggests that it stops before the Han era?

I actually own his ‘Seven Military Classics’; it was an 18th birthday present from a friend who knows me very well.

If I was to buy one of Sawyers books to give me info on weapons and the merriest basics on warfare (we’re talking about simple stuff like did they put their archers out in front or did they keep them behind a wall of shields) which one would you recommend?
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Re: 3K Armour, Weapons and Battle Tactics

Unread postby Aaron.K » Sat Oct 12, 2013 10:26 pm

Sun Fin wrote:Good old Aaron, I knew you collected weapons but I didn’t know your interest stretched so far!

Yeah Yong Hong’s book is sitting in my wish list but for the foreseeable history it’s out of my price range!

I looked at Sawyer’s ‘Ancient Chinese Warfare’ on amazon.co.uk and it suggests that it stops before the Han era?

I actually own his ‘Seven Military Classics’; it was an 18th birthday present from a friend who knows me very well.

If I was to buy one of Sawyers books to give me info on weapons and the merriest basics on warfare (we’re talking about simple stuff like did they put their archers out in front or did they keep them behind a wall of shields) which one would you recommend?


Yes, Ancient Chinese Warfare does stop before the Han era, but the difference in regards to tactics and such is still interesting and worthy of study, since the Han simply built upon what came before. Although the Han was also when there was more reliance on cavalry, generally starting with Emperor Wudi's expeditions against the Xiongnu.

As for the ones that would give you info on weapons and warfare, I would say there's two that are indispensable. "The Essence of War: Leadership and Strategy From The Chinese Military Classics" and "The Tao of Deception: Unorthodox Warfare in Historic and Modern China". Tao has two very good chapters at what you're looking at; The Han, and then the Three Kingdoms as well. Around 66 pages in total, which is about 16% of the book. But the entire book is excellent, and I'd even include The Northern and Southern Dynasties in that specific grouping that you might want to focus on (since they built upon the Han/Three Kingdoms tactics and order of battle, although that was also the time period when cavalry began to become increasingly more armoured and heavy; more like the commonly depicted cataphracts in Chinese artwork as opposed to the light lancers and horse archers from the Three Kingdoms period [though they too started to become more armoured, especially in Wei]). Although Tao is more about unorthodox strategies (ambushes, using fire, etc.)

So for just general usage on the troops, go with Essence of War. If you want to get more in depth in the tactics, go with Tao of Deception. If you can only get one, I'd say choose Essence, but both are excellent.
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Re: 3K Armour, Weapons and Battle Tactics

Unread postby Sun Fin » Sun Oct 13, 2013 9:13 am

Thank you mate, I'll pick up Essence now and will buy Tao as soon as I have a bit more disposable income!
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Re: 3K Armour, Weapons and Battle Tactics

Unread postby Hammerhead3229 » Tue Oct 15, 2013 12:16 am

Rafe Crespigny mentions this in a section of Generals of the South:

https://digitalcollections.anu.edu.au/h ... os_ch8.pdf

Starts around page 12 he talks about how military of the era was employed. A lot of it wasn't as organized as one might think. Generally most soldiers weren't properly trained or equipped.
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Re: 3K Armour, Weapons and Battle Tactics

Unread postby Hammerhead3229 » Tue Oct 15, 2013 12:39 am

Sun Fin wrote:Thank you mate, I'll pick up Essence now and will buy Tao as soon as I have a bit more disposable income!


I wouldn't bother buying Essence or Tao.

Essence is just a compilation of certain passages of the Seven Military Classics. You're better off on just buying Sawyer's translation of the Seven Military Classics, then you have each one in full.

Tao is just application of the Taoteching in warfare situations. It's an interesting read, but unless you're very interested in Confucian ideals I'd skip over it.

I'd instead recommend picking of Sawyer's Fire and Water. He discusses at length two very popular strategies that the Chinese, while not the first to implement, were by far ahead of their time in its implementation. You can pick it up used on Amazon for $0.01 (not including shipping of course).
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Re: 3K Armour, Weapons and Battle Tactics

Unread postby Sun Fin » Tue Oct 15, 2013 9:53 am

Hammerhead3229 wrote:Rafe Crespigny mentions this in a section of Generals of the South:

https://digitalcollections.anu.edu.au/h ... os_ch8.pdf

Starts around page 12 he talks about how military of the era was employed. A lot of it wasn't as organized as one might think. Generally most soldiers weren't properly trained or equipped.


Thank you, I've read the first few chapters on GotS many times but I'm not sure I've read beyond the section on Red Cliff and so I'd missed out on this!

To me it sounds very similar to what Bernard Cornwall describes in his Saxon Chroniclers where you have the few professional warriors who actually do the work and the fyrd who are there to look intimidating and make up the numbers.

As for not buying Tao it's too late for that now as it's already ordered and I'm sure it'll be helpful as I'm still not completely sure what the average soldier was armed with and whether these elite men used a 'shield wall' style tactic or what.
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Re: 3K Armour, Weapons and Battle Tactics

Unread postby Hammerhead3229 » Thu Oct 17, 2013 12:04 am

Well the Tao doesn't discuss equipment, as far as I remember.

Reading some of the Seven Military Classics you can gather some assumptions based on specific tactics that the writers have written.

Such as chariots were very popular in the Warring States for sure, and probably after. I'd always associated chariots with the romans, but it seems as if the Chinese were doing it too.

The chariots were popular during the Shang Dynasty and well into the Warring States, and in the Warring States is when they began to supplement them with cavalry. I imagine after then they got rid of chariots and stuck with just cavalry. Sawyer says on each chariot was three men. One driver, an archer, and a warrior with a dagger-axe. But again this is all Shang era. The TK era was on the edge of the Iron Age, so weapons were being made from steel and iron. Of course before this they had made weapons with bronze.

I'll let you know if I find anything while perusing a few books.
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