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Thread: Why did the the Ming crossbows become so weak compared to earlier Chinese ones?

  1. #141

    Default Re: Why did the the Ming crossbows become so weak compared to earlier Chinese ones?

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  2. #142

    Default Re: Why did the the Ming crossbows become so weak compared to earlier Chinese ones?

    Every uncovered archaeological example of Warring States to Han era" regular" crossbows have been longer powerstroke crossbows with the bronze cast trigger located all the way in the back of the stock/tiller like the trigger of a modern day pistol. These had some 19-20 inch powerstrokes. None of the crossbows had been found with a trigger located smack dab in the middle of the stock like lower powerstroke medieval crossbows. We shouldn't assume that standard Han crossbows from 100 BC had low powerstroke just because a different kingdom in the same area of the world used lower powerstroke models 1500 years later....especially when the archaeological evidence from the relevant timeperiod so far all supports long powerstroke crossbow models with triggers in the back. Mike Loades mentions this 20 inch powerstroke for ancient Chinese crossbows too in his book on crossbows.

    We know that European crossbows also contained varieties that had longer powerstrokes than 6-7 inches and had organic prods, but later crossbows trended towards models that were easier for lesser-trained soldiers to use and were cheaper and easier to produce. European crossbows used to be of made out of composite materials such as wood and horn, but transitioned to steel because of its cost and low maintenance. IIRC, I read that Indian longbows were also sometimes made out of steel (despite this being worse than composite-bamboo laminated Indian longbows of the same weight) to serve as "munitions grade" bows that could be stored in fortress-armories for long periods of time without suffering degradation like organic bows.

    Furthermore, it's not like drawing 387 lbs 6-dan Han crossbow with its 20 inch powerstroke is some superhuman feat of strength either. According to Iolo's First Book of Crossbows, 2nd Ed (on p. 10), modern research have found that using the feet to draw crossbows (with long stocks) allows a [average good conditioned?] person to pull up to 441lbs in drawweight [while in an upright standing position?]. www.crossbows.net used to have a free copy of this book, but their website is down.

    Quote Originally Posted by Common Soldier View Post
    I have always been rather skeptical that the Han crossbows were quite as powerful as claimed. It is not that they weren't, the Chinese crossbows were, just if they were really as powerful as claimed, I don't see the Han crossbow design being ever abandoned during the Ming as it was, even with the disdvantage of a large prod making the handling of the crossbow awkward. More understandable if the crossbows were only somewhat more powerful than a heavy medieval European crossbow that they would be abandoned when guns came around.
    We shouldn't use 15th century crossbows to extrapolate about 2nd century BC crossbows because the purpose, design, usage, technology, etc were all very different. Technology isn't always a linear progression of advancement either. For example, when the Western Roman Empire fell in the 5th century AD, was Western Europe more advanced in the 8th century AD than in the 2nd century AD simply because it was 600 years later? Same thing goes for the Han Dynasty vs Ming crossbows - that is a 1500 year time difference separated by many many periods of chaos, division, and foreign invasion that caused various amounts of cultural and military changes, as well as technological degradation.

    The Han crossbows were likely abandoned long before the Ming Dynasty. If anything, the design and usage was probably lost/abandoned sometime between the time when the Han Dynasty falling apart and when the entirety of northern China got overrun during the invasion of the 5 barbarians that created barbarian kingdoms in Northern China (still almost a thousand years before the Ming). By the Tang Dynasty, we have records of soldiers throwing away their crossbows because they preferred to fight in melee. That says something about a degradation in either the training or technology/power of the crossbow.

    The Qin and Han created powerful crossbows to use against armored and shielded foes of other settled agrarian civilizations (Warring States, War of 18 Kingdoms, etc), and to outrange the archers of the Xiongnu Empire while they were conducting offensive campaigns in the Xiongnu's hometurf on the steppes. The Qin also had a professional/semi-professional army and the Han had a very well trained militia supplementing a smaller professional army. They had the resources to condition, train, and equip their armies with crossbows in mass.

    Even if later kingdoms retained the technology and training, they wouldn't have the same necessity to use powerful crossbows because later dynasties didn't fight other settled civilizations with lots of armored infantry and didn't launch nearly as many regular campaigns deep into nomadic territory like the Qin and/or Han did. The Tang emphasized archery, horse archers, and cavalry, and the Northern Jin emphasized horse archery and heavy cavalry based on its nomadic roots. I think crossbows may have made a resurgence during the Song Dynasty, but when the Yuan/Mongols took over, horse archery and archery became dominant and the resources/technology/industrialization to produce crossbow faded again.

    By the Ming Dynasty, powerful crossbows had been out of use for a while...and by the late Ming, gunpowder weapons was much better for attacking armored foes.

    Quote Originally Posted by Common Soldier View Post
    That said, I think that people mistakenly assume that regular bows technology was stagnant, and that I suspect might not be the case. A Hundred bow of 200 CE might not be as powerful as a Mongol bow of 1200 CE, or the Manchurian bows of the later period. The English longbow seems to have increased in power over time, the bow off he 11th century doesn't seem as powerful as the longbow of the 15th or 16th century. When I look at the bowmen I. The Bayeux Tapestry, their bows don't see as powerful.as the later English longbows. If the Mongols and Jin bows were more powerful than the earlier Hun bows, then the lack of success of the Song might be explained, there would have been a smaller relative advatage of the crossbows as regular bows became more powerful. ... The Ming seemed that have mostly given up the use of the crossbow, compared to previous dynasties and the Qing seemed pretty much given up the crossbow altogether, even they still used the bow for much of their dynasty. In the case of the Ming, the rise of handgonnes could have caused the Chinese to switch from crossbows, but in Europe, it wasn't until.arquebus arose that Euoropean gave up the use of crossbow in combat as a major weapon, although the Spanish did find crossbows useful in the he New World well after they had ceased to be used.on European battlefields. Perhaps the next session of steel crossbows, which seem less effected than wood or composite in wet weather, gave them a useful niche when in wet weather when guns might not work. (Galloway soaked a steel crossbow overnight, and found it's performance only slightly degraded.). The Chinese crossbows, made of wood, bamboo, or composite, might not have doesn't much better in wet weather than a gun, so there would keep them, since even the early handgonnes were likely more powerful.than the crossbows.
    Bow technology could get better OR it could get worse. The Qing bowmen got weaker in the 18th century according to garrison records, as many garrison troops couldn't draw powerful bows of the past...and bows also got progressively weaker as people could no longer use the stronger ones. Most bows today are significantly weaker in drawweight than bows in the past. The average Mongolian archer today probably can't draw 140-160s lbs Mongol warbows, the average English archer today likely can't draw a 110lb war-longbow, let alone the upper tier 180 lb bow from the Mary Rose, and the average Manchu archer certainly can't draw the the strong 170+ lb warbows of a few centuries ago either.

    East Asian Crossbows seems to have had a roller coaster history - peaking in the Qin/Han era, getting worse after the chaos and disunity of centuries of barbarian states/invasions, becoming less valued in the Tang era, making a brief resurgence during the Song era, then degrading again during the Yuan and Ming Dynasty and finally disappearing in the Qing era.

    The late Ming, for example, had converted to a pike and shot gunpowder army. However, when the Qing took over, archery became big again because of their nomadic Manchu roots. Archery and strong bows would have improved during the Yuan, degraded during the Ming, and improved against during the early Qing. it's not a constant progression/advancement.

    So it is perfectly reasonable for a state in the ancient era to have strong crossbows, then undergo repeated periods and cycles of decline and chaos for many centuries...and then its successor kingdoms a thousand years later end up with weaker crossbows due to a multitude of factors such as training, resources, military culture, technology, etc.
    Last edited by Intranetusa; May 08, 2019 at 05:15 PM.

  3. #143

    Default Re: Why did the the Ming crossbows become so weak compared to earlier Chinese ones?

    Furthermore, I'd like to point out that besides modern writers/historians and archaeology discoveries supporting evidence for the long 20 inch powerstrokes of the Qin-Han era (and the lack of evidence for short-powerstroke crossbows of this timeperiod), there are some other pieces of more circumstantial evidence we can use to also support the conclusion that these ancient crossbows had long powerstrokes.

    There are records of 3-5 dan crossbows having an effective range of at least ~250 meters as they were able to penetrate a wooden wall at 252 meters. We also know that ancient Chinese historians/records said the Han crossbows were able to reuse the arrows from the Xiongnu and their crossbows were able to significantly outrange the Xiongnu recurve bows. See quote about Chu-yen slips' testing results: https://books.google.com/books?id=-N...%20yen&f=false

    We also know that Xiongnu recurve bows were exceptionally powerful recurve bows, as they had 1.5x the range of Scythian recurve bows. "The bow continually evolved. For instance, the bow used by the Xiongnu—made of a wood core and reinforced with bone and horn overlays of 30 to 40 inches in length—had a range approximately 1.5 times longer than those used by the Scythians." -Nomadic Warfare before Firearms, Timmothy May

    "The extremely powerful composite bow of the Xiongnu was reinforcedby seven bone plates: a pair attached to both ends and three at the handle, most likely reinforcedwith horn and tendon..." -XIONGNU ARCHAEOLOGY Multidisciplinary Perspectives of the First Steppe Empire in Inner Asia
    https://www.shh.mpg.de/1166471/bross...logy_bcaa5.pdf

    Let's assume that Xiongnu recurve bows were typically 120lbs draw with the typical 28 inch powerstroke of other bows - 120lbs draw is not unusually strong for a warbow, as 120lbs draw is the "average" draw for Ottoman recurve bows at the Istanbul museum, and the stronger Mongol recurve bows, Mancu recurves, and English longbows went up to approximately 170, 190s, and 180s lbs draw respectively. If the standard 6-dan 387 lb draw crossbow used by the Han had a short powerstroke (eg. 10 inches), then this crossbow would not have been able to outrange Xiongnu bows as they would have comparable levels of energy created from Draw Weight X Powerstroke calculations. (and crossbows would likely have less efficency than higher powerstroke bows in actually transfering the energy to the arrow too).

    So in order for standard 6-dan Han crossbows to outrange a typical example of a recurve warbow (let alone the less common but still popular 3-5 dan crossbows), they would have to have long powerstrokes based on the Draw Weight X Powerstroke calculation and having to compensate for the higher energy transfer efficiency of higher powerstroke recurve bows.
    Last edited by Intranetusa; May 08, 2019 at 05:44 PM.

  4. #144

    Default Re: Why did the the Ming crossbows become so weak compared to earlier Chinese ones?

    Quote Originally Posted by Intranetusa View Post
    Every uncovered archaeological example of Warring States to Han era" regular" crossbows have been longer powerstroke crossbows with the bronze cast trigger located all the way in the back of the stock/tiller like the trigger of a modern day pistol. These had some 19-20 inch powerstrokes. None of the crossbows had been found with a trigger located smack dab in the middle of the stock like lower powerstroke medieval crossbows. We shouldn't assume that standard Han crossbows from 100 BC had low powerstroke just because a different kingdom in the same area of the world used lower powerstroke models 1500 years later....especially when the archaeological evidence from the relevant timeperiod so far all supports long powerstroke crossbow models with triggers in the back. Mike Loades mentions this 20 inch powerstroke for ancient Chinese crossbows too in his book on crossbows.

    We know that European crossbows also contained varieties that had longer powerstrokes than 6-7 inches and had organic prods, but later crossbows trended towards models that were easier for lesser-trained soldiers to use and were cheaper and easier to produce. European crossbows used to be of made out of composite materials such as wood and horn, but transitioned to steel because of its cost and low maintenance. IIRC, I read that Indian longbows were also sometimes made out of steel (despite this being worse than composite-bamboo laminated Indian longbows of the same weight) to serve as "munitions grade" bows that could be stored in fortress-armories for long periods of time without suffering degradation like organic bows.

    Furthermore, it's not like drawing 387 lbs 6-dan Han crossbow with its 20 inch powerstroke is some superhuman feat of strength either. According to Iolo's First Book of Crossbows, 2nd Ed (on p. 10), modern research have found that using the feet to draw crossbows (with long stocks) allows a [average good conditioned?] person to pull up to 441lbs in drawweight [while in an upright standing position?]. www.crossbows.net used to have a free copy of this book, but their website is down.



    We shouldn't use 15th century crossbows to extrapolate about 2nd century BC crossbows because the purpose, design, usage, technology, etc were all very different. Technology isn't always a linear progression of advancement either. For example, when the Western Roman Empire fell in the 5th century AD, was Western Europe more advanced in the 8th century AD than in the 2nd century AD simply because it was 600 years later? Same thing goes for the Han Dynasty vs Ming crossbows - that is a 1500 year time difference separated by many many periods of chaos, division, and foreign invasion that caused various amounts of cultural and military changes, as well as technological degradation.

    The Han crossbows were likely abandoned long before the Ming Dynasty. If anything, the design and usage was probably lost/abandoned sometime between the time when the Han Dynasty falling apart and when the entirety of northern China got overrun during the invasion of the 5 barbarians that created barbarian kingdoms in Northern China (still almost a thousand years before the Ming). By the Tang Dynasty, we have records of soldiers throwing away their crossbows because they preferred to fight in melee. That says something about a degradation in either the training or technology/power of the crossbow.

    The Qin and Han created powerful crossbows to use against armored and shielded foes of other settled agrarian civilizations (Warring States, War of 18 Kingdoms, etc), and to outrange the archers of the Xiongnu Empire while they were conducting offensive campaigns in the Xiongnu's hometurf on the steppes. The Qin also had a professional/semi-professional army and the Han had a very well trained militia supplementing a smaller professional army. They had the resources to condition, train, and equip their armies with crossbows in mass.

    Even if later kingdoms retained the technology and training, they wouldn't have the same necessity to use powerful crossbows because later dynasties didn't fight other settled civilizations with lots of armored infantry and didn't launch nearly as many regular campaigns deep into nomadic territory like the Qin and/or Han did. The Tang emphasized archery, horse archers, and cavalry, and the Northern Jin emphasized horse archery and heavy cavalry based on its nomadic roots. I think crossbows may have made a resurgence during the Song Dynasty, but when the Yuan/Mongols took over, horse archery and archery became dominant and the resources/technology/industrialization to produce crossbow faded again.

    By the Ming Dynasty, powerful crossbows had been out of use for a while...and by the late Ming, gunpowder weapons was much better for attacking armored foes.



    Bow technology could get better OR it could get worse. The Qing bowmen got weaker in the 18th century according to garrison records, as many garrison troops couldn't draw powerful bows of the past...and bows also got progressively weaker as people could no longer use the stronger ones. Most bows today are significantly weaker in drawweight than bows in the past. The average Mongolian archer today probably can't draw 140-160s lbs Mongol warbows, the average English archer today likely can't draw a 110lb war-longbow, let alone the upper tier 180 lb bow from the Mary Rose, and the average Manchu archer certainly can't draw the the strong 170+ lb warbows of a few centuries ago either.

    East Asian Crossbows seems to have had a roller coaster history - peaking in the Qin/Han era, getting worse after the chaos and disunity of centuries of barbarian states/invasions, becoming less valued in the Tang era, making a brief resurgence during the Song era, then degrading again during the Yuan and Ming Dynasty and finally disappearing in the Qing era.

    The late Ming, for example, had converted to a pike and shot gunpowder army. However, when the Qing took over, archery became big again because of their nomadic Manchu roots. Archery and strong bows would have improved during the Yuan, degraded during the Ming, and improved against during the early Qing. it's not a constant progression/advancement.

    So it is perfectly reasonable for a state in the ancient era to have strong crossbows, then undergo repeated periods and cycles of decline and chaos for many centuries...and then its successor kingdoms a thousand years later end up with weaker crossbows due to a multitude of factors such as training, resources, military culture, technology, etc.
    I am assuming you have real-life work and yet took the time to write facts on this thread despite the potential futility. Thank you for the post!

  5. #145

    Default Re: Why did the the Ming crossbows become so weak compared to earlier Chinese ones?

    Quote Originally Posted by Intranetusa View Post
    Every uncovered archaeological example of Warring States to Han era" regular" crossbows have been longer powerstroke crossbows with the bronze cast trigger located all the way in the back of the stock/tiller like the trigger of a modern day pistol. These had some 19-20 inch powerstrokes. None of the crossbows had been found with a trigger located smack dab in the middle of the stock like lower powerstroke medieval crossbows. We shouldn't assume that standard Han crossbows from 100 BC had low powerstroke just because a different kingdom in the same area of the world used lower powerstroke models 1500 years later....especially when the archaeological evidence from the relevant timeperiod so far all supports long powerstroke crossbow models with triggers in the back. Mike Loades mentions this 20 inch powerstroke for ancient Chinese crossbows too in his book on crossbows.
    We don't know.for certain the draw weight of the Qin crossbows, and the the samples we we have seen for the Qin prods for the seem to have prods similar in dimension to regular bows, suggesting they were not much more powerful than the regular bows. Han crossbows based on the written records and remaining mechanisms indicated they did have higher draw weights, but the design of the crossbow did not have to be stagnant as seems to be assumed, and direct evidence for the powerstroke of Hand crossbows as oppose to Win is rather meager. We just don't have a lot of good archaeological samples for Han dynasty and later crossbows. When we have more recent records, during the Ming, the draw weights are much less and the powerstrokes are shortrt as well.

    We know that European crossbows also contained varieties that had longer powerstrokes than 6-7 inches and had organic prods, but later crossbows trended towards models that were easier for lesser-trained soldiers to use and were cheaper and easier to produce. European crossbows used to be of made out of composite materials such as wood and horn, but transitioned to steel because of its cost and low maintenance. IIRC, I read that Indian longbows were also sometimes made out of steel (despite this being worse than composite-bamboo laminated Indian longbows of the same weight) to serve as "munitions grade" bows that could be stored in fortress-armories for long periods of time without suffering degradation like organic bows.
    There was a trend in Europe for much higher draw weights but shorter powerstrokes. Shorter powerstrokes are less efficient, be t have other advantages, like more combat crossbows, and making the use of mechanical aids easier. When Europe went to steel crossbow prods, it also went to higher draw weights which would compensate for the lower efficiencies of a steel peod, and used mechanical assists to enable soldiers to arm the higher draw weights.


    [Quot e=]
    Furthermore, it's not like drawing 387 lbs 6-dan Han crossbow with its 20 inch powerstroke is some superhuman feat of strength either. According to Iolo's First Book of Crossbows, 2nd Ed (on p. 10), modern research have found that using the feet to draw crossbows (with long stocks) allows a [average good conditioned?] person to pull up to 441lbs in drawweight [while in an upright standing position?]. www.crossbows.net used to have a free copy of this book, but their website is down. [/Quote]

    For draw weights of 300 lbs+, mechanical assistants like pulleys systems or goat's levers were mostly used. 300 lbs draw while bending over is not easy, which is why we see Chinese crossbowmen depicted as sitting down while drawing the crossbows. Only in the he Ming are assists like pull ropes shown to be used, which would allow the crossbowman to pull the crossbow without having to bend over as far.


    We shouldn't use 15th century crossbows to extrapolate about 2nd century BC crossbows because the purpose, design, usage, technology, etc were all very different. Technology isn't always a linear progression of advancement either. For example, when the Western Roman Empire fell in the 5th century AD, was Western Europe more advanced in the 8th century AD than in the 2nd century AD simply because it was 600 years later? Same thing goes for the Han Dynasty vs Ming crossbows - that is a 1500 year time difference separated by many many periods of chaos, division, and foreign invasion that caused various amounts of cultural and military changes, as well as technological degradation.

    The Han crossbows were likely abandoned long before the Ming Dynasty. If anything, the design and usage was probably lost/abandoned sometime between the time when the Han Dynasty falling apart and when the entirety of northern China got overrun during the invasion of the 5 barbarians that created barbarian kingdoms in Northern China (still almost a thousand years before the Ming). By the Tang Dynasty, we have records of soldiers throwing away their crossbows because they preferred to fight in melee. That says something about a degradation in either the training or technology/power of the crossbow.
    Seldom in history does military technology decline, and there is no evidence China underwent the technologicaland social collapse that was experienced in Western Europe with the collapse of the Western Roman empire. Useful military technology is seldom abandoned or degrades, unless it is replaced by a superior technology. There is no evidence of the technological regression in China of the kind seen in Dark Age Europe. As for soldiers throwing away crossbows, note that in close combat crossbows with their slow firing rate become less effective, and improvement in armor could make crossbows less effective, it does not mean the crossbows themselves became less effective. Even for a long range crossbow, fast moving mounted horseman would allow crossbowmen only a couple.of shots before they were on top of the enemy crossbowmen, and a fast moving target is hard to hit. Chinese civilization did not collPse post Han dynasty, so it is hard to explain why such a useful weapon like the Han crossbow would have been allowed to degrade, even if changing tactics meant it was no longer the primary weapon. Certainlyples ofold Hand dynasty crossbows would have been around to reverse engineer in later dynasties.


    Changes in armor could effect the use of crossbows as well. Crossbows, especially more powerful ones, are slow firing weapons, and in close combat conditions other weapons would likely to be more effective. Still, there is no reason the Chinese would have switched to inferior crossbows that offered no real advantagem

    The Qin and Han created powerful crossbows to use against armored and shielded foes of other settled agrarian civilizations (Warring States, War of 18 Kingdoms, etc), and to outrange the archers of the Xiongnu Empire while they were conducting offensive campaigns in the Xiongnu's hometurf on the steppes. The Qin also had a professional/semi-professional army and the Han had a very well trained militia supplementing a smaller professional army. They had the resources to condition, train, and equip their armies with crossbows in mass.
    The Xiongu and other barbarian bows of the Han era did not necessarily have to be as powerful as bows of later barbarians as the Mongols. Barbarian bows could have evovled and become more powerful counteract the Chinese crossbows, and it is possible the barbarian bows of the Han dynasty were less powerful than the 120 lbs+ of the later barbarians. An increase in power of regular bows would have offset the advantage of the Chinese crossbows, which could account for why the Crossbow became less popular in later dynasties. Crossbows will always have the disadvantage of a slower firing rate than regular bows.

    Even if later kingdoms retained the technology and training, they wouldn't have the same necessity to use powerful crossbows because later dynasties didn't fight other settled civilizations with lots of armored infantry and didn't launch nearly as many regular campaigns deep into nomadic territory like the Qin and/or Han did. The Tang emphasized archery, horse archers, and cavalry, and the Northern Jin emphasized horse archery and heavy cavalry based on its nomadic roots. I think crossbows may have made a resurgence during the Song Dynasty, but when the Yuan/Mongols took over, horse archery and archery became dominant and the resources/technology/industrialization to produce crossbow faded again.
    Even with h the rise of regular archery, there would still be niches for the powerful Han crossbow, there is no reason for the Chinese to produce inferior crossbows. Even with the rise of more effective late medieval/early modern plate armor, crossbows retained their use and continue to advance, and it wasn't until matchlock guns were perfected that crossbows were abandoned for use in combat. The Chinese seems to have largely abandoned crossbows even before matchlock arquebus guns became available, and while later European crossbows had some advantage over earlier ones, the Ming crossbows don't seem that have had any advantage over the earlier Chinese ones

    By the Ming Dynasty, powerful crossbows had been out of use for a while...and by the late Ming, gunpowder weapons was much better for attacking armored foes.
    Yet the Europeans reained the use of powerful crossbows despite vast improvements in armor, and the use of handgonnes. It wasn't until the early 16th century, after matchlock guns had been perfected that crossbows were no longer used in combat. The Chinese and Euopean handgonnes were not much more powerful than the Han crossbows, and it is only with the rise of the long barrel matchlocks that guns became much more powerful than the Han dynasty crossbows. Crossbows would still retain some advantages, such as in wet weather or at night where the glowing match could give away positions.

    Bow technology could get better OR it could get worse. The Qing bowmen got weaker in the 18th century according to garrison records, as many garrison troops couldn't draw powerful bows of the past...and bows also got progressively weaker as people could no longer use the stronger ones. Most bows today are significantly weaker in drawweight than bows in the past. The average Mongolian archer today probably can't draw 140-160s lbs Mongol warbows, the average English archer today likely can't draw a 110lb war-longbow, let alone the upper tier 180 lb bow from the Mary Rose, and the average Manchu archer certainly can't draw the the strong 170+ lb warbows of a few centuries ago either.


    East Asian Crossbows seems to have had a roller coaster history - peaking in the Qin/Han era, getting worse after the chaos and disunity of centuries of barbarian states/invasions, becoming less valued in the Tang era, making a brief resurgence during the Song era, then degrading again during the Yuan and Ming Dynasty and finally disappearing in the Qing era.
    Archery skill has declined since there is no need for powerful archers today, we don't need archers to penetrate the armor of the amored warriors like we did in the past. The need of powerful crossbows would remain until more powerful guns replaced them, send even then, powerful crossbows would still have a role to play until guns became reliable enough to completely replace them. By your own admission, crossbows were declining in China eve before guns became reliable enough to cometely replace them. There is no good reason for Chinese crossbow technology to decline as it did. Even if regular archery became more popular, there would still be a role for powerful crossbows. The Turks, although excellent bowmen, still found crossbows useful in defense of forts and other areas, and there is no reason it would not be the same for the Chinese and other Eastern Asians if the Han.crossbows were as powerful as claimed. And while crossbows became less powerful in the Ming dynasty, they were still used in the Ming dynasty although they were less powerful than either the Han dynasty crossbow or the European crossbows. The Chinese abandonment of Han design crossbows makes no sense, since they would have been as powerful as the early Ming handguns, more powerful than even late Euorpean crossbows with mechanical assistants with high draw weights. It would make sense if the Han dynasty crossbows were less powerful than assumed. If they were no mo e powerful than early handguns, then one could see them being replaced when the handguns became available. (The European steel crossboes were somewhat less powerful than the early handguns, but more reliable in wet weather, which gave them some advantage. Later long barrel matchlocks guns were more powerful than either the Han dynasty crossbows or any of the Euorpean crossbows, and whatever advantage the crossbow might have had were more than offset by the greater power of the matchlock guns, which is why crossbows were completely abandoned for war.)


    of
    The late Ming, for example, had converted to a pike and shot gunpowder army. However, when the Qing took over, archery became big again because of their nomadic Manchu roots. Archery and strong bows would have improved during the Yuan, degraded during the Ming, and improved against during the early Qing. it's not a constant progression/advancement.
    The use of archery re-appeared during the Qing dynasty because armor use had declined by then, which made bows more effective, and the hither rate of fire of boss over guns did give bows some advantage. And the Manchu bow despite gn was apparently quite an effective boe design. Still, Qing bows proved ineffective during the Opium wars. Bows, unlike crossbows, until the Advent of repeating rifles did retain certain advantages over guns in terms of higher firing rate. Bows, although less powerful than guns, could be shot faster, would could be an advantage. Still, the Chinese retained the matchlock gun more than a century after it had been rendered obsolete in European armies, so we shouldn't make too much of the Qing's continued use of the bow. Many of the Qing conquest were against nomadic or less advanced peoples in Western China, where the bow might have been of some use. Also, there is no evidence that bow technology declined, so it is hard to see why crossbow technology should either. Powerful crossbows would still be of use in fortifications and other usages, the Ottoman used crossbows for defending forts and such, despite their strong tradition in archery. The early handgonnes weren't as accurate as crossbows, and you could not aim them like a crossbow or later matchlock.



    So it is perfectly reasonable for a state in the ancient era to have strong crossbows, then undergo repeated periods and cycles of decline and chaos for many centuries...and then its successor kingdoms a thousand years later end up with weaker crossbows due to a multitude of factors such as training, resources, military culture, technology, etc.
    Not so. Decline in training in does not accounts for a decline in crossbow design. Even when the need for the crossbows were to decline, there is no reason for the Chinese to produce inferior designs, that is not the way military technology works. Even with the rise of the gun in Europe, crossbow technology continued to advance. Steel crossbows, while not necessarily more powerful than composite crossbows, were less effected by wet weather and humidity, and for defensive positions and fortifications crossbows had advantages over regular bows. Even today, modern crossboes are more advanced than crossbows of the middle ages and early modern error. Until guns were perfected, there would always have been a niche for crossbows, and there is no real reason door the decline in crossbow that is alleged to occur in China. The results only make sense if the Han crossbows were never as powerful as claimed. If the Han crossbow we're not as powerful as assumed, then an improvement in archery tradition would have led to a decline in crossbow usage, since regular bows will always have higher firing rates, and if you have trained archers available, then you have less need for crossbows. In Europe, only England had a strong tradition in the use of powerful bows, and not surprisingly, England had a strong preference for the longbow over crossbows, although it did use crossbows. The rest of Euope, lacking a similar archery tradition, preferred crossbows. However, when guns were perfected, they became the preferred method. But while the later matchlocks were more powerful than any bow or crossbow, the early handguns used in the early Ming dynasty would not have been as powerful as what alleged for the Han dynadty crossbows, and it is hard to see why the powerful Han dynasty crossbows would have been replaced. Crossbows, unlike regular bows, don't take years of conditioning to be able to be used, and there would always be a needed for some powerful crossbows. Only when guns became far more powerful than the most powerful crossbows were crossbows abandoned as weapons in Europe. The same should have been true in China, unless Chinese crossbows were weaker than assumed.


    Even when the techology is regressed in many other areas, the technology of weapons is one of the areas that did not decline in Europe post Roman empire. The barbarian swords, armor were as good as the Roman, and medieval castles were more sophisticated and actual more advance than Roman fortifications, with concentric defense walls, staggered gates, draw bridges and the like. A Han design crossbow of 378 lbs draw weight would be as powerful as the most powerful regular boss, and be capable of being drawn by ordinary soldiers. Hard to see why that technology would be given up or lost, especially when the Han crossbows were built in such large numbers.
    .
    Last edited by Common Soldier; May 11, 2019 at 01:34 PM.

  6. #146

    Default Re: Why did the the Ming crossbows become so weak compared to earlier Chinese ones?

    One of the assumptions made about the Han Chinese crossbow is that its efficiency is about the same regular bows. But that assumption might not be correct. Because of its significantly higher draw weight, its prod would have more mass than a regular bows, making it less efficient. And changed in efficiency might not be linear, it might be significantly less efficient.

    For example, if the efficiency of the Han dynasty crossbow was only 50%, then for 387 lbs draw weight and a 20 inch powerstroke, we would get 219 joules, for for a regular bows of 150 lbs and 32" draw and an efficiency of 80%, you would get 217 J. Now, 150 lbs is a lot more than the ordinary person can draw without years of conditioning, but 387 lbs crossbow is something an ordinary man could manage with a little training, since he could use his stronger leg muscles. For a people without a strong tradition in archery, the Han crossbow would give as powerful a bow as as a regular boss that took years of conditioning, but at the expense of a slower firing rate. If you did have available people with a strong archery background, as was the case with the Tang dynasty (who came from a barbarian background), or the Yuan, or the Qing, the bow made a lot more sense than the crossbow. If your dynasty didn't have a strong nomadic background of using bows, like the Song or Han dynasty, then the crossbow allowed you to match the power of the nomads. This would account for the crossbow see-saw usage in East Asia. When you had a supply of men with a strong archery tradition and could use powerful regular bows, the crossbow didn't make as much sense. But if you didn't have a lot of men available with a strong tradition of using powerful bows available, then you had to rely on the crossbow to compete. England which had a strong archery tradition, could rely on the longbow, but continental Europe, which didn't have the strong folk tradition of using powerful bows like England, relied on the crossbow instead.

    Note, even at 219 j, that would still make the Han dynasty crossbow more powerful than any but the most powerful windlass or cranequin European crossbow, and even at 50% efficiency, would make the Han crossbow more efficient than the European windlass and cranequin crossbows, which from the medieval replicas I have seen seem around 30% to 40%. The Han crossbow might have even been slightly more powerful than the most powerful regular bows, say 230 to 240 J, but it was a lot more powerful than the strongest regular bows, it is hard to justify why the Chinese would ever give up the usage of the Han crossbow.

    Early hand cannons from what I have read seem around 500 J to 1000 Joules, which would make them far more powerful than the crossbows. The composite crossbows effectiveness suffered in wet weather, so they didn't offer much of an advantage there over the hand cannons. (Because the steel crossbows were less effected by wet weather, they still had a role in European battlefields, but but with the rise in power of the matchlocks gun, which could be 1500 J or more, and improvement in gun powder) the far greater power of the guns and cheaper cost over the crossbows trumped the greater reliability of the crossbow, although the Spanish did find them in the New World after they have been rendered obsolete in European battlefields.)

    I
    PS - Even though the Ming no longer needed powerful crossbows, I suppose there was a still a limited role for some weaker crossbows. A shorter powerstroke would make the crossbow easier and quicker to cock, and it could function as a close in defense weapon as someone suggested earlier. I don't think the Ming had a strong archery tradition, and a shorter powerstroke and lower draw weight would have made the Ming crossbow faster to shoot than the more powerful Han crossbow with the longer powerstroke, faster than the guns could be fired, if slower. I know in Europe, simple wooden prod crossbows were still being made even when composite and steel crossbows were available, despite being far less powerful. I reckon even if the relatively low power wooden crossboez couldn't penetrate armor, they could still be used against some exposed spot like the eyes, at close range. Simple, relatively power crossbows, while not as fast as a regular bows, are still much faster firing than a hand cannons or matchlocks. Shorter powerstroke meant you could use a shorter prod, which would make the crossbow more manueverable
    Last edited by Common Soldier; May 14, 2019 at 08:48 AM.

  7. #147

    Default Re: Why did the the Ming crossbows become so weak compared to earlier Chinese ones?

    Quote Originally Posted by Common Soldier View Post
    We don't know.for certain the draw weight of the Qin crossbows, and the the samples we we have seen for the Qin prods for the seem to have prods similar in dimension to regular bows, suggesting they were not much more powerful than the regular bows. Han crossbows based on the written records and remaining mechanisms indicated they did have higher draw weights, but the design of the crossbow did not have to be stagnant as seems to be assumed, and direct evidence for the powerstroke of Hand crossbows as oppose to Win is rather meager. We just don't have a lot of good archaeological samples for Han dynasty and later crossbows.
    1) While we don't know Qin draw weights for sure, we do know from Warring States records about the draw weights of some Warring States era crossbows - so there is enough evidence to make educated guesses. We do have some archaeological samples for Han Dynasty crossbows, and they resembled the Qin era crossbows. The Han Dynasty was a direct continuation of the Qin Dynasty that lasted less than 2 decades and much of the Han Dynasty equipment were copied from Qin Dynasty equipment.

    We know that Han Dynasty records talked about draw weights in 8+ categories, but didn't mention draw length as that was presumably standardized. If they were using short draw lengths such as 9-10 inches instead of the 20 inch powerstroke of Qin crossbows, then the weaker Han 2 - 3 stone crossbows would have been toys in comparison to regular bows. A 3 stone (180-190lb) crossbow with a measly 9-10 inch powerstroke would basically be a 40 pound bow, or less than half the poundage of a typical war bow. If they were using such weak crossbows, it would be impossible for 4-5 stone crossbows to reach an effective range of 260 meters and penetrate a wood wall as the records state, and impossible for them to outrange nomadic recurve bows. The evidence points to the Han Dynasty crossbows having a similar 19-20 inch powerstroke as the Qin Dynasty crossbows.

    2) You can't tell the strength of bows by dimensions alone. Otherwise you'd assume a modern crossbow made of composite carbon & metal materials is weaker than a medieval longbow simply because it is smaller in dimension.

    There were many ways to make bows more powerful rather than just making it bigger - bows were made stronger by adding recurve & reflex shapes, making it thicker, layering it with horn, tendon, etc. That's why composite recurve bows are able to achieve the same strength as English longbows (up to at least 180s lb) despite being smaller in size.

    In my second post, I referenced Xiongnu bows that were stronger than other nomadic bows because it was reinforced with bone, horn, and tendon: "The extremely powerful composite bow of the Xiongnu was reinforcedby seven bone plates: a pair attached to both ends and three at the handle, most likely reinforced with horn and tendon..." -XIONGNU ARCHAEOLOGY Multidisciplinary Perspectives of the First Steppe Empire in Inner Asia
    https://www.shh.mpg.de/1166471/bross...logy_bcaa5.pdf

    Quote Originally Posted by Common Soldier View Post
    When we have more recent records, during the Ming, the draw weights are much less and the powerstrokes are shortrt as well.
    Which doesn't mean much because the Ming Dynasty was a gunpowder era empire that was using pike and shot warfare (with muskets) and existed 1600-1800 years after the Qin Dynasty collapsed. The Ming military was not a crossbow oriented military to the same extent the Qin and Han armies were, and the Ming Dynasty lost the knowledge from earlier eras and had a poor military system.

    "The dynasty’s original military system did not just fail to produce trained men but it also lost a substantial amount of its knowledge of how to train soldiers, use weapons, and fight battles. One of the reasons so many military and martial arts manuals were produced during the mid to late Ming Dynasty was the urgent need to recover lost military knowledge...Even while the Ming military as a whole declined, pockets of military knowledge and martial arts skills remained."
    p. 163 of Chinese Martial Arts: From Antiquity to the Twenty-First Century by Peter Lorge

    The Ming Dynasty crossbow draw weights and powerstroke were weaker than the crossbows from the Song Dynasty, Han Dynasty, Qin Dynasty, and Warring States era for likely a multitude of reasons, so we should not use the Ming crossbows as a "highlight" of crossbows.

    Quote Originally Posted by Common Soldier View Post
    There was a trend in Europe for much higher draw weights but shorter powerstrokes. Shorter powerstrokes are less efficient, be t have other advantages, like more combat crossbows, and making the use of mechanical aids easier. When Europe went to steel crossbow prods, it also went to higher draw weights which would compensate for the lower efficiencies of a steel peod, and used mechanical assists to enable soldiers to arm the higher draw weights..
    The trend in Europe favored low cost and simplicity of maintenance. European crossbows made of composite recurve material was more efficent and could sustain a longer draw weight than cheap steel of the time, but it was more costly to make and required more maintenance. The short powerstroke/draw was partially due to the "unreliability" of cheap steel as Todd of Toddsstuff put it in one of his videos. We know that the Ming Dynasty also produced a lot of different crossbows that favored cheap, low cost maintenance too (discussed further down).

    Organic composite materials degrade over time, especially without proper maintenance. That's why the Chu-yen slips talks about 6-stone Han crossbows degrading to 4-5 stone bows, and why Indian kingdoms stored many "steel" bows in their armory-fortresses as armory weapons even though their laminated composite bamboo bows were better. The Ming themselves seems to have also created what seems to be lower cost and simpler in design crossbows that were probably easier to maintain than composite recurve crossbows.

    Quote Originally Posted by Common Soldier View Post
    For draw weights of 300 lbs+, mechanical assistants like pulleys systems or goat's levers were mostly used. 300 lbs draw while bending over is not easy, which is why we see Chinese crossbowmen depicted as sitting down while drawing the crossbows.
    1) 300+ lb draw is not easy, but it is still feasible according to IO's book on crossbows as they can draw some 440 lbs with both legs. Sitting down makes the process much easier.

    For a well trained army composed of well conditioned soldiers (eg. the Qin and Western Han armies), drawing heavy crossbows wouldn't be much of a problem. For a less well trained army such most of the Ming army, this was an issue. The militia portion of the Western Han army for example, received a full year's worth of training/conditioning. The Ming Dynasty's army on the other hand had less competent soldiers and had lost military knowledge from the past.

    See quotes: "The dynasty’s original military system did not just fail to produce trained men but it also lost a substantial amount of its knowledge of how to train soldiers, use weapons, and fight battles. One of the reasons so many military and martial arts manuals were produced during the mid to late Ming Dynasty was the urgent need to recover lost military knowledge...Even while the Ming military as a whole declined, pockets of military knowledge and martial arts skills remained."
    p. 163 of Chinese Martial Arts: From Antiquity to the Twenty-First Century by Peter Lorge

    "Although it had tens of thousands of effective troops, capable of fighting under vastly different conditions with a variety of weapons, it did not have hundreds of thousands of effective troops,nor did it have enough competent generals. The underlying weakness in the Ming military was caused by political failures within the government itself. Large pools of violent men were not recruited into the military, leaving them to become bandits and then rebels."
    p. 171 of Chinese Martial Arts: From Antiquity to the Twenty-First Century by Peter Lorge

    Quote Originally Posted by Common Soldier View Post
    Only in the he Ming are assists like pull ropes shown to be used, which would allow the crossbowman to pull the crossbow without having to bend over as far...
    There are other forms of assists such as levers and winches used for certain types of crossbows during the Han Dynasty or earlier as found in archaeological remains and murals in tombs. But for the standard crossbow, sitting down and drawing the bow with the arms and legs was probably the most popular.
    As for the Ming, the crossbow became more of a sidearm rather than the primary weapon it was during the Warring States to Han Dynasty era.
    The Ming existed centuries after gunpowder weapons and hand cannons had already been used by the Song Dynasty. The Ming were a gunpowder army. For example, the between 1618 and 1622, the Ming Dynasty produced zero (0) crossbows, but produced 8000+ small guns, 6000+ muskets, ~43,000 bows, and almost 30,000 cannon-type weapons:
    "...manufactured 25,134 cannons, 8,252 small guns, 6,425 muskets, 4,090 culverins, 98,547 polearms and swords, 26,214 great "horse decapitator" swords, 42,800 bows, 1,000 great axes, 2,284,000 arrows, 180,000 fire arrows, 64,000 bow strings..."

    https://books.google.com/books?id=5-...%2C134&f=false

    Quote Originally Posted by Common Soldier View Post
    Seldom in history does military technology decline, and there is no evidence China underwent the technologicaland social collapse that was experienced in Western Europe with the collapse of the Western Roman empire.
    There is history and evidence China went through several periods of decline. After the Han Dynasty collapsed in the early 3rd century AD, the region experienced 300 years of civil wars and barbarian invasions until the Sui Dynasty unified them in the 6th century AD.

    Two thirds (2/3) of the Han Dynasty population was said to have been wiped out in the Three Kingdoms conflict during the 3rd century alone. In the 4th century, the entirety of northern China and the central plains was overrun by the "5 barbarians" who then created their own kingdoms and continued the conflict well into the 500s AD. The entirety of the Yellow River "heartland" and the most productive cities were ruled by these "foreign" kingdoms, and many Han Chinese migrated to the southlands.

    Technological regression very well could have occurred due to up to 2/3 of the population getting wiped out, 300 years of instability and war, barbarians invading half the empire and conquering the most productive cities and regions of the north/central plains, etc. Technologies and disciplines that were seen in the Han period didn't arise again until the Tang or even Song era many centuries later.

    The crossbow was barely mentioned in battles during the Six Dynasties/16 Kingdoms period during the 4th-5th century period.
    p. 101 of Chinese Martial Arts: From Antiquity to the Twenty-First Century by Peter Lorge

    Quote Originally Posted by Common Soldier View Post
    Useful military technology is seldom abandoned or degrades, unless it is replaced by a superior technology.
    That is not always true. The steel European crossbow was not a superior technology than composite European crossbows. The switch was done to keep costs and maintenance low.

    The Roman rectangular shield was abandoned in favor of the oval shield by the late imperial era not because the oval shield was better or worse than the square shield, but because tactical usage changed and the Romans weren't fighting large pitched field battles anymore.
    There are many reasons why a better technology is replaced by a "seemingly" worse technology.

    The same things happened in ancient to medieval China. The Qin and Han Dynasty were crossbow oriented armies. The Ming Dynasty was not a crossbow oriented military. Those types of heavy draw crossbows for massed firepower warfare also required a lot of well trained and conditioned troops - which the Ming didn't always have. It also required the records and knowledge of other military technologies and techniques, which the Ming also didn't have. The Ming used weaker crossbows as secondary or tertiary weapons. The Han and Qin armies used stronger crossbows as primary weapons.

    The usage of the crossbows differ greatly.

    Quote Originally Posted by Common Soldier View Post
    There is no evidence of the technological regression in China of the kind seen in Dark Age Europe.
    The term "Dark Ages" was originally used by earlier historians because they didn't know much about the time due to a lack of written archaeological evidence. It wasn't called the Dark Ages because historians thought society had regressed. Technically, the entire period of 3rd-6th century AD China can be considered "Dark Ages" China too because of the lack of written records dating to the timeperiod (and relative lack of details on this timeperiod from records written during later timeperiods) compared to other eras.

    And some regression did probably happen in ancient China because records and archaeology of technology, engineering techniques, science works, etc that existed during the Han era that didn't exist in the immediately centuries afterwards, but took many centuries to reappear. For example, IIRC, the Han Dynasty's mechanical and hydraulic engineering wasn't surpassed until the Song Dynasty.

    The Han Dynasty also didn't have other civilizations helping to preserve their information like the Arabs and Persians did for classical Greco-Roman works.

    Quote Originally Posted by Common Soldier View Post
    As for soldiers throwing away crossbows, note that in close combat crossbows with their slow firing rate become less effective, and improvement in armor could make crossbows less effective, it does not mean the crossbows themselves became less effective. Even for a long range crossbow, fast moving mounted horseman would allow crossbowmen only a couple.of shots before they were on top of the enemy crossbowmen, and a fast moving target is hard to hit. ..
    The slow rate of fire does not explain why soldiers threw away crossbows, because crossbows during the Warring States to Han era also fired slowly but soldiers during those eras didn't throw away their crossbows.

    The Tang Dynasty also used basically the same armor as the Han Dynasty - metal lamellar plates of varying thickness between ~1-3mm thick, so it is not the same as jumping from Celtic chainmail from 200 BC to 16th century AD European plate armor.

    It means 1) a shift in the doctrine of warfare that devalued the crossbow or 2) a shift in the types of crossbows used in that they were less effective or 3) both.

    Quote Originally Posted by Common Soldier View Post
    Chinese civilization did not collPse post Han dynasty, so it is hard to explain why such a useful weapon like the Han crossbow would have been allowed to degrade, even if changing tactics meant it was no longer the primary weapon. ..
    Roman civilization and Western civilization didn't collapse after the Western Roman Empire collapsed either. The Eastern Roman Empire survived and the Germanic barbarian kingdoms actually adopted Roman culture, administrative systems, technology, etc. The German kingdoms even adopted Latin as a language and official writing system of their kingdoms.

    Yet the Roman torsion weapons such as the scorpion, manuballista, etc were no longer used in battle. Scorpions and cheiroballistra that fired bolts were sometimes used as field artillery and were very useful weapons. Yet the Eastern Roman Empire and the Germanic states stopped using torsion field artillery that fired bolts in battles. So we can also wonder why the Eastern Romans stopped using such a useful weapon.

    The Han Dynasty also mounted siege crossbows onto chariots and armored wagons, which was effective in fighting nomadic enemies. This was not something the Ming did had either. Again, we can wonder why the Ming didn't strap giant crossbow field artillery onto armored wagons too.

    Quote Originally Posted by Common Soldier View Post
    Certainlyples ofold Hand dynasty crossbows would have been around to reverse engineer in later dynasties. ..
    Ancient and medieval peoples can't just "reverse engineer" technology. This isn't the 20th-21st century where nations have groups of well funded engineers and scientists dedicated to reverse engineering foreign technology.

    And most the Han Dynasty crossbows were long disintegrated by the Ming Dynasty, and the only ones left were in tombs and buried pits that got unearthed in the 20th century by modern archaeologists.

    Furthermore, just because something existed later doesn't mean it was more advanced. The 12th Song Dynasty was actually more advanced and richer economically than the 14th-17th century Ming Dynasty.

    Could the Holy Roman Empire in the 1500s AD reverse engineer the Antikythera mechanism created by ancient Greeks in the 100s BC?

    Quote Originally Posted by Common Soldier View Post
    Changes in armor could effect the use of crossbows as well. Crossbows, especially more powerful ones, are slow firing weapons, and in close combat conditions other weapons would likely to be more effective. Still, there is no reason the Chinese would have switched to inferior crossbows that offered no real advantagem..
    You're assuming factors such as:
    1) the Ming had a choice of picking different types of crossbows and had retained knowledge of how to build the older crossbows
    2) their soldiers were the same quality/physical conditioning as earlier armies
    3) their military doctrine was the same as the doctrines used 1600-1800+ years earlier
    4) their economic production/capacity/etc was the same as the earlier

    These assumptions can be challenged:
    1) We know that military knowledge can be and probably was lost. For example, IIRC, there were hundreds of schools of sword fighting techniques from the Warring States to Han Dynasty era, but most of those books were lost by the time of the Song Dynasty. The Ming Dynasty army lost a lot of military knowledge from earlier periods as cited in Peter Lorge's book above.
    2) The Ming military was less effective and their physical conditioning/training was worse than the armies of the Qin to Western Han era. So it was questionable whether they even had enough troops to competently draw the 400lb crossbows by hand even if they did exist.
    3) the Ming army was a gunpowder army that wasn't even reliant on the crossbow as its main weapon like earlier armies were. There is indication that the crossbow was treated as a secondary or less important weapon during this time.
    4) the quality of materials to make crossbows seems to have decreased in favor of making things cheaper/easier to maintain. During the Ming era, you see the emergence of a lot of cheaper models that were easier to produce and easier to maintain in humidity that consisted of several wood or bamboo pieces lashed or glued together that.

    Quote Originally Posted by Common Soldier View Post
    An increase in power of regular bows would have offset the advantage of the Chinese crossbows, which could account for why the Crossbow became less popular in later dynasties. Crossbows will always have the disadvantage of a slower firing rate than regular bows.
    I don't think that is the reason, because crossbow usage was a roller coaster in the history of that region. Crossbows were commonly used from the Warring States to Han Era. Then the crossbows fell out of using during the 16 dynasties era. Then they were used during the Tang Dynasty, but to a lesser extent than before. Then they were commonly used again during the Song Dynasty. Then they took a backseat during the Ming Dynasty again.

    As for rate of fire, yes, crossbows had a slower rate of fire. During crossbow centric eras such as the Han Dynasty and Song Dynasty, it was common to pair crossbowmen with archers and use crossbow countermarch/rotating volley fire to negate the slow rate of fire.

    Quote Originally Posted by Common Soldier View Post
    Even with h the rise of regular archery, there would still be niches for the powerful Han crossbow, there is no reason for the Chinese to produce inferior crossbows. ..
    The "Chinese" aren't all the same people living in the same country around the same time. The Han Dynasty and Ming Dynasty are two completely different nation-states that existed 1200-1400 years apart, that just happen to occupy the same region and more or less continue the same culture. The two dynasties didn't even speak the same languages and the ethnic makeup between the two changed significantly.

    It's like why the Italian states in the 9th century didn't just adopt the earlier Roman military system to fight off Arab raiders and used "seemingly" inferior military systems instead that left them weaker and more vulnerable.

    The military, economic, technological, etc circumstances were vastly different between these two different timeperiods.

    Quote Originally Posted by Common Soldier View Post
    Even with the rise of more effective late medieval/early modern plate armor, crossbows retained their use and continue to advance, and it wasn't until matchlock guns were perfected that crossbows were abandoned for use in combat. The Chinese seems to have largely abandoned crossbows even before matchlock arquebus guns became available, and while later European crossbows had some advantage over earlier ones
    Crossbows had already mostly replaced by muskets by the 1500s AD in Rennisance era Europe. See quote: "Handguns commenced slowly to supersede crossbows in Continental armies between 1460 and 1470, though the later continued more or less in favor till the close of the fifteenth century."

    https://archive.org/details/Book_of_...loway/page/n71

    Crossbows were also mostly replaced by gunpowder weapons during Ming China too, though crossbows continued to exist as non-standard weapons or side weapons. The earlier periods when they abandoned the crossbow was during or after long periods of instability and collapse of the native ruling dynasties.

    Quote Originally Posted by Common Soldier View Post
    Yet the Europeans reained the use of powerful crossbows despite vast improvements in armor, and the use of handgonnes. It wasn't until the early 16th century, after matchlock guns had been perfected that crossbows were no longer used in combat. The Chinese and Euopean handgonnes were not much more powerful than the Han crossbows, and it is only with the rise of the long barrel matchlocks that guns became much more powerful than the Han dynasty crossbows. Crossbows would still retain some advantages, such as in wet weather or at night where the glowing match could give away positions..
    The strongest Han crossbows that were carried by infantry were only for a tiny percentage of troops, the elite of the army, so they're not really a factor as they were reserved for a small fraction. The standard 6 stone Han crossbow used by the average crossbowmen required physical conditioning, was often drawn while laying on their back, and still eventually tired out the soldier. Gunpowder weapons used by the Ming and earlier could be used by any idiot with barely any training, didn't require a back draw, could be used by weaker soldiers, and didn't tire soldiers out as much.

    Quote Originally Posted by Common Soldier View Post
    Archery skill has declined since there is no need for powerful archers today, we don't need archers to penetrate the armor of the amored warriors like we did in the past. The need of powerful crossbows would remain until more powerful guns replaced them, send even then, powerful crossbows would still have a role to play until guns became reliable enough to completely replace them.
    Quote Originally Posted by Common Soldier View Post
    By your own admission, crossbows were declining in China eve before guns became reliable enough to cometely replace them. There is no good reason for Chinese crossbow technology to decline as it did. Even if regular archery became more popular, there would still be a role for powerful crossbows.
    Crossbows declined long before the Ming Dynasty even existed. The crossbows declined during the 3 centuries of chaos after the Han Dynasty collapsed, because later records barely mention crossbows being used during that time.

    I didn't say archery was a reason for the crossbow's decline. During the Han and Song era, archers were used in conjunction with crossbowmen. Also, there are plenty of reasons for the crossbow's decline:

    1) 300 years of civil war, barbarian invasions, and losing 2/3 of the population between the 200s to 500s AD can do a lot of damage to the preservation of technology, military records, etc

    2) The doctrine of warfare was different. The powerful crossbows in ancient China arose during the Warring States to Qin era when kingdoms were fighting against other kingdoms - their opponents were settled, agrarian kingdoms with large organized infantry armies that wore lots of armor. The Han Dynasty continued using lots of crossbows to fight its vassal states (when it was still feudal) and the Xiongnu nomads. The Tang used crossbows but could also rely more on cavalry and archers because they were experienced in cavalry warfare and had subjugated many nomadic tribes. The Song was technologically advanced, but lost quickly lost the northern plains and lost their access to horses. They brought back crossbows probably because they were fighting settled kingdoms (Jin Dynasty) as well as fighting nomads on their home turf.

    The Mongol created Yuan Empire barely used crossbows in comparison, as they had huge armies of well trained archers and gunpowder weapons. They also did a lot of damage to the settled kingdoms of the Jin and Song Empires, and they basically wiped out the Xi Xia empire in central northern China. I wouldn't be surprised if the Ming's loss of military records/knowledge of earlier eras was in part due to the damage the Mongols did.

    Quote Originally Posted by Common Soldier View Post
    The Turks, although excellent bowmen, still found crossbows useful in defense of forts and other areas, and there is no reason it would not be the same for the Chinese and other Eastern Asians if the Han crossbows were as powerful as claimed.
    You're confusing two different points. Still using some type of crossbow is not the same as using a specific type of strong crossbow. Yes, the Turks sparingly used crossbows. The Ming also used crossbows, but not nearly to the same extent as earlier periods.

    While crossbows became less powerful in the Ming dynasty, they were still used in the Ming dynasty. These Ming crossbows were less powerful than either the Han dynasty crossbow or the Renaissance era European crossbows because they didn't need to be that powerful - crossbows weren't a primary weapon anymore and gunpowder weapons and archers were more popular.

    Quote Originally Posted by Common Soldier View Post
    The Chinese abandonment of Han design crossbows makes no sense, since they would have been as powerful as the early Ming handguns, more powerful than even late Euorpean crossbows with mechanical assistants with high draw weights.It would make sense if the Han dynasty crossbows were less powerful than assumed. If they were no mo e powerful than early handguns, then one could see them being replaced when the handguns became available. The European steel crossboes were somewhat less powerful than the early handguns, but more reliable in wet weather, which gave them some advantage
    No, you're going off two incorrect assumptions.

    1) Early European (and likely Ming) guns would be much more powerful than Han crossbows. Han and medieval European crossbows maxed out in the 200s joules. European handguns from the 1400s were delivering 500-1000 joules.

    2) The standard Han infantry crossbows were not really stronger than the strongest late European crossbows with mechanical assists. The standard 6-stone Han crossbows were stronger than the weaker European goats foot lever crossbows of 400 lb draw weight, but roughly comparable to the 1200lb European windlass crossbows. I think some European crossbows went to 1500lbs or more. The 7-8 stone crossbows aren't really a consideration as they're for a small elite group but they would've been comparable to the 1500lb European crossbows. The even heavier Han crossbows were likely artillery/siege weapons that used mechanical assists such as winches, so they don't count as infantry crossbows. Later long barrel matchlocks guns were more powerful than either the Han dynasty crossbows or any of the European crossbows, and whatever advantage the crossbow might have had were more than offset by the greater power of the matchlock guns, which is why crossbows were completely abandoned for war.)

    Quote Originally Posted by Common Soldier View Post
    The use of archery re-appeared during the Qing dynasty because armor use had declined by then, which made bows more effective, and the hither rate of fire of boss over guns did give bows some advantage. And the Manchu bow despite gn was apparently quite an effective boe design. Still, Qing bows proved ineffective during the Opium wars.
    I mentioned the Qing archers not to talk about the effectiveness of archery, but to state how military technology had declined during the Qing Dynasty due to the decline in the quality of soldiers. The poundage of the bows during the Qing era declined over time because less and less people were able to draw strong bows. The Qing archery tradition had already greatly declined in the 1700s, to say nothing of the further decline in the 1800s. By the 1800s, the Qing military was a mess of outdated weaponry, weak soldiers, declined martial readiness, incompetence and corruption, etc

    Quote Originally Posted by Common Soldier View Post
    Not so. Decline in training in does not accounts for a decline in crossbow design. .
    It certainly can. The decline of strong archers in the Qing Dynasty in the 1700s caused a decline in people making strong bows. It's the same reason why most bows used by archers today aren't 100+ lb draw bows like they were centuries ago.

    It matters for crossbows when you don't have people strong enough to draw crossbows. Why make a strong crossbow (assuming they can) when the army doesn't have the physical training that can enable soldiers to use strong crossbows?

    Quote Originally Posted by Common Soldier View Post
    Even when the need for the crossbows were to decline, there is no reason for the Chinese to produce inferior designs, that is not the way military technology works. Even with the rise of the gun in Europe, crossbow technology continued to advance. Steel crossbows, while not necessarily more powerful than composite crossbows, were less effected by wet weather and humidity, and for defensive positions and fortifications crossbows had advantages over regular bows.
    Just because Ming crossbows were weaker doesn't mean they were overall inferior. The Ming produced what they could at the time given their circumstances.
    Many models of Ming Dynasty crossbows were cheaper and easier to make than the recurved horn and wood construction of the earlier Qin, Han, and Song era crossbows. The cheap wood and laminated bamboo construction also needed less maintenance than composite recurve models in the wet weather and humidity of subtropical southern China.

    The Ming army also didn't have the best training regimen compared to the earlier periods.
    So an earlier model 387 lb crossbow with a 20 inch powerstroke that an average Ming soldier can't draw with ease is not superior to a 250 pound crossbow that a Ming soldier can draw with ease.

    Quote Originally Posted by Common Soldier View Post
    But while the later matchlocks were more powerful than any bow or crossbow, the early handguns used in the early Ming dynasty would not have been as powerful as what alleged for the Han dynadty crossbows, and it is hard to see why the powerful Han dynasty crossbows would have been replaced.
    No, early handguns used during the Ming era were much more powerful than standard Han Dynasty crossbows. As mentioned earlier, the hanguns used in 1400s Europe were 500-1000 joules, whereas Han crossbows maxed out at in the 200s joules.

    Quote Originally Posted by Common Soldier View Post
    Crossbows, unlike regular bows, don't take years of conditioning to be able to be used, and there would always be a needed for some powerful crossbows. Only when guns became far more powerful than the most powerful crossbows were crossbows abandoned as weapons in Europe.
    Bows don't take years of conditioning either. but rather years of practice. Strong crossbows also take weeks, if not months of conditioning to build up strength. Gunpowder weapons require basically zero conditioning to use.

    Quote Originally Posted by Common Soldier View Post
    The same should have been true in China, unless Chinese crossbows were weaker than assumed..
    No, because plenty of other factors are involved - including centuries of instability from warfare, foreign invasions, changing nature of enemies, etc.

    Furthermore, crossbows have existed in Europe as the Greek gastraphetes in the 4th century BC. However, then they were not really used on the battlefield again until the early middle ages. Would you say the gastraphetes fell out of favor because they was simply too weak? IIRC, there are records for the gastraphetes like we have records for the Han crossbow, with records for both saying they outranged regular bows.

    Quote Originally Posted by Common Soldier View Post
    Even when the techology is regressed in many other areas, the technology of weapons is one of the areas that did not decline in Europe post Roman empire. The barbarian swords, armor were as good as the Roman, and medieval castles were more sophisticated and actual more advance than Roman fortifications, with concentric defense walls, staggered gates, draw bridges and the like.
    Actually, more complex military technology such as Roman torsion siege artillery technology did regress. Where were the Roman field artillery and siege weapons such as scorpions, carroballistas, etc. Some medieval kingdoms used simplified torsion engines such as catapults that only had one torsion component instead of two.

    Military doctrine also regressed. People weren't trained and equipped by the state anymore, so they could neither carry the same amount of equipment nor could they fight in the same close order formations.
    A medieval European army might have the same quality swords and armor, but if you gave them a Roman scutua and pila and told them to fight in close order formation like the Romans, then they would have no idea what they're doing.

    Some advancements in some types of military technology and doctrine does not equal advancement in all military technology.

    Quote Originally Posted by Common Soldier View Post
    A Han design crossbow of 378 lbs draw weight would be as powerful as the most powerful regular boss, and be capable of being drawn by ordinary soldiers. Hard to see why that technology would be given up or lost, especially when the Han crossbows were built in such large numbers.
    It's possible that Han Dynasty crossbows and tech could be lost when you consider the following:
    1) These crossbows were produced by the state and kept in state armories, so it's not like your everyday average joe owed these crossbows
    2) they were made of organic materials so the bow and prod would've decayed within a century
    3) the state armories with Han weaponry got looted and/or destroyed during the 100 years of warfare during the Three Kingdoms era in the 3rd century, that ended up supposedly depopulating 2/3 of the people and collapsing the economy
    4) then centralized authority that formed after the Three Kingdoms era basically collapsed again when they were invaded by the 5 barbarian kingdoms, which led to the total loss of the industrialized and productive regions of north China/central plains
    5) the loss of the industrialized/productive areas (areas where those crossbows were made and kept) and establishment of barbarian kingdoms led to another 200 years of war under the 16 kingdoms

    Furthermore, besides the weakening of training programs, the records of military doctrine of how to effective train soldiers to use the specific crossbow formations could also have been lost. As stated in the quote from Lorge above, the Ming Dynasty wrote so many military manuals because they were trying to rediscover and preserve many lost military knowledge from the past.
    Last edited by Intranetusa; June 04, 2019 at 08:56 PM.

  8. #148

    Default Re: Why did the the Ming crossbows become so weak compared to earlier Chinese ones?

    Quote Originally Posted by Common Soldier View Post
    One of the assumptions made about the Han Chinese crossbow is that its efficiency is about the same regular bows. But that assumption might not be correct. Because of its significantly higher draw weight, its prod would have more mass than a regular bows, making it less efficient. And changed in efficiency might not be linear, it might be significantly less efficient.
    I have not seen the claim Han Chinese crossbows had the efficency of regular bows. In the earlier links in this thread, I've only seen people claim they had a 60% efficiency, which is less than the 75-80% efficiency claim for bows. I agree that its effiency would be less than regular bows.
    Quote Originally Posted by Common Soldier View Post
    For example, if the efficiency of the Han dynasty crossbow was only 50%, then for 387 lbs draw weight and a 20 inch powerstroke, we would get 219 joules, for for a regular bows of 150 lbs and 32" draw and an efficiency of 80%, you would get 217 J.
    Yes, I think that is possible. Probably roughly equal to or somewhat stronger than a 150 lb bow.
    Quote Originally Posted by Common Soldier View Post
    Now, 150 lbs is a lot more than the ordinary person can draw without years of conditioning, but 387 lbs crossbow is something an ordinary man could manage with a little training, since he could use his stronger leg muscles. For a people without a strong tradition in archery, the Han crossbow would give as powerful a bow as as a regular boss that took years of conditioning, but at the expense of a slower firing rate. If you did have available people with a strong archery background, as was the case with the Tang dynasty (who came from a barbarian background), or the Yuan, or the Qing, the bow made a lot more sense than the crossbow. If your dynasty didn't have a strong nomadic background of using bows, like the Song or Han dynasty, then the crossbow allowed you to match the power of the nomads. This would account for the crossbow see-saw usage in East Asia. When you had a supply of men with a strong archery tradition and could use powerful regular bows, the crossbow didn't make as much sense. But if you didn't have a lot of men available with a strong tradition of using powerful bows available, then you had to rely on the crossbow to compete. England which had a strong archery tradition, could rely on the longbow, but continental Europe, which didn't have the strong folk tradition of using powerful bows like England, relied on the crossbow instead.
    Yes, I agree.
    Quote Originally Posted by Common Soldier View Post
    Note, even at 219 j, that would still make the Han dynasty crossbow more powerful than any but the most powerful windlass or cranequin European crossbow, and even at 50% efficiency, would make the Han crossbow more efficient than the European windlass and cranequin crossbows, which from the medieval replicas I have seen seem around 30% to 40%. The Han crossbow might have even been slightly more powerful than the most powerful regular bows, say 230 to 240 J, but it was a lot more powerful than the strongest regular bows, it is hard to justify why the Chinese would ever give up the usage of the Han crossbow.
    I think it depends on the era. As you stated earlier, the Yuan and Qing dynasties had nomadic roots and plenty of archers available.
    For the time between the Han and Sui/Tang Dynasties, the centuries of warfare, chaos, depopulation, etc and invasion of barbarians that conquered the productive lands and manufacturing facilities of the north & central plains likely was a blow to the continued production of crossbows, as well as damaged the overall record keeping and military knowledge that would be passed down to later states.
    Quote Originally Posted by Common Soldier View Post
    Early hand cannons from what I have read seem around 500 J to 1000 Joules, which would make them far more powerful than the crossbows. The composite crossbows effectiveness suffered in wet weather, so they didn't offer much of an advantage there over the hand cannons. (Because the steel crossbows were less effected by wet weather, they still had a role in European battlefields, but but with the rise in power of the matchlocks gun, which could be 1500 J or more, and improvement in gun powder) the far greater power of the guns and cheaper cost over the crossbows trumped the greater reliability of the crossbow, although the Spanish did find them in the New World after they have been rendered obsolete in European battlefields.).
    Yep, looks like we read from the same source about the hand cannon joules
    The Ming moved away from powerful composite crossbows used by the Song and earlier and used thick laminated construction that seems like it would be easier to maintain in wet weather.
    Quote Originally Posted by Common Soldier View Post
    PS - Even though the Ming no longer needed powerful crossbows, I suppose there was a still a limited role for some weaker crossbows. A shorter powerstroke would make the crossbow easier and quicker to cock, and it could function as a close in defense weapon as someone suggested earlier. I don't think the Ming had a strong archery tradition, and a shorter powerstroke and lower draw weight would have made the Ming crossbow faster to shoot than the more powerful Han crossbow with the longer powerstroke, faster than the guns could be fired, if slower. I know in Europe, simple wooden prod crossbows were still being made even when composite and steel crossbows were available, despite being far less powerful. I reckon even if the relatively low power wooden crossboez couldn't penetrate armor, they could still be used against some exposed spot like the eyes, at close range. Simple, relatively power crossbows, while not as fast as a regular bows, are still much faster firing than a hand cannons or matchlocks. Shorter powerstroke meant you could use a shorter prod, which would make the crossbow more manueverable
    Yes, I agree. The Ming crossbows was used for a different purpose than the Qin-Han crossbows, so they favored weaker, but easier to reload crossbows. During the Ming Dynasty, the stronger ranged tactical category was fulfilled by gunpowder weapons, while the weaker ranged tactical categories could be fulfilled by bows and these weaker but easier to reload crossbows.

    During the Qin-Han Dynasties, the stronger tactical categories were fulfilled by long powerstroke weapons with higher draw weights and the heaviest bows, while the weaker ranged tactical categories were fullfilled by 1) long powerstroke weapons with lower draw weights or 2) short powerstroke crossbows (eg. repeating crossbow) or 3) other weaker types of bows.
    Last edited by Intranetusa; June 04, 2019 at 09:02 PM.

  9. #149

    Default Re: Why did the the Ming crossbows become so weak compared to earlier Chinese ones?

    Quote Originally Posted by Intranetusa View Post
    1) While we don't know Qin draw weights for sure, we do know from Warring States records about the draw weights of some Warring States era crossbows - so there is enough evidence to make educated guesses. We do have some archaeological samples for Han Dynasty crossbows, and they resembled the Qin era crossbows. The Han Dynasty was a direct continuation of the Qin Dynasty that lasted less than 2 decades and much of the Han Dynasty equipment were copied from Qin Dynasty equipment.

    We know that Han Dynasty records talked about draw weights in 8+ categories, but didn't mention draw length as that was presumably standardized. If they were using short draw lengths such as 9-10 inches instead of the 20 inch powerstroke of Qin crossbows, then the weaker Han 2 - 3 stone crossbows would have been toys in comparison to regular bows. A 3 stone (180-190lb) crossbow with a measly 9-10 inch powerstroke would basically be a 40 pound bow, or less than half the poundage of a typical war bow. If they were using such weak crossbows, it would be impossible for 4-5 stone crossbows to reach an effective range of 260 meters and penetrate a wood wall as the records state, and impossible for them to outrange nomadic recurve bows. The evidence points to the Han Dynasty crossbows having a similar 19-20 inch powerstroke as the Qin Dynasty crossbows.
    We.know how the andi nt crossbows were rated, but the rating doesn't not necessarily translate into a draw weight. For example, an 8 Dan crasshoe might mean the crossbow mechanism was test proof for 8 Dan, not necessarily that it took 8 dan to draw the crossbow. We frequently test mechanisms at higher loads than we would see in real life.

    Also, simply because we know the draw weight and powersteoke of a crossbow, doesn't necessarily mean we know the power of the crossbow. A major factor is the efficiency of a crossbow. Assumny the efficiency of a Han Chinese crossbow would be similar to a much lower draw weight regular bows might not be a valid assumption, and it could be that efficiency falls off very rapidly with increased draw weight. If the Hith draw weight Chinese crossbows had a much lower efficiency than the regular bows efficiency, they might not have been as powerful as was assumed. If the ancient Han crossbows were not as powerful as assumed due to a lower efficiency of the prods, then it is less of a mystery why the Ming stopped using them.


    2) You can't tell the strength of bows by dimensions alone. Otherwise you'd assume a modern crossbow made of composite carbon & metal materials is weaker than a medieval longbow simply because it is smaller in dimension.
    The ancient Chinese crossbows were not made of graphite or other exotic material, we assume unless noted otherwise they were made of the same material and constructed similar to other bows, and then the assumption is valid. Looking at the dimensions of the model ancient Chinese crossbows, they don't appear to be especially high draw weights , unless they were const ucted completely different, and we have no evidence for such a different construction methods for the Chinese crossbow prods for the Hand crossbows.

    If the Chinese did have some special, unique method for constructing their prods, that secret could have become lost , much more so than the trigger mechanism, which could be reversed engineered. But we have no evidence for.special, secret construction of ancient Chinese crossbow prods.


    Which doesn't mean much because the Ming Dynasty was a gunpowder era empire that was using pike and shot warfare (with muskets) and existed 1600-1800 years after the Qin Dynasty collapsed. The Ming military was not a crossbow oriented military to the same extent the Qin and Han armies were, and the Ming Dynasty lost the knowledge from earlier eras and had a poor military system.
    There is no evidence the Ming lost military knowledge from previous eras - the case of the crossbow would be unique it true. While you have provided explanations for why crossbows would have been less popular, you have no provided explanations as to why the powerful Ancient Chinese crossbows completely disappeared. There would always be a niche use for such powerful crossbows in the military, even if not as common as previously. The mystery is why completely all, not just most, of the powerful ancient Chinese crossbows disapparsd. One solution to the mystery is that if these ancient Chinese crossbows were not as powerful as thought, than there is no mystery, since the ancient hand cannons would be far more powerful than the crossbows, and their drawbacks not much worse than a crossbow (slow rate of fire, cost)

    "The dynasty’s original military system did not just fail to produce trained men but it also lost a substantial amount of its knowledge of how to train soldiers, use weapons, and fight battles. One of the reasons so many military and martial arts manuals were produced during the mid to late Ming Dynasty was the urgent need to recover lost military knowledge...Even while the Ming military as a whole declined, pockets of military knowledge and martial arts skills remained."
    p. 163 of Chinese Martial Arts: From Antiquity to the Twenty-First Century by Peter Lorge @
    That argues.that knowledge of these very powerful.ancient Chinese crossbows would not have been lost, if it had existed. The design of the crossbows, like the other knowledge, could have been recovered. Remember, the question is not why the crossbow usage greatly declined, but why the alleged super powerful ancient Chinese crossbows were completely stopped being made. For crossbows that were alleged as being as powerful as a modern asault rifle, that just does not make any sense. Millions of these alleged wonder weapons were made, so.thr knowledge of how to build them being completely lost is just not tenable.

    The Ming Dynasty crossbow draw weights and powerstroke were weaker than the crossbows from the Song Dynasty, Han Dynasty, Qin Dynasty, and Warring States era for likely a multitude of reasons, so we should not use the Ming crossbows as a "highlight" of crossbows.
    The Ming did use crossbows, so it doesn't make sense they would completely abandoned the far more powerful Song crossbow design. If their need wasn't as great, the Ming would have found at least some applications for crossbows as powerful.as the Song/Han crossbow
    , And given how large.anumbers they were built, it is not credible the knowledge of how to build.them being completely lost.


    The trend in Europe favored low cost and simplicity of maintenance. European crossbows made of composite recurve material was more efficent and could sustain a longer draw weight than cheap steel of the time, but it was more costly to make and required more maintenance. The short powerstroke/draw was partially due to the "unreliability" of cheap steel as Todd of Toddsstuff put it in one of his videos. We know that the Ming Dynasty also produced a lot of different crossbows that favored cheap, low cost maintenance too (discussed further down).
    Shorter powerstrokes was a trend we see even on the composite crossbows, so metal.quality isn't completely the answer. Also, steel crossbows offered improved reliability, it wasn't just a matter of cost, otherwise we would not see the very expensive, richly decorated steel hunting crossbows that we do. The nobles who had these crossbows could have afforded the best, so it just wasn't a matter cost. Steel crossnows were less effected by wet weather, making them more dependable and reliable than composite and wooden ones, it wasn't just cost that caused the switch.

    Organic composite materials degrade over time, especially without proper maintenance. That's why the Chu-yen slips talks about 6-stone Han crossbows degrading to 4-5 stone bows, and why Indian kingdoms stored many "steel" bows in their armory-fortresses as armory weapons even though their laminated composite bamboo bows were better. The Ming themselves seems to have also created what seems to be lower cost and simpler in design crossbows
    We have no evidence the Ming crossbows were really cheaper to build, or were any more reliable, that is speculation. There is nothing to indicate the Ming crossbows required less.mainatenance, and there should have been a few soldiers and applications using the more powerful crossbow. Instead, the Ming never used the more crossnows at all.

    1) 300+ lb draw is not easy, but it is still feasible according to IO's book on crossbows as they can draw some 440 lbs with both legs. Sitting down makes the process much easier.
    For 300+, I find that the crossbowman were.eithet sitting down, or had mechanical.assist. Teyint to lift 300+ with your legs while.pulling up on a string will balance issues. I don't see any evidence of foot steps before the Ming, and standing on the prod while pulling up with 400 lbs you will.likely fall over.



    For a well trained army composed of well conditioned soldiers (eg. the Qin and Western Han armies), drawing heavy crossbows wouldn't be much of a problem. For a less well trained army such most of the Ming army, this was an issue. The militia portion of the Western Han army for example, received a full year's worth of training/conditioning. The Ming Dynasty's army on the other hand had less competent soldiers and had lost military knowledge from the past.
    Were the Song dynasty troops any better trains than the Ming? One of the selling points off a crossbow is that it needed less training to use.


    See quotes: "The dynasty’s original military system did not just fail to produce trained men but it also lost a substantial amount of its knowledge of how to train soldiers, use weapons, and fight battles. One of the reasons so many military and martial arts manuals were produced during the mid to late Ming Dynasty was the urgent need to recover lost military knowledge...Even while the Ming military as a whole declined, pockets of military knowledge and martial arts skills remained."
    p. 163 of Chinese Martial Arts: From Antiquity to the Twenty-First Century by Peter Lorge

    "Although it had tens of thousands of effective troops, capable of fighting under vastly different conditions with a variety of weapons, it did not have hundreds of thousands of effective troops,nor did it have enough competent generals. The underlying weakness in the Ming military was caused by political failures within the government itself. Large pools of violent men were not recruited into the military, leaving them to become bandits and then rebels."
    p. 171 of Chinese Martial Arts: From Antiquity to the Twenty-First Century by Peter Lorge
    There wasn't any loss of military technology under the Ming, the crossbow would be unique. Even if there was a loss of quality, there is no evidence of a decline in technology, Ming handguns were not inferior to the Song for example. As I said, if the knowledge on how to build the Han and Song dynasty crossbows were lost, it would be unique case among military technology, especially for a technology which was so widely used.


    There are other forms of assists such as levers and winches used for certain types of crossbows during the Han Dynasty or earlier as found in archaeological remains and murals in tombs.
    Not for hand held crossbows. There exactly one rather ambiguous Han era relief showing a soldier that might be using spoked wheel windlass for a crossbow that might be a hand held on, and that is it. If the picture is for a hand held crossbow, that corssbow would have had an extremely slow rate of fire, you so.ply couldn't turn the spoked wheel that fast. It would have been much slower than an European windless or cranequin crossbow, and they were slow. No other form of mechanical assistants, including levers, have been show for Chinese crossbows.


    But for the standard crossbow, sitting down and drawing the bow with the arms and legs was probably the most popular.
    Yes, if you have anything more than 150 lbs draw weight, standing up will be awkward, so sitting down would likely be the case for a but the lighter draw weight crossbows. Remember, Chinese until the Ming dynasty didn't have foot straps as far as the iconograhy and archeology shows.
    [

    As for the Ming, the crossbow became more of a sidearm rather than the primary weapon it was during the Warring States to Han Dynasty era.
    The Ming existed centuries after gunpowder weapons and hand cannons had already been used by the Song Dynasty. The Ming were a gunpowder army. For example, the between 1618 and 1622, the Ming Dynasty produced zero (0) crossbows, but produced 8000+ small guns, 6000+ muskets, ~43,000 bows, and almost 30,000 cannon-type weapons:
    "...manufactured 25,134 cannons, 8,252 small guns, 6,425 muskets, 4,090 culverins, 98,547 polearms and swords, 26,214 great "horse decapitator" swords, 42,800 bows, 1,000 great axes, 2,284,000 arrows, 180,000 fire arrows, 64,000 bow strings..." [/quote]

    Even the Ming crossbows would not have made good side arms, they were too bulk to carry around as a side arm. The Spanish had lots of guns too, but still.found applications for crossbows in the New World, even though in Europe the crossbow had been phased out by the early 1500's. By the 1600's, the Ming had access to European matchlock technology, and so crossbows wouldn't be needed, even as side arms - a matchlock pistol could act as a side arm for close in defense, and be more powerful. Although. The Ming didn't see to have much interest in sidearms per session, which is why the Ming never such technology as the wheellock, which were better suited for pistols than matchlocks.


    There is history and evidence China went through several periods of decline. After the Han Dynasty collapsed in the early 3rd century AD, the region experienced 300 years of civil wars and barbarian invasions until the Sui Dynasty unified them in the 6th century AD.

    Two thirds (2/3) of the Han Dynasty population was said to have been wiped out in the Three Kingdoms conflict during the 3rd century alone. In the 4th century, the entirety of northern China and the central plains was overrun by the "5 barbarians" who then created their own kingdoms and continued the conflict well into the 500s AD. The entirety of the Yellow River "heartland" and the most productive cities were ruled by these "foreign" kingdoms, and many Han Chinese migrated to the southlands.

    Technological regression very well could have occurred due to up to 2/3 of the population getting wiped out, 300 years of instability and war, barbarians invading half the empire and conquering the most productive cities and regions of the north/central plains, etc. Technologies and disciplines that were seen in the Han period didn't arise again until the Tang or even Song era many centuries later.
    All civilizations have underwent such decline. Europe lost perhaps as much as half it's population as a result of the Black.Death, yet did not undergo technological regression. There is no evidence that military technology regressed after the Han, Song, etc., especially a technology that was as widely used as the crossbow was. There is no evidence that China experience the widespread technological and social.regression that Western Europe after the fall off the Western Roman Empire, where all major cities declined by 90% or more, and urban life virtually disappeared. The post Han collapse and collapses.of later dynasty did not produce such drastic economic declines, and in any case the collapses were relatively short lived, China recovering after a couple centuries. In any case, as note, these Chinese collapses did not lead to loss of military technology or in major widespread technology in general, there wasno major technological regression of the kind we see in post Roman Europe, not the kind t account for the loss of a technology as widespread and useful as crossbows..

    The crossbow was barely mentioned in battles during the Six Dynasties/16 Kingdoms period during the 4th-5th century period.
    p. 101 of Chinese Martial Arts: From Antiquity to the Twenty-First Century by Peter Lorge
    It is one thing to say that a technology or weapon has fallen out of favor and quite another to say it completely disappeared. Even if a crossbow wasn't used in battle, it would still be useful for defending fortifications and such. The Turks did not use the crossbow in battle, but did use it for defending forts. In any case, knowledge of these crossbows didn't disappear since we see them becoming popular again with the later Song dynasty.


    That is not always true. The steel European crossbow was not a superior technology than composite European crossbows. The switch was done to keep costs and maintenance low.
    The steel crossbow is superior in reliability, an important factor on the battlefield. While less efficient than a composite crossbow, it is less effected by weather, and even some.noblemen hunting crossbows were made of steel, so the switch wasn't entirely due to.cost and maintenance, although cost was a major factor. But because the steel crossbows could have a higher draw weight, the switch to steel did not come at a sacrifice in power, and the extra weight of the steel crossbows did not make them to heavy to be used in combat. But the extra reliability was a real advantage, allowing them to be used when the guns and composite crossbows couldn't. That is indeed "superior".

    and
    The Roman rectangular shield was abandoned in favor of the oval shield by the late imperial era not because the oval shield was better or worse than the square shield, but because tactical usage changed and the Romans weren't fighting large pitched field battles anymore.
    There are many reasons why a better technology is replaced by a "seemingly" worse technology.
    Not when the advantages are as great as the ancient Chinese Crossbows were alleged. The early Ming continued to use crossbows until gun technology improved, same as Europe. And the Roman square shield wasn't "superior" - it provided more.preotection at the cost of less manueverability, greater cost. A kite shield offered a better compromise between size and protection, but large square shields were produced when needed, such as the crossbow man pavise, no one said the knowledge on how to produce them as is said for the ancient Chinese crossbow. thanks is


    The same things happened in ancient to medieval China. The Qin and Han Dynasty were crossbow oriented armies. The Ming Dynasty was not a crossbow oriented military. Those types of heavy draw crossbows for massed firepower warfare also required a lot of well trained and conditioned troops - which the Ming didn't always have. It also required the records and knowledge of other military technologies and techniques, which the Ming also didn't have. The Ming used weaker crossbows as secondary or tertiary weapons. The Han and Qin armies used stronger crossbows as primary weapons.
    Even if they did not have large numbers of troops, the Ming could produce some soldiers, and the whole point of crossbows is that they don't take a lot of training.. a 300+ crossbow shouldn't take much training, and still a lot more powerful than Han and he crossbows the Ming did produce. The Ming did not stop using crossbows until around the same time as Europeans, when gun technology improved to the point that crossbows no longer made sense. Crossbows didn't have any higher rate of fire than guns, and were also affected by rain, and were far less powerful in terms of joules. However, the ancient Chinese crossbows, if as powerful as claimed, would have been as powerful as the early hand cannons, so there would be less incentive to abandoned crossbow technology. It wouldn't make sense to abandoned the crossbow that were as powerful as they were claimed to be. Now, if the ancient Chinese Crossbows were only somewhat more powerful than the more powerful Euroepan crossbows, the Ming actions would make sense but not otherwise.

    Note, the "Ming" crossbows were not particular small, not really that much smaller than a Han or Song crossbow, and a Han and Song crossbow wasn't that much harder to draw. A longer powerstroke at the same draw.weight would offer a lot more power with little drawbacks. I don't see a Han crossbow.thst much larger than the Ming crossbows.



    The term "Dark Ages" was originally used by earlier historians because they didn't know much about the time due to a lack of written archaeological evidence. It wasn't called the Dark Ages because historians thought society had regressed. Technically, the entire period of 3rd-6th century AD China can be considered "Dark Ages" China too because of the lack of written records dating to the timeperiod (and relative lack of details on this timeperiod from records written during later timeperiods) compared to other eras.
    Technological regression went with the Lost of written recrds. Historians knew there was a major decline in material culture, major decline in civic construction. Paucity of archeological remains compared to previous centuries did contribute to the term "Dark Ages_. thanks

    And some regression did probably happen in ancient China because records and archaeology of technology, engineering techniques, science works, etc that existed during the Han era that didn't exist in the immediately centuries afterwards, but took many centuries to reappear. For example, IIRC, the Han Dynasty's mechanical and hydraulic engineering wasn't surpassed until the Song Dynasty.
    There is no evidence for the technogical regression in China you claim. There is no evidence that the science and engineering skills of later dynasties were less than the Han, and the Sui civil engineering in the form of bridge building was superior to Han dynasty - building the first segmental arch open spandel bridge, for example.


    The Han Dynasty also didn't have other civilizations helping to preserve their information like the Arabs and Persians did for classical Greco-Roman works.
    And how does this relate to crossbows? There was no loss of crossbow technology in the Song dynasty, many centuries after the Han. In any case, the Ming had access to European technology, which they did not do.anything with for the most part, so it is questionable things would have made much difference even if the Chinese had access to other civilizations, also, the ancient and medieval Chinese were in contact with the civilization of India, from where they got Buddhism


    The slow rate of fire does not explain why soldiers threw away crossbows, because crossbows during the Warring States to Han era also fired slowly but soldiers during those eras didn't throw away their crossbows.
    Sure it does, it the troops were facing fast moving cavalry. In the Warring State period, most of the fighting was against infantry, and people mounted on chariots, not cavalry. The calvalry the Han did face wasn't as heavily armored as the Mongols and later nomads the Chinese faced. As armor improved, crossbows could have been less effective, causing the soldiers to abandon the crossbows, especially if the crossbows were weaker than claimed. The crossbow could have only penetrated the armor at close range.

    The Tang Dynasty also used basically the same armor as the Han Dynasty - metal lamellar plates of varying thickness between ~1-3mm thick, so it is not the same as jumping from Celtic chainmail from 200 BC to 16th century AD European plate armor.

    It means 1) a shift in the doctrine of warfare that devalued the crossbow or 2) a shift in the types of crossbows used in that they were less effective or 3) both.

    The Tang emphaised cavalry, which meant that crossbow could fire fewer arrows before the opposing troops were on top of them. The slower firing rate of the crossbow would be at a disadvantage, especially if the crossbow bolts couldn't penetrate armor at longer range. If the crossbowmen fired at a range before the bolts could penetrate, and the horseman were on top of the crossbow men before they could reload, that would make the crossbow a less effective weapon for them

    Roman civilization and Western civilization didn't collapse after the Western Roman Empire collapsed either. The Eastern Roman Empire survived and the Germanic barbarian kingdoms actually adopted Roman culture, administrative systems, technology, etc. The German kingdoms even adopted Latin as a language and official writing system of their kingdoms.
    Yes, civilization in Western Europe did collapse after the fall of the Western Roman Empire. Stone building largely ceased, such as bridge construction , after the fall of the Western Roman empire. All the urban areas underwent massive decline, Rome went from 300,000.in late antiquity to 50,000. London went from 40,000 to maybe to just a couple thousands. Glass making under went major changes, transition to "forest glass" which lacked the sophistication of Roman glass in the centuries immediately following the Roman collapse. It wasn't until a number of centuies after the Roman collapse that technologies like bridge building, stone construction, or ships as large as Roman ones were again produced. There was no similar regression that occurred in China. The Sui dynasty was producing bridges superior to the Han.


    Yet the Roman torsion weapons such as the scorpion, manuballista, etc were no longer used in battle. Scorpions and cheiroballistra that fired bolts were sometimes used as field artillery and were very useful weapons. Yet the Eastern Roman Empire and the Germanic states stopped using torsion field artillery that fired bolts in battles. So we can also wonder why the Eastern Romans stopped using such a useful weapon.
    It is questionable that the Byzantines stopped using torsion ballistas. The Western Europeans used torsion machines, the springalds, which were easier to construct. But torsion machines were complicated and traction/counterweight trebuchets were easier to construct and more powerful, so they replaced the torsion machines for the most part. But torsion machines were still made.


    The Han Dynasty also mounted siege crossbows onto chariots and armored wagons, which was effective in fighting nomadic enemies. This was not something the Ming did had either.
    Ming had cannons , which were more effective. Mounted siege crossbows were not needed. No crossbow could compete with the cannons, there are limitations on scaling up the power of a crossbow, limitations a cannon would not hav

    Ancient and medieval peoples can't just "reverse engineer" technology. This isn't the 20th-21st century where nations have groups of well funded engineers and scientists dedicated to reverse engineering foreign technology.
    It doesn't take a genius to look at the crossbow mechanism and see how it was made, and duplicate it. Europeana were able to reverse engineer porcelain, which was a much more complex chemical process

    And most the Han Dynasty crossbows were long disintegrated by the Ming Dynasty, and the only ones left were in tombs and buried pits that got unearthed in the 20th century by modern archaeologists.
    And there were the Song dynasty crossbows, which was just a century before the Ming, the entire Yuan dynasty last only around a century. Large numbers of crossbows were produced, hundreds of thousands, they can't all have been buried in a mere hundred years.

    An the Ming Chinese were not intri sically more honest than modern Chinese, I am sure ancient Chinese dug up and looted tombs.

    Again, we don't find evidence of any other technology that was so widespread being lost as you insist the crossbow technology was.

    Furthermore, just because something existed later doesn't mean it was more advanced. The 12th Song Dynasty was actually more advanced and richer economically than the 14th-17th century Ming Dynasty.
    Questionable claims. The Ming dynasty, due to it's larger population had. Much larger GNP, so the Ming was richer in that regard. Whether the Song had a higher per capita income I don't know, do you have any real evidence for that?

    As for technology, the Ming were at least as technologically as advanced S the Song, probably more so. The Ming did not make Sure many technologicAl innovations, but they still had the innovations made by the Song, and some they acquired from others. Ming matchlock technogical was superior to Song dynasty hand cannons, for example. we are


    Could the Holy Roman Empire in the 1500s AD reverse engineer the Antikythera mechanism created by ancient Greeks in the 100s BC?
    If they had an intact mechanism to work from, probably yes. European clock making technology had become pretty sophisticated by then.


    You're assuming factors such as:
    1) the Ming had a choice of picking different types of crossbows and had retained knowledge of how to build the older crossbows
    2) their soldiers were the same quality/physical conditioning as earlier armies
    3) their military doctrine was the same as the doctrines used 1600-1800+ years earlier
    4) their economic production/capacity/etc was the same as the earlier
    I make no such assumptions. You are the one making all the assumptions, asserting as fact what is unsupported opinion.

    Even with changes in tactics, there would still be a role for crossbows powerful as the Han were supposed to be. I have repeatedly said this, so your claim that I am assuming no change in military tactics is simply not true, so either you are deliberately lying or your haven't read what I actually wrote, which is just as bad.







    These assumptions can be challenged:
    1) We know that military knowledge can be and probably was lost. For example, IIRC, there were hundreds of schools of sword fighting techniques from the Warring States to Han Dynasty era, but most of those books were lost by the time of the Song Dynasty. The Ming Dynasty army lost a lot of military knowledge from earlier periods as cited in Peter Lorge's book above
    Yet the knowledge of how to make swords was not lost as you are claiming. Repeatedly, you have failed to provide an example of military technology that was as common as the Han Chinese crossbow being lost. Han design crossbows were being made in the hundreds of thousands in the Song dynasty, just a century before they disappeared in the Ming dynasty. That does not seem credible.

    Note, there is no evidence the Song crossbows were not as powerful as the Han dynasty, or that crossbow technology was lost as you claim. Only in the Ming dynasty, when there were outsiders like the Portuegese that could report on them, do we we find claims of reduced power of the Chinese crossbows.




    2) The Ming military was less effective and their physical conditioning/training was worse than the armies of the Qin to Western Han era. So it was questionable whether they even had enough troops to competently draw the 400lb crossbows by hand even if they did exist.
    3) the Ming army was a gunpowder army that wasn't even reliant on the crossbow as its main weapon like earlier armies were. There is indication that the crossbow was treated as a secondary or less important weapon during this time.
    4) the quality of materials to make crossbows seems to have decreased in favor of making things cheaper/easier to maintain. During the Ming era, you see the emergence of a lot of cheaper models that were easier to produce and easier to maintain in humidity that consisted of several wood or bamboo pieces lashed or glued together that.
    [/Quote]


    Even a 400 lbs crossbow on the ancient Chinese crossbow design would be far more powerful than the Ming crossbows, Ann's would not require especially strong soldiers.

    Besides, the Ming did use large, powerful crossbows on occasion, as shown by the Yao Kai Nu, which had a 6 chi (2 meter) prod. Why bother which such a bulky design, hen the smaller more compact Song dynasty crossbow would have been almost as powerful? The Yao Kai Nu shows the Ming had a role.for powerful crossbows, even if it was limited. And for limited use, cost would not have been a major factor..

    I don't think that is the reason, because crossbow usage was a roller coaster in the history of that region. Crossbows were commonly used from the Warring States to Han Era. Then the crossbows fell out of using during the 16 dynasties era. Then they were used during the Tang Dynasty, but to a lesser extent than before. Then they were commonly used again during the Song Dynasty. Then they took a backseat during the Ming
    Yet it was only in the Ming that we have any real claims of a loss of technology in the crossbows. Being used less does not mean that the technology of the crossbows themselves declined.

    Crossbows had already mostly replaced by muskets by the 1500s AD in Rennisance era Europe. See quote: "Handguns commenced slowly to supersede crossbows in Continental armies between 1460 and 1470, though the later continued more or less in favor till the close of the fifteenth century."
    Yes, but European crossbows were not claimed to be as powerful as the ancient Chinese crossbows. If you are saying that the Chinese crossbows were caple of only producing somewhat more than 200 J, then I think we are in agreement. I have only argued that the results indicate that the ancient Chinese crossbows were not as powerful as some have claimed. If they weren't as powerful.as claimed.(but still somewhat more powerful than regular bows), then what the Ming did made sense, and the roller coaster use of crossbows in Chinese warfard makes more sense. When China had a supply of archers capable.of shooting powerful warbows, then regular bows were favored, the slight advantage in power not enough to offset the loss in rate of fire. When archers were in shorter supply, then crossbows were favored because it was easier to train me to fire a powerful crossbow than a powerful regular bows. Wit

    Crossbows were also mostly replaced by gunpowder weapons during Ming China too, though crossbows continued to exist as non-standard weapons or side weapons. The earlier periods when they abandoned the crossbow was during or after long periods of instability and collapse of the native ruling dynasties.
    Decline in crossbows in China corresponded to periods where China had access to soldiers with a strong tradition in archery, like the Tang. When the Chinese dynasty no longer had access to soldiers with a strong tradition in archery, use of the crossbows rose, as in the case of the Song dynasty. This implies it was not complexity or loss of knoedge that was driving the decline in use of crossbows, and indirectly implies that the crossbows were not much more powerful than the strong warbows - if the crossbows were much more powerful than regular bows, it is hard to justify the decline in usage. If only somewhat more powerful than regular bows, the hgher fire rate of regular bows would offset their slightly weaker power.


    The strongest Han crossbows that were carried by infantry were only for a tiny percentage of troops, the elite of the army, so they're not really a factor as they were reserved for a small fraction. The standard 6 stone Han crossbow used by the average crossbowmen required physical conditioning, was often drawn while laying on their back, and still eventually tired out the soldier. Gunpowder weapons used by the Ming and earlier could be used by any idiot with barely any training, didn't require a back draw, could be used by weaker soldiers, and didn't tire soldiers out as much.
    As I have said, the existence of the Yao Kai Nu crossbows showed Ming dynasty did have a limited role for powerful.crossbows. why bother with a bulky Yao Kai Nu design if a Song dynasty design could have have provided almost as much powerful in a more manageable.size?



    Crossbows declined long before the Ming Dynasty even existed. The crossbows declined during the 3 centuries of chaos after the Han Dynasty collapsed, because later records barely mention crossbows being used during that time.
    The Song dynasty used crossbows a lot. What evidence is that the Song crossbows were inferior to the Han dynasty?


    I didn't say archery was a reason for the crossbow's decline. During the Han and Song era, archers were used in conjunction with crossbowmen. Also, there are plenty of reasons for the crossbow's decline:

    1) 300 years of civil war, barbarian invasions, and losing 2/3 of the population between the 200s to 500s AD can do a lot of damage to the preservation of technology, military records, etc
    Yet other military technology was not lost. The Sui dynasty civil engineering in was.in some respects superior to the Han dynasty, the Anji Bridge for instance. There is little evidence to support significant loss of technological.knowledge due to the collapse.of the Han as you claim.

    2) The doctrine of warfare was different. The powerful crossbows in ancient China arose during the Warring States to Qin era when kingdoms were fighting against other kingdoms - their opponents were settled, agrarian kingdoms with large organized infantry armies that wore lots of armor. The Han Dynasty continued using lots of crossbows to fight its vassal states (when it was still feudal) and the Xiongnu nomads. The Tang used crossbows but could also rely more on cavalry and archers because they were experienced in cavalry warfare and had subjugated many nomadic tribes. The Song was technologically advanced, but lost quickly lost the northern plains and lost their access to horses. They brought back crossbows probably because they were fighting settled kingdoms (Jin Dynasty) as well as fighting nomads on their home turf.
    The example of the Song demonstrates the crossbows were probably not as powerful as claimed. The Song brought back the crossbow when they no longer had access to good archers.

    The Mongol created Yuan Empire barely used crossbows in comparison, as they had huge armies of well trained archers and gunpowder weapons. They also did a lot of damage to the settled kingdoms of the Jin and Song Empires, and they basically wiped out the Xi Xia empire in central northern China. I wouldn't be surprised if the Ming's loss of military records/knowledge of earlier eras was in part due to the damage the Mongols did.
    The Mongols were good archers, so had no need of crossbows. The is no indication of any loss of military knowledge as a result of the Yuan dynasty. We know for a fact that there wasn't any loss of knowledge in gunpowder weapons. The Mongols used whatever weapons that worked, and if they didn't use crossbows, it was because the crossbows were not significantly more powerful than a trained regular archery with a powerful bow. If the crossbows were much more powerful, the Mongols would have found a use for them. The Turks didn't use crossbows in the battlefield, but found a use for them in defending fortifications.


    You're confusing two different points. Still using some type of crossbow is not the same as using a specific type of strong crossbow. Yes, the Turks sparingly used crossbows. The Ming also used crossbows, but not nearly to the same extent as earlier periods.

    While crossbows became less powerful in the Ming dynasty, they were still used in the Ming dynasty. These Ming crossbows were less powerful than either the Han dynasty crossbow or the Renaissance era European crossbows because they didn't need to be that powerful - crossbows weren't a primary weapon anymore and gunpowder weapons and archers were more popular.
    The existence of the Yao Kai Nu shows that the Ming did have a use for a powerful.crossbow for some applications. Why gun technology did reduce the need for crossbows, it wasn't until Europeans invented the matchlock that guns completely replaced crossbows in combat in Europe. The greater reliability of the crossbow would still have made it useful.in combat in China until.China had matchlocks too

    No, you're going off two incorrect assumptions.

    1) Early European (and likely Ming) guns would be much more powerful than Han crossbows. Han and medieval European crossbows maxed out in the 200s joules. European handguns from the 1400s were delivering 500-1000 joules.


    2) The standard Han infantry crossbows were not really stronger than the strongest late European crossbows with mechanical assists. The standard 6-stone Han crossbows were stronger than the weaker European goats foot lever crossbows of 400 lb draw weight, but roughly comparable to the 1200lb European windlass crossbows. I think some European crossbows went to 1500lbs or more. The 7-8 stone crossbows aren't really a consideration as they're for a small elite group but they would've been comparable to the 1500lb European crossbows. The even heavier Han crossbows were likely artillery/siege weapons that used mechanical assists such as winches, so they don't count as infantry crossbows. Later long barrel matchlocks guns were more powerful than either the Han dynasty crossbows or any of the European crossbows, and whatever advantage the crossbow might have had were more than offset by the greater power of the matchlock guns, which is why crossbows were completely abandoned for war.) [/Quote]

    I agree with those statements. If you are saying that the Han crossbows maxed out at 200 J, then I agree. With that. It would have made them.more powerful than any regular bows, but not so.much more powerful than that people would have abandoned regular bows. The higher rate of fire of regular bows offsetting their lower power. I think we are in agreement. My obiection was for the claims of the Han crossbow being more powerful.than modern assault rifles, of having 300+ Joules, but you don't seem.to think that.

    If the Han crossbows maxed out around 200+ J, then it made sense to.abandoned them in favor of hand cannons, which were way more powerful. I agree with you that the Ming would have no real need to build powerful crossbows, the hand cannons could.mostly fill their roles, just probably not as accurate at long range. But most combat didn't have soldiers firing at long ranges for.thr most part anyways. At long ranges (200+ m), even at walking speed the target isn't going to be at the spot when the arrow arrived.




    I mentioned the Qing archers not to talk about the effectiveness of archery, but to state how military technology had declined during the Qing Dynasty due to the decline in the quality of soldiers. The poundage of the bows during the Qing era declined over time because less and less people were able to draw strong bows. The Qing archery tradition had already greatly declined in the 1700s, to say nothing of the further decline in the 1800s. By the 1800s, the Qing military was a mess of outdated weaponry, weak soldiers, declined martial readiness, incompetence and corruption, etc
    When the people you fight no longer wear heavy armor, there is no need for powerful bows. The decline in the power of Qing bows is likely because they no longer needed such powerful bows.. And Qing armies were that much inferior at first, it is just as other armies advanced, the Qing did not keep pace. In part, until the mid 19th century, the Wing did not have anyone who could seriously challenge them



    It certainly can. The decline of strong archers in the Qing Dynasty in the 1700s caused a decline in people making strong bows. It's the same reason why most bows used by archers today aren't 100+ lb draw bows like they were centuries ago.
    No need for powerful 100+ lbs bows, no one is trying to punch through armor anymore.

    It matters for crossbows when you don't have people strong enough to draw crossbows. Why make a strong crossbow (assuming they can) when the army doesn't have the physical training that can enable soldiers to use strong crossbows?


    Just because Ming crossbows were weaker doesn't mean they were overall inferior. The Ming produced what they could at the time given their circumstances.
    Many models of Ming Dynasty crossbows were cheaper and easier to make than the recurved horn and wood construction of the earlier Qin, Han, and Song era crossbows. The cheap wood and laminated bamboo construction also needed less maintenance than composite recurve models in the wet weather and humidity of subtropical southern China.
    I.am not sure the laminate bamboo bows are better in wet weather than horn composite, but they are certainly cheaper to construct, and no worse in wet weather, that is probably true

    The Ming army also didn't have the best training regimen compared to the earlier periods.
    So an earlier model 387 lb crossbow with a 20 inch powerstroke that an average Ming soldier can't draw with ease is not superior to a 250 pound crossbow that a Ming soldier can draw with ease.
    Valid point.


    have
    No, early handguns used during the Ming era were much more powerful than standard Han Dynasty crossbows. As mentioned earlier, the hanguns used in 1400s Europe were 500-1000 joules, whereas Han crossbows maxed out at in the 200s joules. @
    Ok, I agree with you.. I had been responding to claims I read that Han crossbows were much more powerful than that. I think you and I are in agreement



    Bows don't take years of conditioning either. but rather years of practice. Strong crossbows also take weeks, if not months of conditioning to build up strength. Gunpowder weapons require basically zero conditioning to use.


    No, because plenty of other factors are involved - including centuries of instability from warfare, foreign invasions, changing nature of enemies, etc.

    Furthermore, crossbows have existed in Europe as the Greek gastraphetes in the 4th century BC. However, then they were not really used on the battlefield again until the early middle ages. Would you say the gastraphetes fell out of favor because they was simply too weak? IIRC, there are records for the gastraphetes like we have records for the Han crossbow, with records for both saying they outranged regular bows.



    Actually, more complex military technology such as Roman torsion siege artillery technology did regress. Where were the Roman field artillery and siege weapons such as scorpions, carroballistas, etc. Some medieval kingdoms used simplified torsion engines such as catapults that only had one torsion component instead of two.

    It is not clear about crossbow usage in Roman times. They might have been continued to be used in Roman times and into medieval times, the records are scarce. It was just that they were not popular until medieval times in Europe. That may be because most Western Europeans did not have a strong archery tradition, and crossbows may have been a way to compensate for that.

    Roman torsion engines fell out of favor because trebuchets were.easier.to build and more powerful, so there was little incentive to build complicated torsion machines when simpler devices would do well. Powerful crossbows could also be used in place of torsion ballistas, requiring less maintenance. But torsion machines continued to be used, as in the springalds.

    have
    Military doctrine also regressed. People weren't trained and equipped by the state anymore, so they could neither carry the same amount of equipment nor could they fight in the same close order formations.
    A medieval European army might have the same quality swords and armor, but if you gave them a Roman scutua and pila and told them to fight in close order formation like the Romans, then they would have no idea what they're doing.
    True. While the technology of the weapons themselves did not decline in medieval times, a medieval sword was as good as a Roman one, the training and tactics did. No medieval ruler could afford to pay for an army that consisted of 25 year enlistment profession troops like the Romans. Except for.thr knights, which were only a small percentage of the armies, the medieval armies were.made.mostly of part time warriors. They would have been no match for troops serving and training full for 20 years.


    Some advancements in some types of military technology and doctrine does not equal advancement in all military technology.
    Valid point.


    It's possible that Han Dynasty crossbows and tech could be lost when you consider the following:
    1) These crossbows were produced by the state and kept in state armories, so it's not like your everyday average joe owed these crossbows
    2) they were made of organic materials so the bow and prod would've decayed within a century
    Valid points. The.crossbows were likely a state Monopoly, and although commonly used, might have been concentrated in a few state controlled centers. When the state fell, the information could bexome lost. Good point.

    3) the state armories with Han weaponry got looted and/or destroyed during the 100 years of warfare during the Three Kingdoms era in the 3rd century, that ended up supposedly depopulating 2/3 of the people and collapsing the economy
    4) then centralized authority that formed after the Three Kingdoms era basically collapsed again when they were invaded by the 5 barbarian kingdoms, which led to the total loss of the industrialized and productive regions of north China/central plains
    5) the loss of the industrialized/productive areas (areas where those crossbows were made and kept) and establishment of barbarian kingdoms led to another 200 years of war under the 16 kingdoms
    You seem to imply the Song dynasty crossbows were not as powerful.as the Han dynasty ones. Do we have evidence that the Song crossbows were weaker?


    Furthermore, besides the weakening of training programs, the records of military doctrine of how to effective train soldiers to use the specific crossbow formations could also have been lost. As stated in the quote from Lorge above, the Ming Dynasty wrote so many military manuals because they were trying to rediscover and preserve many lost military knowledge from the past.
    To use crossbows as effectively as the Han, in volleys and such, would.require training the Ming lacked. Also, there simply wouldn't have been the interest in the Ming to recover the Han techniques, since they had hand cannons to perform the same role,.that is true.
    Last edited by Common Soldier; June 06, 2019 at 12:25 PM.

  10. #150

    Default Re: Why did the the Ming crossbows become so weak compared to earlier Chinese ones?

    Quote Originally Posted by Common Soldier View Post
    We.know how the andi nt crossbows were rated, but the rating doesn't not necessarily translate into a draw weight. For example, an 8 Dan crasshoe might mean the crossbow mechanism was test proof for 8 Dan, not necessarily that it took 8 dan to draw the crossbow. We frequently test mechanisms at higher loads than we would see in real life.
    The problem with that interpretation is recording the "max tested" weight is irrelevant information for crossbows, and there is no historical or modern basis for crossbows ever being recorded at the "max test weight" rather than the actual "draw weight."
    For example, if a 20 inch draw on a crossbow (with its trigger at 20 inches from the string) requires a 400 pound draw weight to draw to the trigger, then there is no point recording that crossbow to say it has a 600 pound draw at 30 inches because that crossbow will never be drawn to 30 inches because the trigger hook device is at 20 inches. The trigger and locking mechanism is at 20 inches, not 30 inches, so there is really no scenario where it would ever be overdrawn to 600 pounds beyond its intended draw weight and beyond its trigger mechanism.
    Quote Originally Posted by Common Soldier View Post
    If it was test proof for a certain weight, then why wouldn't be draw at that weight? For example, if a longbow was test proof at 100 pounds, then why make the draw weight only 80 pounds?.
    I'm not familiar with regular bows, but I'm under the impression that modern bows are basically the same. When you're looking at bow specs, it's not going to tell you its max test proof weight, but rather the draw weight at a certain or standard draw length that it would actually be used at. Bows are typically draw to around 28-30 inches, so bow "draw weight" usually represents the weight at around that draw length. If a longbow at 30 inches requires a 150 pound draw, nobody is going to record that longbow as a 300 pound longbow at 40 inches because nobody would (or could) ever draw it to 40 inches. So recording a bow's weight at 40 inches, which is 10 inches beyond what people would/could draw it, would be irrelevant and useless information.

    It doesn't make sense it the context of the plenty of low draw weight crossbows either because the section of the Han Dynasty records distinguished the crossbows by weight rather than draw, meaning all the crossbows in that section of the records should have had the same draw. If you're saying Han crossbows had short 9-10 inch draws, then the 3 dan crossbows would be a 193 lb crossbow with a 9 inch draw, basically making it a kiddie weapon. A 200 lb crossbow with a 9 inch draw at 50% efficiency is something like a kid's 40 pound bow (40 pounds with 30 inch draw and 75% efficiency).

    Quote Originally Posted by Common Soldier View Post
    Also, simply because we know the draw weight and powersteoke of a crossbow, doesn't necessarily mean we know the power of the crossbow. A major factor is the efficiency of a crossbow. Assumny the efficiency of a Han Chinese crossbow would be similar to a much lower draw weight regular bows might not be a valid assumption, and it could be that efficiency falls off very rapidly with increased draw weight. If the Hith draw weight Chinese crossbows had a much lower efficiency than the regular bows efficiency, they might not have been as powerful as was assumed. If the ancient Han crossbows were not as powerful as assumed due to a lower efficiency of the prods, then it is less of a mystery why the Ming stopped using them.
    Yes, that is true that we need to take efficency of power transfer into consideration. A crossbow, even a more efficent version that relies on longer power strokes with composite prods, would still likely be less efficent than a regular bow that still has much longer powerstroke.
    So a ~400 lb draw crossbow with a 20 inch powerstroke and 50% efficency would be roughly equal in power to a 180lb draw longbow and a 30 inch powerstroke and 75% efficency.
    Quote Originally Posted by Common Soldier View Post
    The ancient Chinese crossbows were not made of graphite or other exotic material, we assume unless noted otherwise they were made of the same material and constructed similar to other bows, and then the assumption is valid. Looking at the dimensions of the model ancient Chinese crossbows, they don't appear to be especially high draw weights , unless they were const ucted completely different, and we have no evidence for such a different construction methods for the Chinese crossbow prods for the Hand crossbows. .
    Different organic materials and different thickness can create different draw weights - you don't need modern exotic materials to increase the draw weight. And it's difficult to know the draw weight without actually studying the prod - we can't just know the draw weight by eyeballing online photos. If you look at 150+ lb draw longbows recovered from the Mary Rose or youtube videos of people testing 100-130 lb longbows, they don't look very different from much weaker longbows (eg. 60 pound draw) either. They're roughly the same height and have similar draw length - we only know one is significantly stronger than the other if the guy says so, gives us a closeup measurement of the thickness, or tests it on a scale.
    Bows can strengthened by using thicker wood, and/or being reinforced with horn and/or sinew, which would make them considerably stronger than being made of wood alone. Bows can also be strengthed by adding recurve and reflex shapes. That's why upper tier Mongol recurve bows can produce at least the same draw weight as upper tier English longbows (180lb draw) despite being much smaller in size.

    Quote Originally Posted by Common Soldier View Post
    There is no evidence the Ming lost military knowledge from previous eras - the case of the crossbow would be unique it true. ..
    There is evidence the Ming did lose some knowledge according to the source I linked:
    See quotes: "The dynasty’s original military system did not just fail to produce trained men but it also lost a substantial amount of its knowledge of how to train soldiers, use weapons, and fight battles. One of the reasons so many military and martial arts manuals were produced during the mid to late Ming Dynasty was the urgent need to recover lost military knowledge...Even while the Ming military as a whole declined, pockets of military knowledge and martial arts skills remained."
    p. 163 of Chinese Martial Arts: From Antiquity to the Twenty-First Century by Peter Lorge
    Quote Originally Posted by Common Soldier View Post
    While you have provided explanations for why crossbows would have been less popular, you have no provided explanations as to why the powerful Ancient Chinese crossbows completely disappeared. )..
    It's not a single cut off point like you're describing. You're imaging the situation as one moment they existed and the next moment they didn't.
    I'm describing the scenario as more of an up and down roller coaster - they were popular in one era, then went into decline, then saw a resurgence/incease in usage, then went into a decline, etc. The use of crossbows in general and the use of powerful crossbows is correlated with the existence of alternative technologies and the nature of the government producing it.
    The 300 years that suceeded the Han Dynasty was dominated by long periods of chaos and widespread prevalence of powerful archers because the kingdoms created in northern China were descended from nomadic people with a long history of archery. The Tang Dynasty also greatly relied on vassalized nomadic tribes. So in these situations, a possible explination for the lack of widespread use of powerful crossbows could be because they had plenty of powerful archers so it wasn't necessary.
    Similarly, crossbows may have saw a resurgence during the Song Dynasty (who had infantry based armies and lack of access to nomadic horse archers), and saw a decline during the Yuan Dynasty (which was founded by Mongols, so they had plenty of good archers).
    So for the Ming Dynasty, maybe they had the technology or maybe not. Even if they did, the prevalence of gunpowder weapons and hand cannons since the earlier Yuan Dynasty meant that gunpowder could replace the heaviest crossbows.
    Quote Originally Posted by Common Soldier View Post
    There would always be a niche use for such powerful crossbows in the military, even if not as common as previously. The mystery is why completely all, not just most, of the powerful ancient Chinese crossbows disapparsd. One solution to the mystery is that if these ancient Chinese crossbows were not as powerful as thought, than there is no mystery, since the ancient hand cannons would be far more powerful than the crossbows, and their drawbacks not much worse than a crossbow (slow rate of fire, cost)..
    Nobody (at least not that I know of) has considered Chinese crossbows to be more powerful than gunpowder weapons such as early guns. As stated in the previous post, early guns provide something like 3x the energy of even the more powerful crossbows.
    Guns would always be more powerful than powerful crossbows. And as soon as guns could be produced in any appreciable quantity, they would have replaced the most powerful crossbows. So if the Yuan Dynasty and Ming Dynasty did have powerful crossbows or the tech to build powerful crossbows, these would be replaced by the more powerful gunpowder weapons.
    Quote Originally Posted by Common Soldier View Post
    For crossbows that were alleged as being as powerful as a modern asault rifle, that just does not make any sense.
    I have never heard of this claim. I have never heard of anyone claiming crossbows are as strong as medieval gunpowder weapons, let alone modern gunpowder weapons. The claim is ridiculous, of course.
    In terms of power, I am saying the stronger Han crossbows and European windlass crossbows were stronger than strong bows, but much weaker than early firearms/muskets/etc.
    Quote Originally Posted by Common Soldier View Post
    Shorter powerstrokes was a trend we see even on the composite crossbows, so metal.
    The European composite crossbows had longer powerstrokes than the later European steel crossbows. The European composite crossbows had 30 something inches of stock, while the European steel ones had maybe 20 inches of stock?
    "Illustrations show stocks longer than on earlier bows, perhaps thirty to thirty four inches in length" -p. 10 of Iolo's Book of Crossbows
    Quote Originally Posted by Common Soldier View Post
    quality isn't completely the answer. Also, steel crossbows offered improved reliability, it wasn't just a matter of cost, otherwise we would not see the very expensive, richly decorated steel hunting crossbows that we do. The nobles who had these crossbows could have afforded the best, so it just wasn't a matter cost.
    No, the steel itself during the high middle ages/Rennisance wasn't reliable. It wasn't a matter of whether the nobles could afford great steel crossbows, but the technology and manufacturing capability to make consistent high quality flexible steel. They did not have this capability. Cheap munitions grade plate armor (made of iron and low grade steel) were used well into the Rennisance.
    Todd (crossbow expert who makes crossbows at Todd's workshop) says in this video around 2:28 that European steel technology wasn't reliable, which is the reason why he thinks European steel crossbows have short powerstrokes: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JDs7CLxTDGU
    The richer people had horn composite crossbows: "Many of the better quality gentlemen's crossbows continued to be made as horn-sinew composites, at least to the end of the 15th century" -p. 10 of Iolo's Book of Crossbows
    Quote Originally Posted by Common Soldier View Post
    Steel crossnows were less effected by wet weather, making them more dependable and reliable than composite and wooden ones, it wasn't just cost that caused the switch.
    Yes, less cost and less maintenance. Composite and wooden bows require more maintenance/upkeep - but they still work fine in wet weather when properly maintained. Wet regions like India, Southern China, etc saw the use of laminated bows, composite bows, wooden bows, etc. Indian armies had both steel bows and organic bows, and used both.
    Crossbows can also be affected by wet weather because even steel crossbows still use organic strings. During the Battle of Crecy, the Genoese crossbowmen had their crossbows rendered useless when a rainstorm weakened their strings (they couldn't remove the strings like the English longbowmen could).
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle...y#Archery_duel


    Quote Originally Posted by Common Soldier View Post
    We have no evidence the Ming crossbows were really cheaper to build, or were any more reliable, that is speculation. There is nothing to indicate the Ming crossbows required less.mainatenance, and there should have been a few soldiers and applications using the more powerful crossbow.
    Some Ming crossbows were definitely simple in construction. Take a look at some of the Ming crossbow designs - the prod in many of the Ming designs are much simpler and are no longer composite (thus making maintenance and production easier). Some Ming crossbows just multiple planks of wood lashed together - much easier to make and maintain than a composite prod of the ancient era. Some Ming crossbows were more sophisticated, but there seems to be a lot of simple, cheap crossbows too.
    Quote Originally Posted by Common Soldier View Post
    For 300+, I find that the crossbowman were.eithet sitting down, or had mechanical.assist. Teyint to lift 300+ with your legs while.pulling up on a string will balance issues. I don't see any evidence of foot steps before the Ming, and standing on the prod while pulling up with 400 lbs you will.likely fall over...
    Yes, I think the crossbows that were well over 300 pounds in draw were likely drawn while sitting down. However, I don't think balance was the main issue here. Iolo's Book of Crossbows says you can actually draw a crossbow up to 330 pounds with 1 foot (referring to a stirrup and standing I presume). In terms of balance, keeping both feel on the crossbow prod while lifting the string might be similar to lifting weights. I'm thinking it was more about utilizing the leg muscles more and avoid having to lift the adidtional weight of the body above the legs.
    Quote Originally Posted by Common Soldier View Post
    Were the Song dynasty troops any better trains than the Ming? One of the selling points off a crossbow is that it needed less training to use..
    You need less training to use a crossbow vs a bow to achieve "minimum competency." However, you still need physical training to draw heavier bows, and more training to be better and be capable of unit tactics. So a good crossbow army still needs training and conditioning.
    That's why certain Italian crossbow mercenaries were considered to be elite crossbowmen.
    Quote Originally Posted by Common Soldier View Post
    There wasn't any loss of military technology under the Ming, the crossbow would be unique. Even if there was a loss of quality, there is no evidence of a decline in technology, Ming handguns were not inferior to the Song for example. As I said, if the knowledge on how to build the Han and Song dynasty crossbows were lost, it would be unique case among military technology, especially for a technology which was so widely used...
    Crossbows are a completely different type of technology from guns. A decline in crossbows does not mean a decline in guns, but rather an inverse relationship between the two.
    There is evidence of a decline in technology or a decline in the useage of technology. You see almost no use of crossbows during the Yuan Dynasty because the Yuan favored powerful recurve bows. The Yuan Dynasty was between the Song Dynasty and the Ming Dynasty...so you had 100 years when crossbows fell into disuse right before the Ming Dynasty.
    During the late Song Dynasty and Yuan Dynasty, true guns and cannons also arose, and the Ming also later acquired European models in the 15th century. So the Ming had much better gunpowder technology than the Song did. These better firearms would have replaced heavy crossbows, meaning there would be even less of a reason to bring back heavy crossbow technology even if they could.
    Quote Originally Posted by Common Soldier View Post
    Not for hand held crossbows. There exactly one rather ambiguous Han era relief showing a soldier that might be using spoked wheel windlass for a crossbow that might be a hand held on, and that is it....
    That is a handheld crossbow in that Han era relief. Look at the picture again.The crossbow is not attached to anything and its size is roughly similar to that of a hand held crossbow.
    Quote Originally Posted by Common Soldier View Post
    If the picture is for a hand held crossbow, that corssbow would have had an extremely slow rate of fire, you so.ply couldn't turn the spoked wheel that fast. It would have been much slower than an European windless or cranequin crossbow, and they were slow. No other form of mechanical assistants, including levers, have been show for Chinese crossbows.....
    The take away point is not its firing speed, but its draw weight and powerstroke. Look at the Han mural depicting the handheld crossbow - the string is drawn all the way to the end of the crossbow and the crossbow uses a spoked wheel. That means the crossbow had a long powerstroke and the crossbow had a heavy enough draw that it required a spoked wheel windlass device.
    We are not concerned with the rate of fire and we're not really comparing it to European crossbows from a thousand years later. Also, the Han crossbow formations had countermarch/rotating volley fire to make up for the slow firing speed.
    Also, repeating crossbows use lever devices.
    Quote Originally Posted by Common Soldier View Post
    Yes, if you have anything more than 150 lbs draw weight, standing up will be awkward, so sitting down would likely be the case for a but the lighter draw weight crossbows. Remember, Chinese until the Ming dynasty didn't have foot straps as far as the iconograhy and archeology shows.
    According to Iolo's Book of Crossbows, modern experiments suggest that one-foot bows might draw up to 150 kilograms (330lbs) and two foot-bows as much as 200 kg. The one foot crossbows would be done standing up with the foot stirrup. As for not using foot stirrups, I think it is still feasible to draw 300 lb crossbows without it as mentioned earlier. If you stand on the prod/limbs of the crossbow with both feet and draw the string, I imagine that should be pretty stable as you're in a dead lifting position. The main advantage I see of drawing a 300lb crossbow with vs without foot stirrups is it makes drawing less terrain dependent - if the ground is soft/muddy/etc then drawing without the stirrup will be more difficult.
    But yeh, I think most Qin/Han/etc heavy crossbows were drawn while sitting down, not only or not necessarily for stability, but to allow the person to draw the crossbow without having to lift the weight of their body every time.
    Quote Originally Posted by Common Soldier View Post
    Even the Ming crossbows would not have made good side arms, they were too bulk to carry around as a side arm. The Spanish had lots of guns too, but still.found applications for crossbows in the New World, even though in Europe the crossbow had been phased out by the early 1500's.
    I didn't mean sidearms, but rather a precursor weapon that was used as an additional weapon. For example, in this picture of a Ming soldier, the guy has a crossbow strapped to his waist or back while he is carry a two handed sword:
    https://historum.com/proxy.php?image...787440edd40b41
    Pistols certainly made better sidearms than crossbows, but the pistol range would have been terrible. Carrying a crossbow on your back would have provided a much greater range than pistols even if it didn't have the same level of power as gunpowder weapons.
    I'm leaning towards the idea that crossbows during the Ming were used to fulfill a gap. Guns replaced the most powerful crossbows, while bows and moderately strong/weaker crossbows rounded out the category that required range but not necessarily penetration.


    Quote Originally Posted by Common Soldier View Post
    regression that Western Europe after the fall off the Western Roman Empire, where all major cities declined by 90% or more, and urban life virtually disappeared. ...The post Han collapse and collapses.of later dynasty did not produce such drastic economic declines,
    The collapse of the Han and later events did result in drastic economic decline. The collapse, wars, and civil war of the Jin resulted in the loss of maybe 2/3 of the population. The northern invasion that resulted in another 3 centuries of war resulted in northern cities experiencing huge declines too. Luoyang (and other cities such as Chang'an) went from being a huge city of half a million people to being almost completely destroyed by the Xiongnu.
    Quote Originally Posted by Common Soldier View Post
    and in any case the collapses were relatively short lived, China recovering after a couple centuries.
    Western Europe had also recovered a few centuries after the collapse of Western Rome. By the end of the 8th century/beginning of the 9th century, Charlmagne's Carolingian Empire had tens of millions of people.
    Quote Originally Posted by Common Soldier View Post
    In any case, as note, these Chinese collapses did not lead to loss of military technology or in major widespread technology in general, there was no major technological regression of the kind we see in post Roman Europe, not the kind t account for the loss of a technology as widespread and useful as crossbows..
    Well, there wasn't major military technological regression in Europe either. The Eastern Roman Empire basically had the same technology and survived another thousand years. The Western Romans were taken over by various Germanic tribes, but the German rulers stylized themselves after the Romans and adopted Roman administration, Latin, etc. In fact, military technology such as swords may have improved during the 6th-9th centuries with new forging techniques.
    Quote Originally Posted by Common Soldier View Post
    It is one thing to say that a technology or weapon has fallen out of favor and quite another to say it completely disappeared.
    I didn't say it completely disappeared. Falling out of favor and/or lacking the military doctrine to use it properly or lacking necessity after long periods of disuse are probably better ways to describe it.


    Quote Originally Posted by Common Soldier View Post
    The steel crossbow is superior in reliability, an important factor on the battlefield. While less efficient than a composite crossbow, it is less effected by weather, and even some.noblemen hunting crossbows were made of steel, so the switch wasn't entirely due to.cost and maintenance, although cost was a major factor. But because the steel crossbows could have a higher draw weight, the switch to steel did not come at a sacrifice in power, and the extra weight of the steel crossbows did not make them to heavy to be used in combat.
    You have the low cost advantage + maintenance advantage for the prod in humid weather. However, the steel itself in steel crossbows were less reliable than composite materials, and the strings themselves are still organic and vunerable to the weather. It was also less efficent, so it was heavier than composite crossbows for the same power.
    Todd (crossbow expert who makes crossbows at Todd's workshop) says in this video around 2:28 that medieval European steel technology wasn't reliable, which is the reason why he thinks European steel crossbows have short powerstrokes (because it could and often did snap): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JDs7CLxTDGU
    Quote Originally Posted by Common Soldier View Post
    But the extra reliability was a real advantage, allowing them to be used when the guns and composite crossbows couldn't. That is indeed "superior"..
    As shown at the battle of Crecy, crossbow (even steel prod crossbows) also can have problems in wet weather because the crossbow strings are still made of organic material (rawhide, sinew, or plant fibers)...which can weaken when wet. So if the weather is too wet for guns or composite crossbows to be used, then even steel crossbows would become ineffective.


    Quote Originally Posted by Common Soldier View Post
    Not when the advantages are as great as the ancient Chinese Crossbows were alleged. The early Ming continued to use crossbows until gun technology improved, same as Europe. And the Roman square shield wasn't "superior" - it provided more.preotection at the cost of less manueverability, greater cost. A kite shield offered a better compromise between size and protection, but large square shields were produced when needed, such as the crossbow man pavise, no one said the knowledge on how to produce them as is said for the ancient Chinese crossbow. thanks is
    I don't know about these "allegations" but I am not saying these ancient Chinese crossbows are universally superior in every way. There are clearly some advantageous and disadvantageous with the heavy Han Crossbow. In the above calculations that factors in efficency along with powerstroke and draw weight, a ~400 lb draw crossbow with a 20 inch powerstroke and 50% efficency would be roughly equal in power to a 180lb draw longbow or recurve bow with a 30 inch powerstroke and 75% efficency. If we use 60% efficency, then the heavy crossbow is about 15-20% stronger - stronger, but not by that much.
    The advantage of the heavier Han crossbow is it delivers power roughly equal or more than the heaviest bows without requiring years of training. However, the Han composite prods are basically composite bows, so they are expensive and time consuming to make and can degrade over time. The firing rate is also much slower than regular bows. Since it relies on long powerstroke, manual draw is more practical over mechanical draw, which means the state needs to spend time and money to train and condition the soldier so he doesn't tire out easily. The main useage of these heavy Han crossbows are also in firing formations on the field rather than behind a wall, so that requires even more state resources to train, drill, and condition soldiers.
    These heavy crossbows also become redundant if archery becomes widespread - if you're ruled by nomadic tribes where half the fighting population can pull 150+ lb bows, then these heavy crossbows become redundant. These heavy crossbows also become more and more redundant when gunpowder weapons come around - as guns and cannons have far more penetration.


    The average standard 387lb draw Han Crossbow would not have that great of an advantage over powerful recurve bows and would be at a significant disadvantage in terms of power when stacked up against guns.
    The Ming seems to have phased out the crossbow after the 1500s.


    The Ming did not stop using crossbows until around the same time as Europeans, when gun
    Quote Originally Posted by Common Soldier View Post
    technology improved to the point that crossbows no longer made sense. Crossbows didn't have any higher rate of fire than guns, and were also affected by rain, and were far less powerful in terms of joules. .
    The Ming stopped using crossbows roughly around similar times. European crossbows faded away as a common battlefield weapon after the 15th century while Ming crossbows faded away a bit later around the 16th century.
    By the early 17th century, in 1618 and 1622, the Ming Dynasty produced zero (0) crossbows, but produced 8000+ small guns, 6000+ muskets, ~43,000 bows, and almost 30,000 cannon-type weapons: "...manufactured 25,134 cannons, 8,252 small guns, 6,425 muskets, 4,090 culverins, 98,547 polearms and swords, 26,214 great "horse decapitator" swords, 42,800 bows, 1,000 great axes, 2,284,000 arrows, 180,000 fire arrows, 64,000 bow strings..."
    https://books.google.com/books?id=WR...ows%2C&f=false
    Lighter crossbows would certainly have a faster firing rate than guns, while heavier ones did not. That's likely a reason why the Ming mostly used less powerful ones.
    Quote Originally Posted by Common Soldier View Post
    However, the ancient Chinese crossbows, if as powerful as claimed, would have been as powerful as the early hand cannons, so there would be less incentive to abandoned crossbow technology. It wouldn't make sense to abandoned the crossbow that were as powerful as they were claimed to be. Now, if the ancient Chinese Crossbows were only somewhat more powerful than the more powerful Euroepan crossbows, the Ming actions would make sense but not otherwise.
    I have not seen anybody claim Chinese crossbows are as powerful as guns or handcannons. Where did you read this? I certainly don't think they are anywhere near early guns/muskets in power, and have not read anybody claiming this.
    I think heavy ancient Chinese Crossbows were roughly comparable or somewhat more powerful than the strongest of powerful European crossbows, but both would be much weaker than guns/gunpowder weapons.


    Quote Originally Posted by Common Soldier View Post
    There is no evidence for the technogical regression in China you claim. There is no evidence that the science and engineering skills of later dynasties were less than the Han, and the Sui civil engineering in the form of bridge building was superior to Han dynasty - building the first segmental arch open spandel bridge, for example.
    The Sui Dynasty and their arched open spandel bridges existed 4 centuries after the decline and fall of the Han Dynasty. If we look at Europe four centuries after the decline and fall of the Western Roman Empire, they had also recovered too.
    Early middle ages Europe by that time would have had some superior building techniques than the classical era Romans. Pendentive architechture such as the Hagia Sophia's dome was developed in the 6th century and Romanesque architecture of semi circular arches was around since the 7th century. These types of buildings and other types such as Benedictine monastic buildings of the 800s AD were at least comparable to what the Romans had, if not more advanced.
    Quote Originally Posted by Common Soldier View Post
    There was no loss of crossbow technology in the Song dynasty, many centuries after the Han.
    The Song Dynasty used lots of crossbows. The Yuan Dynasty did not. The disuse of crossbows after the Song would have occured during the Yuan period. Also, the Song Dynasty is 1000 years after the Han, so even if technology was lost then the technology could long have been restored or reinvented. 12th-13th century AD European architechture such as the Notre Dame cathedral was more advanced than anything the Romans had in the 2nd century.
    Quote Originally Posted by Common Soldier View Post
    In any case, the Ming had access to European technology, which they did not do.anything with for the most part....
    No, the Ming started mass producing guns, including European model muskets. The Ming adopted guns from the Europeans and got rid of all crossbows (both heavier and lighter ones) in their military production by the early 1600s.
    By the early 17th century, in 1618 and 1622, the Ming Dynasty produced zero (0) crossbows, but produced 8000+ small guns, 6000+ muskets, ~43,000 bows, and almost 30,000 cannon-type weapons: "...manufactured 25,134 cannons, 8,252 small guns, 6,425 muskets, 4,090 culverins, 98,547 polearms and swords, 26,214 great "horse decapitator" swords, 42,800 bows, 1,000 great axes, 2,284,000 arrows, 180,000 fire arrows, 64,000 bow strings..."
    https://books.google.com/books?id=WR...ows%2C&f=false


    Quote Originally Posted by Common Soldier View Post
    Sure it does, it the troops were facing fast moving cavalry. In the Warring State period, most of the fighting was against infantry, and people mounted on chariots, not cavalry.
    That doesn't make sense because the Tang soldiers charged into melee after throwing away their crossbows. You don't charge fast moving cavalry or armored cavalry charging at you. The Song Dynasty also had even more crossbowmen, and they didn't throw away their crossbows when fighting enemy cavalry.
    Quote Originally Posted by Common Soldier View Post
    The calvalry the Han did face wasn't as heavily armored as the Mongols and later nomads the Chinese faced. As armor improved, crossbows could have been less effective, causing the soldiers to abandon the crossbows, especially if the crossbows were weaker than claimed. The crossbow could have only penetrated the armor at close range.
    Your statement supports what I am saying. The Song Dynasty soldiers faced fast moving cavalry and faced heavily armored Jin and Mongol cavalry. The Song Dynasty crossbowmen didn't throw away their crossbows like the Tang Dynasty soldiers did.
    The Song Dynasty fought more heavily armored foes than the Tang Dynasty did, and the Song troops relied on their crossbows much more.
    Quote Originally Posted by Common Soldier View Post
    The Tang emphaised cavalry, which meant that crossbow could fire fewer arrows before the opposing troops were on top of them. The slower firing rate of the crossbow would be at a disadvantage, especially if the crossbow bolts couldn't penetrate armor at longer range. . If the crossbowmen fired at a range before the bolts could penetrate, and the horseman were on top of the crossbow men before they could reload, that would make the crossbow a less effective weapon for them.
    The Tang troops threw away their crossbows and charged into melee - that makes little sense if they were fighting enemy cavalry. The best way for infantry to fight against cavalry is to stay in tight infantry formations like the earlier and later dynasties did.
    The Han Dynasty fought against enemy armored infantry and steppe cavalry, and kept their crossbows protected by pike formations. The Song Dynasty fought heavily armored cavalry such as the Mongols and Jin, and they also kept their crossbowmen in pike formations. The Ming and Qing Dynasties kept their musketmen behind lines of pikes.
    I'd say the Tang didn't have very good crossbow doctrines, so many Tang troops treated them as disposible precursor weapons.
    Quote Originally Posted by Common Soldier View Post
    Yes, civilization in Western Europe did collapse after the fall of the Western Roman Empire. Stone building largely ceased, such as bridge construction , after the fall of the Western Roman empire. All the urban areas underwent massive decline, Rome went from 300,000.in late antiquity to 50,000. London went from 40,000 to maybe to just a couple thousands. Glass making under went major changes, transition to "forest glass" which lacked the sophistication of Roman glass in the centuries immediately following the Roman collapse. ..
    That is not much different from what happened to the Han. The urban areas went massive population decline during the chaos of the fall of the Han, civil war of the Jin, and invasions of barbarians. Some of the largest cities of the northern regions such as Luoyang and Changan were destroyed by invading barbarians and became depopulated. The population supposedly declined by 2/3 by the 4th century, and likely declined even further due to another 2 centuries of barbarian invasions and wars.
    Quote Originally Posted by Common Soldier View Post
    It wasn't until a number of centuies after the Roman collapse that technologies like bridge building, stone construction, or ships as large as Roman ones were again produced. There was no similar regression that occurred in China. The Sui dynasty was producing bridges superior to the Han..
    It wasn't until a number of centuries after the Han Dynasty collapsed that technologies such as bridge building, canal building, etc became used again too, so a similar regression did occur in China.
    The Han Dynasty collapsed around 180-220 AD. The Sui Dynasty was founded around 580 AD. So the Sui Dynasty didn't exist until 400 years after the Han Dynasty.
    A better comparison would be to compare China immediately after the Han Dynasty collapsed vs Europe immediately after the Western Romans collapsed. Or you compare Europe in the 800s AD vs Sui China in the 600s AD, which is both roughly 400 years after the Western Roman and Han Dynasty collapsed respectively.

    Quote Originally Posted by Common Soldier View Post
    Ming had cannons , which were more effective. Mounted siege crossbows were not needed. No crossbow could compete with the cannons, there are limitations on scaling up the power of a crossbow, limitations a cannon would not hav..
    Yes, that is true.
    Quote Originally Posted by Common Soldier View Post
    It doesn't take a genius to look at the crossbow mechanism and see how it was made, and duplicate it. Europeana were able to reverse engineer porcelain, which was a much more complex chemical process
    Perhaps not. I speculate other factors may have contributed - one of the big benefits of Qin-Han era crossbows was standardization of parts that allowed interchangeability of parts. This made repairs and assembly very easy and contributed to its widespread use.
    If the Ming didn't have a good industrial standardization system, then I can see it posing some problems.
    Quote Originally Posted by Common Soldier View Post
    And there were the Song dynasty crossbows, which was just a century before the Ming, the entire Yuan dynasty last only around a century. Large numbers of crossbows were produced, hundreds of thousands, they can't all have been buried in a mere hundred years.
    Song composite crossbows were made from organic stuff such as wood, sinew, animal glue, etc, which would rot away within a century.
    Quote Originally Posted by Common Soldier View Post
    An the Ming Chinese were not intri sically more honest than modern Chinese, I am sure ancient Chinese dug up and looted tombs. .
    Tomb raiders don't know or care about remaking ancient crossbows though.
    Quote Originally Posted by Common Soldier View Post
    Again, we don't find evidence of any other technology that was so widespread being lost as you insist the crossbow technology was..
    Roman concrete might be one. Commonly used everywhere by the Romans. Yet during the early middle ages, people weren't sure how it was made.
    Quote Originally Posted by Common Soldier View Post
    Questionable claims. The Ming dynasty, due to it's larger population had. Much larger GNP, so the Ming was richer in that regard. Whether the Song had a higher per capita income I don't know, do you have any real evidence for that?..
    It's mostly based on modern economists estimating GDP per capita. The Song Dynasty is typically regarded as very advanced and was on the verge of a proto-Industrial Revolution. On the other hand, while the Ming also made progress in some areas, it was hambered by Confucian beaucracy that resulted in them burning their own treasure fleets and banning ocean travel/trade for decades. But yes, I will agree that the disparity probably wasn't that great since the Ming had access to some Song technologies.
    Quote Originally Posted by Common Soldier View Post
    I make no such assumptions. You are the one making all the assumptions, asserting as fact what is unsupported opinion.?..
    We're both making assumptions. You're making assumptions too because you're claiming the only possible reason why the Ming Dynasty crossbows had short powerstrokes was because the Han Dynasty crossbows also had short powerstrokes. There are other possibilities.
    Quote Originally Posted by Common Soldier View Post
    Even with changes in tactics, there would still be a role for crossbows powerful as the Han were supposed to be. I have repeatedly said this, so your claim that I am assuming no change in military tactics is simply not true, so either you are deliberately lying or your haven't read what I actually wrote, which is just as bad.
    I distinguished between heavy crossbows that could be replaced by gunpowder weapons and lighter faster firing crossbows that could still be useful, yet you keep mixing them up as they're all the same things. You also need to reread what I wrote.
    Quote Originally Posted by Common Soldier View Post
    Yet the knowledge of how to make swords was not lost as you are claiming.
    I said sword fighting techniques were lost, not sword making techniques. You said I was deliberating misrepresenting you earlier, but now you're deliberately misrepresenting what I said or you haven't read what I actually wrote, which is just as bad.
    Quote Originally Posted by Common Soldier View Post
    Repeatedly, you have failed to provide an example of military technology that was as common as the Han Chinese crossbow being lost. Han design crossbows were being made in the hundreds of thousands in the Song dynasty, just a century before they disappeared in the Ming dynasty. That does not seem credible.
    Roman concrete was used everywhere during the Roman Empire. After the fall of the Roman Empire, it seems to have stopped being used. And crossbows were kept stored in armories so it wasn't widely available to everybody.

    I agree with your other statement about necessity. The Yuan had plenty of strong archers who could pull 180lb recurve bows, so they didn't need to equip troops with Song Dynasty crossbows as it was unnecessary.
    Quote Originally Posted by Common Soldier View Post
    Valid points. The.crossbows were likely a state Monopoly, and although commonly used, might have been concentrated in a few state controlled centers. When the state fell, the information could bexome lost. Good point.
    Yeh, that was one possibility.

    Quote Originally Posted by Common Soldier View Post
    Note, there is no evidence the Song crossbows were not as powerful as the Han dynasty, or that crossbow technology was lost as you claim. .
    I did not claim Song crossbows were not as powerful as Han crossbows.
    We do know that after the Song Dynasty, the Yuan stopped using crossbows. The Ming never used crossbows that much even in their earlier days compared to earlier dynasties, and they completely stopped making crossbows after the 1500s. Alternatives were probably more useful.
    Quote Originally Posted by Common Soldier View Post
    Besides, the Ming did use large, powerful crossbows on occasion, as shown by the Yao Kai Nu, which had a 6 chi (2 meter) prod. Why bother which such a bulky design, hen the smaller more compact Song dynasty crossbow would have been almost as powerful? The Yao Kai Nu shows the Ming had a role.for powerful crossbows, even if it was limited. And for limited use, cost would not have been a major factor.. .
    The Yao Kai Nu was a niche weapon invented too late to have mattered and was not used as a common weapon. By the time the Yao Kai Nu was around (late 1500s/early 1600s), the Ming Dynasty had already moved on to guns.
    Quote Originally Posted by Common Soldier View Post
    used less does not mean that the technology of the crossbows themselves declined..
    Valid point. I agree.
    Quote Originally Posted by Common Soldier View Post
    If you are saying that the Chinese crossbows were caple of only producing somewhat more than 200 J, then I think we are in agreement..
    Yes, both Chinese and European crossbows would be much weaker than guns.
    Quote Originally Posted by Common Soldier View Post
    I have only argued that the results indicate that the ancient Chinese crossbows were not as powerful as some have claimed. If they weren't as powerful.as claimed.(but still somewhat more powerful than regular bows), then what the Ming did made sense, and the roller coaster use of crossbows in Chinese warfard makes more sense. When China had a supply of archers capable.of shooting powerful warbows, then regular bows were favored, the slight advantage in power not enough to offset the loss in rate of fire. When archers were in shorter supply, then crossbows were favored because it was easier to train me to fire a powerful crossbow than a powerful regular bows. .
    I have not read people claiming they are more powerful than guns. I have argued that the heavy ancient Chinese crossbows are roughly comparable to or maybe a bit stronger than the strongest of European crossbows (with both being somewhat more powerful than the strongest regular bows, but much weaker than gunpowder weapons).
    is that the Song crossbows were inferior to the Han dynasty?..[/QUOTE]
    I didn't say Song Dynasty crossbows were inferior. I was talking about the 16 Kingdoms, Sui, and Tang periods before the Song Dynasty. There is a roller coaster useage of crossbows and strong crossbows.
    Quote Originally Posted by Common Soldier View Post
    Decline in crossbows in China corresponded to periods where China had access to soldiers with a strong tradition in archery, like the Tang. When the Chinese dynasty no longer had access to soldiers with a strong tradition in archery, use of the crossbows rose, as in the case of the Song dynasty. This implies it was not complexity or loss of knoedge that was driving the decline in use of crossbows, ..
    Yes, valid point. That was also my alternative hypothesis. Though decline in military doctrine could also contribute to it, along with a rise in alternative weapons.
    Quote Originally Posted by Common Soldier View Post
    and indirectly implies that the crossbows were not much more powerful than the strong warbows - if the crossbows were much more powerful than regular bows, it is hard to justify the decline in usage. If only somewhat more powerful than regular bows, the hgher fire rate of regular bows would offset their slightly weaker power..
    That is possible. Though "more powerful" is relative here. Crossbows were stronger, maybe a good percentage stronger, but were not that much stronger/were not several times stronger than the strongest warbows.

    There could also be an issue of being powerful enough for unnecessary overkill in one category, but also being not powerful enough to to kill in another category.
    If you have plenty of a 180lb bow can already kill the enemy in chainmail + padding effectively, then there is no need for strong crossbow that provides 40% more power because it is unnecessary. And even if a crossbow has 40% more power, it still won't penetrate good plate armor or thick/double lamellar like a bullet from a gun will. So it's overkill compared to a strong bow, but too weak compared to a gun.

    So at least during the Ming era, the strong crossbow lost its useful category. The heaviest crossbows were stronger than strong bows but both could go through lighter armor, making the strong bow more useful than the crossbow. But neither was strong enough to go through the heaviest armor, making both crossbow and bow less useful than guns in dealing with heaviest armor.
    Last edited by Intranetusa; July 01, 2019 at 07:18 PM.

  11. #151

    Default Re: Why did the the Ming crossbows become so weak compared to earlier Chinese ones?

    Some mistakes that I've seen so far:

    1. There is no evidence that Tang crossbow technology declined. If there is I would like to see it as it's certainly not shown here as of far. If anything it's still evident from Tang manuals that their crossbows shot more powerfully than their bows.
    2. Most Ming crossbows had wooden prods versus the composite prods of wood, bone and sinew. Of course Ming crossbows were cheaper because wooden prods are cheaper than composite prods. Plus Ming stocks were much shorter too, which decreases the amount of material required to build the crossbow.
    3. The Ming literally admitted that the advantage of their crossbows was ease in learning, and that few among the population were good with bows. So to say that the decline of the crossbow had to do with the prevalence of archery traditions is false at least for this dynasty.
    4. The Yuan did not stop using crossbows. Crossbow usage diminished, it didn't disappear.
    5. Hand cannons that shot round bullets had less ability to penetrate armor than strong bows and strong Chinese crossbows. Hand cannons shoot with more joules, but round bullets need WAY more joules to penetrate armor. Hand cannons that shoot ARROWS are magnitudes stronger at armor penetration than handheld bows and crossbows.
    6. I've never denied that using arm-drawn/leg-drawn crossbows could be tiring. However you could say the same about drawing a 120 lb longbow as well. At least for the crossbow, you have the option to draw a 120 lb crossbow with the legs, in which case this would significantly reduce the exhaustion.
    7. If a 400 lb Han crossbow is only around the same level of power as a 180 lb longbow, then why didn't they just use a 180 lb Han composite crossbow? The somewhat decreased powerstroke is somewhat offset by the increase in efficiency of the crossbow's composite prod.
    8. If I calculated the efficiency of Han crossbows by using the efficiency of handheld bows, I would be using 75% not 60%. The decreased 60% efficiency value is precisely because I addressed the increased draw weight as one of the factors.

    Also, Andreas Bichler stated that for the same draw weight and powerstroke, composite prods store significantly more energy than steel prods. To make the equations easier to understand for everyone else I usually used this information by increasing efficiency from 50% to 60%, even though I should be increasing potential energy rather than efficiency by a similar amount. Either way the resulting joules is the same at 249 joules.

    In short, Andreas Bichler's ~1000 lb composite crossbows have efficiencies of 30-40%, higher if we count it as linear efficiency. 100 lb composite bows have linear efficiencies of around 75%. I chose a number in between because the draw weights of Han crossbows (mostly 387 lbs, but with significant amount of other draw weights) are between those poundages.

    I will end this with evidence for why the Ming abandoned strong handheld crossbows:

    The early Medieval Tongdian says: 其弩手去贼一百五十步即发箭,弓手去贼六十步即发箭。若贼至二十步内,即射手、弩手俱舍弓弩,令驻队人收。其弓拿手先络膊,将刀棒自随,即与战锋队齐入奋击。
    The crossbowmen fire at the bandits (enemy) when the distance is 150 paces(225m), the bowmen fire at the bandits when the distance is 60 paces (90m), if the enemy come within 20 paces, the crossbowmen and the bowmen puts down the bows and crossbows and order others to collect them. The crossbowmen and bowmen each have a sword-staff, and will pick them up and attack with a shout along with the vanguard companies…..

    Medieval era Wulin says: 每战,以长枪居前,坐 不得起;次最强弓,次强弩,跪膝以俟;次神臂弓。约贼相搏至百步内,则神臂先发;七十步,强弓并发;次阵如 之…..
    In every battle, the long pikes are at the front. They are sitting and not standing up. Then comes the strong bows, then the strong crossbows, all kneeling. Then comes the Divine Arm crossbows. When fighting bandits within 100 paces, the Divine Arm [crossbow] fires. Within 70 paces, the strong bows fire, and the next formation does the same……

    Ming Yinzong Shilu, however, clearly shows that firearms replaced the tactical role of long-powerstroke crossbows: “敌在百步之内,神机枪射之,五十步内,弓箭射之,二十步内,牌枪刀迎击”
    "when the enemy is within 100 paces, the shenji guns fire, within 50 paces, the bows fire, and within 20 paces, the shields, pike, and swordsmen engages to attack”

    The reasoning had been explained over and over, but kept being ignored. It "doesn't make sense" that Ming resorted to less powerful crossbows, because the reasoning above (Ming replaced strong crossbows with handheld firearms) are ignored.

    Pretty much everything I've said can be found here: https://historum.com/threads/han-dyn...bow-ii.131303/
    I would rather any questions be redirected there because this forum slows down my computer, ergo I try to minimize using it.
    Last edited by HackneyedScribe; August 06, 2019 at 10:39 PM.

  12. #152

    Default Re: Why did the the Ming crossbows become so weak compared to earlier Chinese ones?

    Quote Originally Posted by HackneyedScribe View Post
    Some mistakes that I've seen so far:

    1. There is no evidence that Tang crossbow technology declined. If there is I would like to see it as it's certainly not shown here as of far. If anything it's still evident from Tang manuals that their crossbows shot more powerfully than their bows.
    This is consistent with what I have been trying to say. A technology as powerful as the Han crossbow would simply not be abandoned by later dynasties, unless something better was available. It was not unlike the Ming dynasty that gun powdered hand cannons became widely available, and eliminated the need of a the more power Han dynasty crossbows. Changing tactics may have made them more or less popular, but as far as I can see the more powerful Han style crossbows remained in use until the the Ming dynasty.

    (Hand cannons started to appear before the Ming dynasty, but they probably were not as used as widely as they were during the Ming. It would have taken time to develop the technology. Since the Mongols still used trebuchets in their sieges, it indicates that gunpowder technology had not yet been completely perfected during their dynasty, and it was during the following Ming dynasty that gunpowder weapons reached their full potential.)

    2. Most Ming crossbows had wooden prods versus the composite prods of wood, bone and sinew. Of course Ming crossbows were cheaper because wooden prods are more expensive than composite prods. Plus Ming stocks were much shorter too, which decreases the amount of material required to build the crossbow.
    All true, but the Ming also used bambo layered lathes (prods) as well. See http://greatmingmilitary.blogspot.co...-crossbow.html. But your point is well taken, the Ming crossbows did not use the more expensive composite prods, and the Ming crossbows were cheaper to make, if less powerful. The shorter stocks of the Ming crossbows might have been somewhat cheaper, but I doubt that shorter stocks were a significant savings, it did not take that much more wood to make the stocks as long as those of the Han style crossbows, wood of the stock compared with the trigger and prod construction was likely a relatively small percentage of the overall cost of the crossbow.

    3. The Ming literally admitted that the advantage of their crossbows was ease in learning, and that few among the population were good with bows. So to say that the decline of the crossbow had to do with the prevalence of archery traditions is false at least for this dynasty.
    True, but the issue is not that the Ming didn't use crossbows, but they did not use the powerful Han style crossbows used by previous dynasties. The Han style crossbows were more powerful than regular bows, but did not require the the same amount of training. The crossbows the Ming did use were much weaker than those of previous dynasties.

    4. The Yuan did not stop using crossbows. Crossbow usage diminished, it didn't disappear.
    This is consistent with what I have been trying to say. Something as useful and as powerful as the crossbow wouldn't simply be completely abandoned by the Mongols. Even though the Mongols were skilled archers, the crossbow would still be useful for defending fortifications, and the greater power of the crossbow would still be useful.

    Here is a picture of the Mughal's using crossbows in 16th century India. Note, it they are using a long powerstroke similar to the pre Ming Chinese crossbows rather than the shorter power stroke of the Ming dynasty, although did does not seem like they are using a Chinese style trigger mechanism.



    https://i.pinimg.com/originals/55/c4...30d9d54d5d.jpg


    5. Hand cannons that shot round bullets had less ability to penetrate armor than strong bows and strong Chinese crossbows. Hand cannons shoot with more joules, but round bullets need WAY more joules to penetrate armor. Hand cannons that shoot ARROWS are magnitudes stronger at armor penetration than handheld bows and crossbows.
    True, bullets need way more energy to penetrate armor than an arrow, but even the early hand cannons had way more energy than arrows. The early hand cannons could have a much as a 1000 joules, much more than even a Han style crossbow. And as you pointed out, using arrow projectiles, which we know the hand cannons sometimes did, they would be much more penetrating ability than even the most powerful crossbows.

    But, the hand cannons would not have been as accurate as crossbows, either using bullets or arrows as projectiles. That might not have been an issue for relatively short range usage, but longer ranges it could be. Of course, using even the crossbow at long range presents a problem of hitting something. If you are shooting at someone 200 meters (yards) away, even at walking speed the person you aim at will not be the location you were shooting at - a person walks a 1 m/s, and it would take a crossbow bolt 2 seconds or more to reach 200 m. At a range of 200 m, or even a 100 m, when you shoot at the enemy, you it really is only effective if you are shooting a large body of densely packed men, so you have a high odds of hitting someone. You might get a lucky shot at someone like an officer who is standing still supervising the battle, but other than that it would be random luck to hit someone at 200 meters, not because of of accuracy of the weapon, but just because of the speed of the projectile. In battle, most soldiers are not going to conveniently stand still at projectile range for you to shoot at them, not if their commanders are competent. Best way at long range is to fire a large number of projectiles at a large mass of soldiers in the hope of getting a lucky random hit.

    {Note, the flatter trajectory of a bullet due to its higher speed makes mass firing somewhat more effective than using arrows when firing at a mass of men. If the bullet doesn't hit someone if the first row, it will likely hit someone in the 2nd or 3rd row. An arrow, which would need to be shot at a relatively high angle to go 200 meters, if it didn't hit someone in the first row, could hit the ground before it hit anyone in the second row.)

    6. I've never denied that using arm-drawn/leg-drawn crossbows could be tiring. However you could say the same about drawing a 120 lb longbow as well. At least for the crossbow, you have the option to draw a 120 lb crossbow with the legs, in which case this would significantly reduce the exhaustion.
    True, but in comparison with the hand cannon, using a 300 or 400 lbs crossbow would be more tiring. And while an average soldier could use a 300 or 400 lbs crossbow with a little training, archers capable of pulling a 180 lbs bow would have spent years of training, they would not be your typical soldier.

    7. If a 400 lb Han crossbow is only around the same level of power as a 180 lb longbow, then why didn't they just use a 180 lb Han composite crossbow? The somewhat decreased powerstroke is somewhat offset by the increase in efficiency of the crossbow's composite prod.
    I would think and have said that a 300 to 400 lbs Han crossbow would still be more powerful than a 180 lbs longbow, but it would be slower to fire. Even if the 400 lbs crossbow were only as powerful or even less powerful than a 180 lbs crossbow, it would still have advantages. Even an ordinary soldier in good shape could manage 400 lbs crossbow, while only the strongest of archers could handle a 180 lbs crossbow. In the Mary Rose crossbows, only a few were estimated as high as 180 lbs, and the majority were somewhere around a 110 lbs to maybe 120 lbs. Also, you can time your shot using a crossbow, waiting to shoot until you see the perfect opportunity (an opening in the armor) to shoot, while you don't have that luxury with a 180 lbs bow, you simply won't be able to hold the string for that long. That is while even the relatively weak 150 lbs Europe crossbows still found a use on the battle field, even though they were much less powerful than an 80 lbs warbow.

    From what I have seen, an English 180 lbs longbow would only have around 130 joules, far less than a 300 or 400 lbs Han crossbow would likely have.

    8. If I calculated the efficiency of Han crossbows by using the efficiency of handheld bows, I would be using 75% not 60%. The decreased 60% efficiency value is precisely because I addressed the increased draw weight as one of the factors.

    Also, Andreas Bichler stated that for the same draw weight and powerstroke, composite prods store significantly more energy than steel prods. To make the equations easier to understand for everyone else I usually used this information by increasing efficiency from 50% to 60%, even though I should be increasing potential energy rather than efficiency by a similar amount. Either way the resulting joules is the same at 249 joules.

    In short, Andreas Bichler's ~1000 lb composite crossbows have efficiencies of 30-40%, higher if we count it as linear efficiency. 100 lb composite bows have linear efficiencies of around 75%. I chose a number in between because the draw weights of Han crossbows (mostly 387 lbs, but with significant amount of other draw weights) are between those poundages.
    Those numbers seem reasonable. The steel crossbows were probably not much more powerful than a high draw weight long bow, somewhat around 140 joules toward the top end. 60% efficiency seems a reasonable estimate for a Han style crossbow which would make the 400 lbs considerably more powerful than the European crossbow and a 300 lbs crossbow comparable to the most powerful composite European crossbows. But even so, with hand cannons having up to 1000 joules, the Han crossbows would still be less powerful than even the early hand cannons.

    A reconstruction of an early hand cannon produced around 800 joules using home made gunpowder, still far more than the Han crossbow. And while the penetrating ability might be better with the crossbow, the damage done by the hand cannon projectile would be worse due to its higher kinetic energy. Unless an arrow hits a vital organ, it will likely not be lethal in the short term, while getting hit with a hand cannon projectile even in a non vital spot will likely put a soldier out of action.
    https://web.archive.org/web/20170710...handgonne.html


    Given that hand cannons were likely simpler to make than the Han style crossbows with their composite prods and complex triggers, it is not surprising that the Ming switched over to them, and gave up the use of Han style crossbows. Crossbows wouldn't have had a much faster rate of fire, not for the more powerful ones, and hand cannons would have been easier to make.


    I will end this with evidence for why the Ming abandoned strong handheld crossbows:

    The early Medieval Tongdian says: 其弩手去贼一百五十步即发箭,弓手去贼六十步即发箭。若贼至二十步内,即射手、弩手俱舍弓弩,令驻队人收。其弓拿手先络膊,将刀棒自随,即与战锋队齐入奋击。
    The crossbowmen fire at the bandits (enemy) when the distance is 150 paces(225m), the bowmen fire at the bandits when the distance is 60 paces (90m), if the enemy come within 20 paces, the crossbowmen and the bowmen puts down the bows and crossbows and order others to collect them. The crossbowmen and bowmen each have a sword-staff, and will pick them up and attack with a shout along with the vanguard companies…..

    Medieval era Wulin says: 每战,以长枪居前,坐 不得起;次最强弓,次强弩,跪膝以俟;次神臂弓。约贼相搏至百步内,则神臂先发;七十步,强弓并发;次阵如 之…..
    In every battle, the long pikes are at the front. They are sitting and not standing up. Then comes the strong bows, then the strong crossbows, all kneeling. Then comes the Divine Arm crossbows. When fighting bandits within 100 paces, the Divine Arm [crossbow] fires. Within 70 paces, the strong bows fire, and the next formation does the same……

    Ming Yinzong Shilu, however, clearly shows that firearms replaced the tactical role of long-powerstroke crossbows: “敌在百步之内,神机枪射之,五十步内,弓箭射之,二十步内,牌枪刀迎击”
    "when the enemy is within 100 paces, the shenji guns fire, within 50 paces, the bows fire, and within 20 paces, the shields, pike, and swordsmen engages to attack”


    Knowing the lack of accuracy of the early hand cannons, 150 m (100 paces) seem rather like a long distance to fire at. Not because the guns didn't have the power, but I question the ability even with arrow projectiles of hitting something at that distance. Although with volley fire at a mass of soldiers, I guess it must of worked because they did.


    Pretty much everything I've said can be found here: https://historum.com/threads/han-dyn...bow-ii.131303/
    I would rather any questions be redirected there because this forum slows down my computer, ergo I try to minimize using it.
    Interesting that it says that a Ming scholar was able to recreate the earlier dynasty crossbows from some samples. So if the Ming didn't use the Han style crossbows, it wasn't because of lost technology, since even if they had lost it, is sounds as if they could have recreated the technology if they wanted.

    Also, Bilcher said the heavier bolts were more efficient, although they had a lower speed. It said that the Chinese crossbow bolts were lighter than the arrows from the bows, which would have made them travel farther, but would have made the crossbows less efficient.
    Last edited by Common Soldier; July 17, 2019 at 01:56 PM.

  13. #153

    Default Re: Why did the the Ming crossbows become so weak compared to earlier Chinese ones?

    Quote Originally Posted by Common Soldier View Post
    I would think and have said that a 300 to 400 lbs Han crossbow would still be more powerful than a 180 lbs longbow, but it would be slower to fire. Even if the 400 lbs crossbow were only as powerful or even less powerful than a 180 lbs crossbow, it would still off advantages.
    This was what you replied to: If a 400 lb Han crossbow is only around the same level of power as a 180 lb longbow, then why didn't they just use a 180 lb Han composite crossbow? The somewhat decreased powerstroke is somewhat offset by the increase in efficiency of the crossbow's composite prod.

    It's true that hand cannons were inaccurate, that's why the early Ming dynasty adopted the sabot technology from the Vietnamese which would have significantly increased the weapon's accuracy.

    Translation of arrow firing “Shen Qiang”: This was acquired during the conquest of Annam. There is a wooden wad (mu song zi)[sabot] behind the arrow; some lead bullets and such are also placed with it. Its ingenious part is that [the wooden wad] is made of ironwood (tieli mu), [hence it is] heavy and forceful. It can shoot three hundred paces” –Wu Bei Zhi

    Also, Bilcher said the heavier bolts were more efficient, although they had a lower speed.
    Bichler said that heavier bolts were more efficient up to a point, after that point heavier bolts becomes less efficient.

    It said that the Chinese crossbow bolts were lighter than the arrows from the bows, which would have made them travel farther, but would have made the crossbows less efficient.
    Crossbow quarrels of the most common type of Han crossbows (387 lbs) were 93.75 grams [Records of Yue]. This makes it heavier than the projectiles for most bows or European medieval crossbows, but light relative to the draw weight.

    Also, just in case there's any confusion: I never denied that hand cannons (arrow firing ones) have significant advantages over crossbows, in fact I've been saying for years that these firearms replaced the tactical niche of long powerstroke crossbows.
    Last edited by HackneyedScribe; July 16, 2019 at 02:18 PM.

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