Edged weapons of the Green Standard Army | Mandarin Mansion

Edged weapons of the Green Standard Army

Schematic drawing of traditional Chinese edged weapons, used by the Green Standard Army of the Qing dynasty.

By Peter Dekker - May 3, 2016


The Green Standard Army was a large standing army of the Qing dynasty. It was composed entirely of soldiers of the Han dynasty, lead by a mix of Chinese and Manchu officers. It was the largest troop force the Qing had, three times larger than the Eight Banners.

The Green Standard Army was mainly an infantry force. Structure, weapons and tactics were largely inherited from the preceding Ming army, and it was also sometimes called the "old Han army". They were mostly scattered over a large number of garrisons throughout the empire, many in rural areas. Their roles varied from local police-like roles to peacekeeping in times of local unrest, to supervising river conservancy and food transports. In some cases, they formed a front-line army that aided the Eight Banners.

Historical accounts describe a great number of weapons in use by the Green Standard Army. Often, local versions of weapons which varied from place to place. In the 18th century the Qianlong emperor strived for higher levels of standardization, in attempts to regulate the costs and material usage better. This resulted in various texts, among which the 1766 Huangchao Liqi Tushi that was based on a 1759 manuscript. In this text are a number of edged weapons.

I've made a schematic drawing of each of these weapons, drawn to scale and using the colors that are mentioned in the text. The figure on the left is about 165cm tall, approximately 170cm measuring his hat. This would have been a fairly common size for Green Standard Army soldiers of central and northern China. Note that I've only included cutting weapons, spears are strictly speaking also capable of cutting but I have left those out for now and will treat those elsewhere.

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