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Whistles used in ancient Chinese armies


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#1 dagann

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Posted 02 December 2009 - 03:49 PM

Hello.

Do you know if whistles were used by soldiers in ancient chinese armies ?
Could they have been used by officers to lead the units, or by guards patrolling in streets, on roads or on battlements ?

I'm talking about the little wistle which fits in the palm of the hand, and which can be handled with 2 fingers :greetblink:
Or may be were there other kinds of whistles ?

The only thing i managed to find is a few words in wikipedia without any sources.

The whistle has its roots dating back to ancient China, where night watchmen would blow into the tops of acorns to alert the towns to invading Mongolians.



#2 Pierre

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Posted 02 December 2009 - 06:50 PM

Hi,

If the whistles were used in ancient China where night watchmen would use them in the way that you describe, they were most likely also used by the military, on the other hand as they are quite strident they could have developped a quiter type of hand held whistle.

Have a great day

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#3 WuXiaHer0

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Posted 03 December 2009 - 12:30 AM

Other than blowing whistles,they could have banged the gong,light up the beacon or yelled commands to neighbouring soldiers to pass the message and alert the people in the city of invasions.

Like the Great Wall,soldiers stationed at every tower will light up the beacon if they see any impending danger.Soldiers from the next tower will light up theirs as well when they see the flame to signal the rest.This chain keeps going on until everyone receive the message.

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#4 dagann

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Posted 04 December 2009 - 08:01 AM

But don't we have any accounts or proofs of whistles being used on battlefields or by city guards ?
Cause i guess them to be a real asset to lead troops in a battle,
to help soldiers guiding each other in the dark or in the maze of streets and buildings in large towns.

#5 WuXiaHer0

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Posted 04 December 2009 - 11:21 AM

But don't we have any accounts or proofs of whistles being used on battlefields or by city guards ?
Cause i guess them to be a real asset to lead troops in a battle,
to help soldiers guiding each other in the dark or in the maze of streets and buildings in large towns.


The whistle has its roots dating back to ancient China, where night watchmen would blow into the tops of acorns to alert the towns to invading Mongolians.


It has stated that the whistle has its roots in ancient China where the watchmen blew on top of the acorns.
However,the earliest whistle in ancient China could have been derived from the oldest Chinese musical instrument Xun 埙.Sound can be produced by blowing at the hole situated at the top of the Xun.Different pitch can be played either by covering or releasing the extra holes on it.Have a look:

Posted Image

Perhaps they used acorns as a substitute.Acorns are organic materials.They could have rot after many centuries so there were no proofs or artifacts regarding this tiny noise maker.Maybe they were not recognized by the people during those times since it's just a rough substitution for a Xun.


Somehow,the whistle became a traditional folk toy.Here's the article I found:

The whistle is a traditional Chinese folk toy made of porcelain or pottery. The sounding toy not only provides a visual sense of beauty to children, but also excites them with high-pitched sounds. Common whistles include porcelain bird whistles and dog whistles as well as pottery beast head whistles and double-tone whistles etc.

A bird whistle is shaped like a bird and a dog whistle like a dog. The main features of these two types are the cylindrical tail, a hole at the tail tip and a big round hole on the left top. If you inject water into the whistle from the hole at the top and gently blow the whistle, it will give a sweet sound similar to bird warbling.

A double-tone whistle has a sound hole on both the left and right sides. It gives out double tones when blown and the tones are louder and more pleasant than those of ordinary whistles.


Pictures of these folk toys:
Posted Image

Posted Image

Edited by WuXiaHer0, 18 December 2009 - 12:11 AM.

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#6 dagann

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Posted 17 December 2009 - 05:10 AM

Thx WuXiaHer0.
This whistle with several holes is very nice.

#7 WuXiaHer0

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Posted 17 December 2009 - 06:09 AM

Thx WuXiaHer0.
This whistle with several holes is very nice.

No problemo. :greetblink:
However,the "whistle" with many holes is a musical instrument.
The acorn "whistle" was a rough substitute for this musical instrument.After all,this whistle was meant to alert the guards,not playing a tune.LOL!!!

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#8 dagann

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Posted 17 December 2009 - 07:47 AM

After all,this whistle was meant to alert the guards,not playing a tune.LOL!!!

True lol :stinker:

#9 chinooook

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Posted 17 December 2009 - 07:47 AM

Like the Great Wall,soldiers stationed at every tower will light up the beacon if they see any impending danger.Soldiers from the next tower will light up theirs as well when they see the flame to signal the rest.This chain keeps going on until everyone receive the message.


This is a very often quoted statement but it is wrong. Without any spacial information the alert "enemy is attacking" is of no value at all. Either the signalling was only local (to get help by neibouring soldiers/troops/garrisons) or it _must_ have had any information about where (and not only how many) the enemy was attacking.
One very frequent misunderstanding is that the communication was between the (wall) beacon towers. This also is wrong. They used special signalling (beacon!) towers on the "inner" side of the GW. Those always were on prominent places and always in sight of the next one. They build something like a "second chain" behind the GW.


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#10 WuXiaHer0

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Posted 17 December 2009 - 08:45 AM

This is a very often quoted statement but it is wrong. Without any spacial information the alert "enemy is attacking" is of no value at all. Either the signalling was only local (to get help by neibouring soldiers/troops/garrisons) or it _must_ have had any information about where (and not only how many) the enemy was attacking.
One very frequent misunderstanding is that the communication was between the (wall) beacon towers. This also is wrong. They used special signalling (beacon!) towers on the "inner" side of the GW. Those always were on prominent places and always in sight of the next one. They build something like a "second chain" behind the GW.


-chinooook


Inner side/second chain?Any photos of these inner side of the Great Wall?As far as I can see,there is only one side,except for the other walls built from another dynasty next to the previous one.
I thought the Great Wall was built on the ridges of the hills which are too narrow for another inner side to be built.That way,the inner side of the Great Wall will be too low to watch out for incoming enemies.

Here's something I picked out from the Great Wall Forum.

To provide a communication and early warning system – Relaying from one watchtower to another using fire signals at night and smoke signals during the day, messages could be sent over long distances in a short time.


To serve as lookout posts – The elevated locations of the Great Wall and its towers enabled distant observation for invaders to provide the earliest possible warning.


Either the signalling was only local (to get help by neibouring soldiers/troops/garrisons) or it _must_ have had any information about where (and not only how many) the enemy was attacking.


However,it does sound logical when the guards saw impending danger and light up the signal to warn others and get ready.
And yes,it doesn't matter where the location of the enemies attack.
Enemies may launch another surprise attack at some parts of the Great Wall.It's no use telling the soldiers where are the enemies are attacking.Getting help from neighboring soldiers won't help.The soldiers will leave the towers unattended,resulting the surprise attack of the enemy to be successful.In any case,the soldiers already knew where the enemies attacked when they saw the signal.On the Great Wall,anyone can get a bird's eye view on where the enemies are going to attack.
Their priority is just to alert everyone at the Great Wall to gear up and get ready,not getting back ups.There were back up soldiers waiting behind the Great Wall.Those at the top were just signaling those behind the Great Wall to come up and hack away at the enemies/to reinforce the defense system of the Great Wall and send a message to the capital,at the same time alerting the neighboring soldiers to look out for some more surprise attacks/getting ready with the weapons in the storage towers/shoot arrows at any enemy who intends to scale the Great Wall.
Even if the enemies manage to get pass the Great Wall,soldiers at the inland are already well prepared,thanks to the signal.

Many sources have stated the soldiers used a "chain-system" of signaling at the Great Wall.You can't trust those too?

Edited by WuXiaHer0, 17 December 2009 - 09:42 AM.

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#11 chinooook

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Posted 17 December 2009 - 09:04 AM

Okaaaay...
What about the outer part of the Great Wall?Especially the towers?Storing food supplies and weapons?



No. Those had exact the purpose you mentioned and very probably only used the alert codes "some", "few", "many" to warn the soldiers guarding the GW. I only doubt the signalling system along the GW was done in the same way.


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#12 WuXiaHer0

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Posted 17 December 2009 - 10:17 AM

No. Those had exact the purpose you mentioned and very probably only used the alert codes "some", "few", "many" to warn the soldiers guarding the GW. I only doubt the signalling system along the GW was done in the same way.


-chinoook


That's weird.I have edited this post.I guess before I could edit it you have already replied this post.
Could you please have a look at the previous one and tell me what do you think?

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#13 chinooook

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Posted 17 December 2009 - 11:27 AM

Inner side/second chain?Any photos of these inner side of the Great Wall?As far as I can see,there is only one side,except for the other walls built from another dynasty next to the previous one.
I thought the Great Wall was built on the ridges of the hills which are too narrow for another inner side to be built.That way,the inner side of the Great Wall will be too low to watch out for incoming enemies.


Ok, I will describe more clearly. The GW is very often not only a wall but a system of items that all together worked as a defense system. It contained a wall (of course), sometimes there was not only one wall but double or maybe triple structures, fortresses (most of them on the "inner side"), beacon towers on the "outer" side, beacon towers on the "inner" side. There are "defense towers" mounted right on the wall. These towers did not do the long-distance communication in most places.

I am writing about the Ming GW, older GWs had some of these items as well, some diferred a lot.

What I was writing about are the "inner" beacon towers which in most cases were alined like on a chain on the inner side of the wall, most times on very prominent hills and always in sight of the next tower along this line.

A good example of a tower of this type are the following:

Posted Image
Posted Image

It is typical that these towers show a round shape. They are much higher than the wall attached towers and more typical for the western parts of the Great Wall.


Here's something I picked out from the Great Wall Forum.
However,it does sound logical when the guards saw impending danger and light up the signal to warn others and get ready.
And yes,it doesn't matter where the location of the enemies attack.
Enemies may launch another surprise attack at some parts of the Great Wall.It's no use telling the soldiers where are the enemies are attacking.Getting help from neighboring soldiers won't help.The soldiers will leave the towers unattended,resulting the surprise attack of the enemy to be successful.In any case,the soldiers already knew where the enemies attacked when they saw the signal.On the Great Wall,anyone can get a bird's eye view on where the enemies are going to attack.
Their priority is just to alert everyone at the Great Wall to gear up and get ready,not getting back ups.There were back up soldiers waiting behind the Great Wall.Those at the top were just signaling those behind the Great Wall to come up and hack away at the enemies/to reinforce the defense system of the Great Wall and send a message to the capital,at the same time alerting the neighboring soldiers to look out for some more surprise attacks/getting ready with the weapons in the storage towers/shoot arrows at any enemy who intends to scale the Great Wall.
Even if the enemies manage to get pass the Great Wall,soldiers at the inland are already well prepared,thanks to the signal.

Many sources have stated the soldiers used a "chain-system" of signaling at the Great Wall.You can't trust those too?


I agree that it was of help for all soldiers along the wall that there was an attack. But by far the more important information flow was from the wall to the next fortress/garrison/whatever in the inland to get assistance in time.

The "chain systems" of towers along (and not on top) of the Ming Great Wall are very prominent in many places. I have already walked more than half of the Great Wall (Gansu, Ningxia, Shaanxi and some of Shanxi and Hebei) and found this prominent item at long sections (not to say everywhere). Those can also be detected on Google Earth with some effort. I don't need addional sources for these ;-). It is easy to see that signallinw was ineffective along the GW towers (to narrow, not in sight of each other, not on the most elevated places) and it is also easy to see that the towers of the shown type where build exactly for that.


-chinooook

Edited by chinooook, 17 December 2009 - 11:28 AM.

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#14 WuXiaHer0

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Posted 17 December 2009 - 12:35 PM

Ok, I will describe more clearly. The GW is very often not only a wall but a system of items that all together worked as a defense system. It contained a wall (of course), sometimes there was not only one wall but double or maybe triple structures, fortresses (most of them on the "inner side"), beacon towers on the "outer" side, beacon towers on the "inner" side. There are "defense towers" mounted right on the wall. These towers did not do the long-distance communication in most places.

I am writing about the Ming GW, older GWs had some of these items as well, some diferred a lot.

What I was writing about are the "inner" beacon towers which in most cases were alined like on a chain on the inner side of the wall, most times on very prominent hills and always in sight of the next tower along this line.

A good example of a tower of this type are the following:

Posted Image
Posted Image

It is typical that these towers show a round shape. They are much higher than the wall attached towers and more typical for the western parts of the Great Wall.




I agree that it was of help for all soldiers along the wall that there was an attack. But by far the more important information flow was from the wall to the next fortress/garrison/whatever in the inland to get assistance in time.

The "chain systems" of towers along (and not on top) of the Ming Great Wall are very prominent in many places. I have already walked more than half of the Great Wall (Gansu, Ningxia, Shaanxi and some of Shanxi and Hebei) and found this prominent item at long sections (not to say everywhere). Those can also be detected on Google Earth with some effort. I don't need addional sources for these ;-). It is easy to see that signallinw was ineffective along the GW towers (to narrow, not in sight of each other, not on the most elevated places) and it is also easy to see that the towers of the shown type where build exactly for that.


-chinooook


Again,I don't understand this part.

It is easy to see that signallinw was ineffective along the GW towers (to narrow, not in sight of each other, not on the most elevated places) and it is also easy to see that the towers of the shown type where build exactly for that.


The towers may be too narrow or not in sight of each other,but they used smoke signals during the day(which can be spotted easily by the guards at the lower and higher tower)and fire signals(also visible during the night).Besides,soldiers would shout themselves hoarse while lighting up the beacon.This created a commotion.Panic-stricken?Maybe...

I find that the location of these inner side towers are not located in a strategic location(based on the pictures you've posted).I pictured myself standing on top of it and I find it difficult to see enemies approaching.It's too far.Anymore of these pictures?
My guess is that these inner towers used to sound an alarm to the soldiers inland/just to provide some light at the inner side so that the soldiers can see.They're too far to "participate" in the "chain system" along the Great Wall.Fog was a common phenomena.Enemies preferred to attack at this situation.The inner side towers do not help very much in this kind of situation.It's too far and the view is very blur(fogs).You think?

Hmm,the "towers" look like they are not man-made structures.Any evidence suggesting that it was used in the ancient times?It looks pretty high and steep for a person to climb.Any steps/foot holds,perhaps?Or maybe burnt/"bald" patches left by beacons/bonfires?Weapons?

Edited by WuXiaHer0, 18 December 2009 - 12:07 AM.

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#15 chinooook

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Posted 18 December 2009 - 04:21 AM

Again,I don't understand this part.

The towers may be too narrow or not in sight of each other,but they used smoke signals during the day(which can be spotted easily by the guards at the lower and higher tower)and fire signals(also visible during the night).Besides,soldiers would shout themselves hoarse while lighting up the beacon.This created a commotion.Panic-stricken?Maybe...

I find that the location of these inner side towers are not located in a strategic location(based on the pictures you've posted).I pictured myself standing on top of it and I find it difficult to see enemies approaching.It's too far.Anymore of these pictures?
My guess is that these inner towers used to sound an alarm to the soldiers inland/just to provide some light at the inner side so that the soldiers can see.They're too far to "participate" in the "chain system" along the Great Wall.Fog was a common phenomena.Enemies preferred to attack at this situation.The inner side towers do not help very much in this kind of situation.It's too far and the view is very blur(fogs).You think?

Hmm,the "towers" look like they are not man-made structures.Any evidence suggesting that it was used in the ancient times?It looks pretty high and steep for a person to climb.Any steps/foot holds,perhaps?Or maybe burnt/"bald" patches left by beacons/bonfires?Weapons?


Ok, I will try to clerify.
I agree that there was communication from towers to the immediate neibours. I disagree the wall itself (with the towers on top) served as a line of information transport.
This was done by the "inner chain". This can easily be read by the position of these towers. They are _all_ in sight of the next one and positioned to guarantee the information transport. The vertical information flow was, as you correctly stated, from close towers to each other and to the wall and from the wall to the "inner chain". But location information and everything else than only the severeness of the attack travelled along the inner chain, if there was so. This might have been different in the eastern (Hebei, Beijing, Liaoning) areas, where the "inner chain" is not that prominent.

The towers I showed are without any question man-made structures. They are made of rammed earth, sometimes they had been covered with bricks or quarry stones, which are still lying around.
These towers had (very probably) climbed by the use of rope ladders. There is only one tower known to me to have had steps amongst hundreds to thousands who do not have and never had.


-chinooook
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