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Warring States Battle Formations


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#61 WuZhuiQiu

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Posted 15 February 2009 - 09:51 PM

I wonder if the many named Japanese formations from their Warring States period (c.1550-1600) were derived from Chinese formations as of the Tang dynasty. If so, perhaps the study of those Japanese formations might reveal some insight into ancient Chinese formations ...

#62 JohnD

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Posted 19 September 2009 - 11:27 PM

From the Sun Bin Art of War as translated into English by Lin Wusun, the ten battle formations. (pages 247-259. Format altered by me for readability.)

"There are ten kinds of formations: square, circular, loose, compact, cone, wild geese, hook, maze, fire and water. Each has its own advantages. The square formation is easy to direct. The circular provides greater mobility. The loose looks overwhelming and is beguiling. The compact prevents the enemy from breaking through. The cone is useful in breaking into enemy formation and reducing the adversary into pockets. The wild geese formation is convenient for shooting your arrows in rapid succession. The maze formation is used to confuse the enemy so that he is at a loss as to your troop deployment. The fire formation is used to destroy the enemy camp and the water formation to flood the enemy entrenched in a city.

Square: When you use the square formation, concentrate your forces on the outside while placing few in the center, and the reserve is placed in the rear. The few troops in the center serve merely to make a show of strength while the forces on the outside are used to smash the enemy. The reason the reserve is placed in the rear is that it will be more agile.

Circular: The circular formation...[not translated]

Loose: The loose formation is used to consolidate your position when your forces are inferior in number to the enemy. You may set up a lot of banners to give a show of strength, flaunting your weapons ostensibly to indicate that you have a large force. Hence, you should maintain a distance between your ranks, display the multi-colored banners and put the shiny weapons up in front. The loose ranks must be arranged in such a way that they can contract when necessary, while the close ranks must allow for extension. If the loose ranks cannot contract, and the close cannot extend, then great care should be taken to change the situation. The chariots must not speed too fast; the foot soldiers must not run. The secret of the success of the loose formation lies in dividing your forces into several independent units so that they can each advance or retreat, attack or defend, wrest the enemy's position or intercept the exhausted enemy as the situation requires. This way, the loose formation will succeed in overpowering even the enemy's crack troops.

Compact: The way to arrange the compact formation is to reduce the distance between the ranks. Therefore, the file leader, i.e., the soldier at the head of the line, should have his sword pointed at the enemy. There should be close coordination between the front and the rear....Should the soldiers get frightened, it is important that you hold the ground....When the enemy retreats, do not break up the formation to block him. You may intercept his troops sent to outflank you or deal a blow to his vanguard to dampen his spirit. Your formation should be arranged in such a way that it leaves no opening for the enemy to exploit and it will be forced to retreat as though its advance has been blocked by a mountain. Such a formation is unassailable.

Cone: The cone formation is like a sharp knife capable of cutting the enemy into pieces. If its vanguard is not sharp enough, it will not be able to break through the enemy formation. If its flanks are not swift enough, they will not be able to cut off the enemy. If its main force is not strong enough, it will not constitute a powerful formation. With a sharp front, swift flanks and a strong center, the cone formation is capable of penetrating the enemy's position and intercepting his forces.

Wild Geese: In the wild geese formation, the vanguard should open its arms to embrace the enemy like a gorilla, and the rearguard will throw itself upon the enemy like a wild cat so that he cannot escape from the net cast on him. This is the function of the wild geese formation.

Hook: In the hook formation, the frontal units form a square while the flanks serve as hooks. All the instruments for passing down orders, such as gongs, drums and wind instruments, as well as coloured banners, must be on hand so that the soldiers can understand the orders and distinguish the banner signals. No matter where he is situated, the commander can direct his forces with ease....

Maze: In the maze formation, there are lots of flags and banners while the drums beat ominously and incessantly. On the surface, the soldiers seem to be marching aimlessly when actually they are steady and firm; the chariots seem to be moving about at random when actually they are in perfect order. The thunderous clamors of troops and continuous rushing about of chariots create the impression that they have either descended from heaven or cropped up from the earth. Such is the maze formation.

Fire: The way to launch a fire attack is this: Having excavated deep gullies and built high ramparts, you need to dig trenches. Place firewood and straw at every five steps. There need not be too many fire setters. Each one holds a bunch of straw for lighting the fire, which they must do quickly. Pay close attention to the wind direction. Never stand downwind so as to avoid being burned yourself; otherwise, defeat, and not victory, will be your lot. When the wind is blowing towards the enemy, the ground is low and even and the region has plenty of grass, then the fire spreads and the enemy officers and men will have no way to escape. Such conditions are ideal for a fire attack. This is particularly so when you have a windy day, the enemy is unprepared and his camps are situated amidst reeds and with stockpiles of firewood around. Attack the enemy camp with fierce fire; shower his troops with arrows; beat the drums and strike the weapons, and clamour loudly so as to rouse your own soldiers to fall upon the enemy. With the momentum caused by the fire driving the soldiers forward, you will annihilate the enemy. Such is the way of the fire attack.

Water: The way to launch a water attack is this: use many foot soldiers but few chariots. Have the troops ready with handhooks, rafts, boats, forks, light boats, oars, ships and other equipment for a water attack. When the fleet moves forward, the ships must advance in a coordinated and orderly fashion; when it retreats, they must not crowd each other. The ships move downstream in parallel formation, shooting at the enemy as they sail past. In a water attack, use a light boat as the flagship and a fast boat for liaison; pursue the enemy when he flees, engage him when he advances. Care must be taken both in advance and in retreat so that the ships maintain an orderly formation. Tie the enemy down when he tries to move. Attack him when he is in formation and refuses to budge. Break him up when his ships are concentrated. Keep a clear account of the number of shovels and wagons (tr.: needed for building dikes and channels to hold back the water during enemy inundation) at your command. Have the foot soldiers attack the enemy ships from the shore and, in coordination, blockade all ferry points. This is the method used in water attacks."

#63 Howard Fu

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Posted 20 September 2009 - 10:56 PM

I came across a book about Qi Men Dun Jia recently. Yes, I know it's a book about oracles, but you can't talk about ancient Chinese military thinking without Qi Men Dun Jia. Just like you can't talk about ancient astronomy without knowledge in astrology. Many top military strategists were familiar or wrote some works on Qi Men Dun Jia, including the legendary ones like Jiang Shang, Zhang Liang, Zhu Geliang, Li Jing, Liu Bowen. There were a lot of interesting application of Qi Men Dun Jia in military. When to use ambush? When to use fire or water? What to do when the enemy is strong? Should we pursue the retreating enemy or not? Art of War was written to impress the king. It's more like a generalization or introduction to strategis, but Qi Men Dun Jia was a whole theory system and an application manual. I'm not an expert on military or Qimendunjia. Just we might overlooked a very important aspect of ancient Chinese military thinking.
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#64 JohnD

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Posted 20 September 2009 - 11:00 PM

I came across a book about Qi Men Dun Jia recently. Yes, I know it's a book about oracles, but you can't talk about ancient Chinese military thinking without Qi Men Dun Jia. Just like you can't talk about ancient astronomy without knowledge in astrology. Many top military strategists were familiar or wrote some works on Qi Men Dun Jia, including the legendary ones like Jiang Shang, Zhang Liang, Zhu Geliang, Li Jing, Liu Bowen. There were a lot of interesting application of Qi Men Dun Jia in military. When to use ambush? When to use fire or water? What to do when the enemy is strong? Should we pursue the retreating enemy or not? Art of War was written to impress the king. It's more like a generalization or introduction to strategis, but Qi Men Dun Jia was a whole theory system and an application manual. I'm not an expert on military or Qimendunjia. Just we might overlooked a very important aspect of ancient Chinese military thinking.


I wonder how accurate the divinations were? Did the book you read talk about that?

#65 kiwimeetskiwi

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Posted 05 July 2010 - 10:33 AM

I believe there is a specific topic for The Wild Goose Flying Formation if it has not already been posted.

http://www.chinahist...Goose Formation




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