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#16 General_Zhaoyun

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Posted 19 April 2005 - 02:15 AM

I've published these 7 battle articles at
http://www.chinahist...d=20,96,0,0,1,0
Posted ImagePosted Image

"夫君子之行:靜以修身,儉以養德;非淡泊無以明志,非寧靜無以致遠。" - 諸葛亮

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#17 Yun

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Posted 06 April 2006 - 08:45 AM

The Hammered-Spear Tactic - The Wei-Jin battle of 417 AD

Based on the biography of Zhu Chaoshi in the Song Shu (Book of the Liu-Song Dynasty)

In 416 AD, Liu Yu (the military strongman of the Eastern Jin) led a northern expedition to destroy the declining Later Qin state (ruled by the Qiang people) in the Chang'an region. When his ships entered the Yellow River through a canal from the Huai River and prepared to sail westwards to Chang'an in early 417, the Tuoba Xianbei of the Northern Wei state sent an army to stop them. The Wei had allied itself with the Later Qin, and had threatened to attack the Jin expedition if it passed through their territory. It was the first time that Jin and Wei troops had met in battle, and they faced each other on opposite banks of the Yellow River.

The Wei were strong in cavalry, while the Jin troops were mainly infantry travelling in ships and ox-drawn wagons. Liu Yu sent a unit of 700 men with 100 wagons to establish a beachhead on the northern bank. They arrayed themselves in a "half-moon" formation 100 paces from the river bank, with seven men on each wagon. The formation was a defensive semi-circle, its flanks pulled back towards the water's edge to prevent flanking by the Wei cavalry - essentially half a wagon laager. Once the formation had formed up, a long white feather was raised up as a signal to the Jin main body on the southern bank.

The Wei cavalry was confused by the formation and signal feather, and made no move. But Jin general Zhu Chaoshi was ready with 2,000 men on the southern bank, and upon seeing the signal he led them across the river. They carried 100 large crossbows, and 20 men with one crossbow mounted each wagon. They also set up a pavise (large shield) at the front shafts of each wagon.

The Wei now realised what was happening, and surrounded the formation. Zhu Chaoshi first ordered his men to shoot at them with weaker bows and smaller arrows, leading them to underestimate the strength of the Jin forces and press forward to attack (rather than shower the Jin formation with arrows, which would have been more dangerous). Sure enough, the Wei dispatched another 30,000 lancers to charge the Jin half-moon.

At this point, the 100 crossbows loosed their bolts simultaneously, while specially-picked expert archers showered the Wei cavalry with arrows. But the Wei force was so large that even the crossbows could not repel it. Zhu Chaoshi now improvised a new tactic. He had brought many large hammers and more than a thousand cavalry lances (shuo) with him. He ordered each lance to be broken into a length of 3 to 4 chi (about 1m to 1.3m), and one man would hold each lance while another rammed it into a Wei cavalryman with the hammer. Such was the force of the hammered thrust that a lance could impale three or four Wei cavalrymen. The 30,000 Wei cavalry broke and fled - from 2,700 Jin infantry!

Zhu Chaoshi pursued the Wei, but the Wei regrouped and surrounded them again, and were only driven off again after a full day of hard fighting in which thousands of Wei cavalry were killed. However, at another location on the northern bank a Jin army of 5,000 men under Xu Yizi (they had crossed the river after Zhu Chaoshi's victory) was also surrounded by Wei cavalry and had to defend itself with long ji halberds, showing that the old anti-cavalry tactics using the ji were still in much use. They would very likely have been wiped out, if Zhu Chaoshi had not rushed his exhausted army over to support them. The Wei were so in fear of Zhu's hammered spears that they withdrew before he even reached the scene.

Sephodwyrm, the whole problem lies in the ambiguity of Zhu Chaoshi's biography in the Song Shu, which is our only source for the battle. It reads:

超石初行,别赍大锤并千余张槊,乃断槊长三四尺,以锤锤之,一槊辄洞贯三四虏,虏众不能挡,一时崩溃。

Translation: When Zhu Chaoshi crossed the Yellow River, he had brought large hammers and more than a thousand lances. He now broke each lance into lengths of three or four chi, and hammered them with the hammers. Each lance could impale three or four barbarians (Xianbei), and the barbarians could not stand against this and scattered.

I've checked my Distance Conversion Tool, and a chi at that time was shorter than a chi in the Qing dynasty or even the Tang dynasty. 3-4 chi in the Eastern Jin and Southern Dynasties would be about 0.735-0.98m.

Bai Yang's ballista-and-heated-metal-rods theory makes sense, but it can only be a conjecture based on the sources. In my translation, I opted for a more conservative interpretation of the material, even though the website that I mentioned follows the ballista theory. But I'm glad you brought up the ballista theory, because it certainly is worth consideration, and further research may someday prove it to be true.

Since Bai Yang didn't mention this theory in his translation of the Tongjian Jishi Benmo, I assume that it was included in his translation of the Zizhi Tongjian itself, which covers some events in greater detail and contains more of his personal comments.



I have found further evidence of the hammered-spear tactic, being used again in 434. This proves, in my opinion, that Zhu Chaoshi's tactic was not about firing spears from giant crossbows (contrary to the Shangxia Wuqiannian and Bai Yang accounts) and clearly was about spears being rammed into enemy troops at close range with hammers. The account is in the biography of Xiao Sihua, Chapter 78 of the Song Shu.

With Northern Wei support, Yang Nandang, the Di King of Chouchi (southern Gansu), invaded the Liu-Song dynasty's Hanzhong prefecture in late 433. Liu-Song troops under Xiao Sihua, Xiao Chengzhi, Xiao Wangzhi and Xiao Tan counter-attacked (these all belonged to the Xiao clan of Lanling, a military family related to the Liu-Song imperial house by marriage, and which produced the general who eventually usurped the Liu-Song throne, Xiao Daocheng) and began driving the Chouchi troops back from Hanzhong. But in early 434 Xiao Chengzhi and his men were trapped by Yang Nandang's son Yang He and four other Chouchi generals, with 10,000 infantry and cavalry, in a fort. The besieging Chouchi army was several tens of layers deep, and stormed the fort at close range such that bows and arrows were of no use to the defenders. Furthermore, they all wore rhinoceros-hide armour which was impenetrable to spears and ji halberds (note - this is an important example of rhinoceros-hide armour being used to good effect in an area where rhinos were long extinct - clearly there was a trade in the hide being carried out with the south).

Xiao Chengzhi ordered his men to shorten their spears to the length of a few chi (consistent with the length used by Zhu Chaoshi in 417), and then use big axes to ram them into the enemy troops (note that here it is big axes and not big hammers being used). One rammed spear could impale over 10 rhino-hide-clad Chouchi soldiers at once! The Chouchi troops could not stand up to this weapon, and fled. Shortly after this, Xiao Chengzhi and other reinforcements advanced further and drove the Chouchi army out of Hanzhong altogether, killing and capturing a huge number of the enemy.
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#18 Liang Jieming

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Posted 06 April 2006 - 09:22 PM

What are the chinese characters used for Hammer-spear?

#19 Yun

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Posted 06 April 2006 - 10:11 PM

Spear (or lance) is 槊

Hammer (both noun and verb) is 锤

There is no specific word for hammer-spear. The record just states that they 锤 the 槊.
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#20 snowybeagle

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Posted 06 April 2006 - 10:17 PM

Can anyone explain the process/technique/tactic of using an axe to ram a spear into the enemy?

#21 Liang Jieming

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Posted 06 April 2006 - 10:20 PM

Spear (or lance) is 槊

Hammer (both noun and verb) is 锤

There is no specific word for hammer-spear. The record just states that they 锤 the 槊.

Ah.. thanks Yun. How interesting.

#22 Liang Jieming

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Posted 06 April 2006 - 10:25 PM

Can anyone explain the process/technique/tactic of using an axe to ram a spear into the enemy?

Probably like this. Put lance on wall - take hammer in hand - draw back hammer - swing hammer - strike base of lance - watch lance fly forward to strike enemy - cheer wildly.

#23 Yun

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Posted 06 April 2006 - 10:40 PM

Actually, it's far more likely that one man holds the spear and the other man swings the hammer to ram the blunt end of the spear shaft and thus drive the spear deep into an enemy at pointblank range, so deep that it goes out the other side and pierces another enemy soldier. The guy with the hammer keeps hammering, until you have a grisly kebab of enemy soldiers (ranging from 3 to more than 10!).

The way to do it with the axe would be, I guess, to use the flat parts of the axe head to hammer the spear.

Even a flying spear launched with a hammer wouldn't do such damage on well-armoured troops.
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#24 snowybeagle

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Posted 06 April 2006 - 10:40 PM

Probably like this. Put lance on wall - take hammer in hand - draw back hammer - swing hammer - strike base of lance - watch lance fly forward to strike enemy - cheer wildly.

Sounds a bit wild ... warn us if you're ever going to try it in real life ...

#25 Liang Jieming

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Posted 06 April 2006 - 10:56 PM

Actually, it's far more likely that one man holds the spear and the other man swings the hammer to ram the blunt end of the spear shaft and thus drive the spear deep into an enemy at pointblank range, so deep that it goes out the other side and pierces another enemy soldier. The guy with the hammer keeps hammering, until you have a grisly kebab of enemy soldiers (ranging from 3 to more than 10!).

The way to do it with the axe would be, I guess, to use the flat parts of the axe head to hammer the spear.

Even a flying spear launched with a hammer wouldn't do such damage on well-armoured troops.

:lol: :lol: :lol: Just sounds so fantastic that it has to be true! You don't mind if I edit some snipnets of these two accounts into my writings. I just have to have it in there somewhere. ;)

#26 Yun

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Posted 06 April 2006 - 11:08 PM

Be my guest! It's a tactic that is really fascinating - not just because it was so ruthlessly and brutally efficient, but also because the troops only used it in desperate situations, suggesting that it was actually considered horrifying to skewer enemies like that.
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#27 Yun

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Posted 07 April 2006 - 09:54 PM

GZ, I have made some changes to the original Hammered Spear article and to the new one too, after checking the dates further. The dates of the battles should be 417 and 434, not 416 and 433.

You may want to put both updated articles up on CHI.
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#28 Tibet Libre

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Posted 14 April 2006 - 07:58 PM

Interesting tactic. It might have well served with the Greek Phalanx and their frequent pushing and shoving games.

They carried 100 large crossbows, and 20 men with one crossbow mounted each wagon.


Thats exactly what the source said?

What were the 20 men required to do around the large crossbow? What was their job?

Hm, lets assume for the moment that only 10 people were on the wagon (I assume the arrow-shooter is still wagon-mounted during the fight) working the machine, this would make 600 kilo. The arrow-shooter might be up to 300 kilo. Do you think a wooden axle could take nearly a ton plus the force of the repercussion?

#29 Mei Houwang

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Posted 14 April 2006 - 09:49 PM

I'm assuming that the wagon's either unreasonably large or many of the 20 men does not operate ON the wagon. Some of the pavises for protecting the machine might be assigned to be carried by some of the 20 men, and others of the group might be there to move/direct the wagon. This is just a guess though (I have never seen an aritisc reconstruction of these "wagons", so in truth I don't know how it's supposed to look like.) Maybe the ballista travels in the wagon but is carried off the wagon when it is in use (again, it's just my guess).

Edited by Anthrophobia, 14 April 2006 - 09:49 PM.


#30 urofpersia

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Posted 15 April 2006 - 12:59 AM

Actually, it's far more likely that one man holds the spear and the other man swings the hammer to ram the blunt end of the spear shaft and thus drive the spear deep into an enemy at pointblank range, so deep that it goes out the other side and pierces another enemy soldier. The guy with the hammer keeps hammering, until you have a grisly kebab of enemy soldiers (ranging from 3 to more than 10!).


For that to happen, the spear must be positioned on the cavalry (or any other target) I don't see how the enemy can stand still and allow you to do it.

Some simple experiments at home might be useful. One person pretend to be the cavalry and you carry a 1x1 piece of wood. The other pretend to be both the spearmen (a piece of nail) and the hammerer (a small hammer will do). Simulate by having the 'cavalry' charge up to you and the 'Hammerer/spearman' Try to hammer the nail in.

Even if the 'Cavalry' were to stand in front of you and not move, or he needs to do is *not* to hold the wood firm, you will have a hell of time hammering the nail in. Hammering something in requires the the hammered surface to be firm and relatively unyielding.

I am not questioning Yun's translation I am questioning how this tactic is actually feasible.
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