Chinese Army: Ming Dynasty 明军

This is a bit unusual, as I am not very familiar with chibis or watched enough anime to call myself a fan, but as a lover of history, I really love the artist's rendition of these costumes. He/ she had certainly paid marvelous attention to every detail.

Please enjoy the selection, hover over any image to get a description of the unit. Also, please click on the image if you wish for finer details.

Thank you!!!


The Two Armies.

By the late Ming Period, the empire virtually has two different type of troops, the cavalry borne Army of the North, created to counter fast Mongol and Manchu threats, and the Army of the South, an mixed ranged and infantry army designed to protect China's coast and major rivers from Japanese pirates, they are also trained for jungle warfare for campaigns mainly against Burma on Thailand's behalf.

The Northern Army.

Late Ming general in field armor, his rank signified by his trident/ pennons and dragon leg guards. He wears a scale surcoat with segmented arm guards typified of late Ming armament and carries a saber and bow for protection.

Late Ming cavalry general in light scale surcoat. Elaborately dressed, carries a bow and saber for protection.

Late Ming cavalry man of the Northern Army. The northern army is mostly consisted of fast armored horsemen composed of low lives and steppe mercenaries, tasked with patrolling along the Great Wall and repelling Mongol, Manchu incursions, they were the first to arrive in Korea during the Imjin War. Red brigandine armor (has riveted steel plate on the inside) has a red banner on top of his head.

Late Ming heavy cavalry troop. Steel Lamellar surcoat and segmented arm guards. Armed with glaive and bows.

The Southern Army:

Heavy infantry, guard troops. Note that the imperial guards are similarly armed. These heavy troops are usually entrusted with guarding important officials and key cities, or escorting the emperor on his grand tours. Armored with heavy lamellar surcoat and segmented arm guards, a glaive and a tiger skin wrapped bow. Has bronze gilded helmet signifying his rank.

Lightly armored conscript troop in simple brigandine armor. These soldiers are usually deployed for ambushes and amphibious warfare. They are usually armed with a variety of exotic polearms to combat foes. Ranging from long war flail/ sythes to barbed half moon tridents. The red turban of these troops designate some of them as ethnic Hui Muslim soldiers in the court's service.

Arquebusiers, forerunners of musketeers. Armed with arquebus, saber, and brigandine armor. The Ming usually favored Ottoman and Portuguese firearms and even after China instituted the isolationist policy still imitated these firearms locally all the way until the 1860s.

NCOs, officers, and constables.

The Ming army would not function if not for the giant bureaucracy that supplemented it. As these these institution's size is already bigger than most European kingdom's whole armies. These men usually serves as aides, sub officers, heralds, and secretaries to the generals on the field. Some of them are also tasked with the duties of military police, rooting out corrupt officials, traitorous generals, and subdue pockets of rebellion.

Aide de Camp, usually the gentlemen's sons who possessed both scholarly acumen and possessed martial ambitions. They are usually enlisted as aides to the generals in the field and entrusted with missions befitting lieutenants and junior officers. These units acts as the NCO of the army. They wear elaborite pheasant plumes and mountain scale surcoats, and are usually armed with saber and bow. Distant royal princes some times dresses in this manner.

Attendants, note the peacock feathers and silk covered surcoat. Many heralds and musicians are dressed in this manner.

Imperial herald, notice the elaborate silk surcoat designated with a mandarin's square with a quiling motif.

Constables, usually junior officers, constables, and local guards are dressed in this manner. Brigandine surcoat, kerchief and saber.

An honored officer carrying a great ceremonial banner for his section. These banners are very large and usually have to be supported by several other attendants with cords. He wears a standard officer's hat, note the letter "勇" on his helmet which means "brave."

Herald, signified by his peacock officer's hat and trumpet. Wears the standard brigandine armor of the late Ming era.

Commander of the constables. Carries a commander's badge and a commander's banner. Junior officers in their own right, they are also the ensigns of generals on the field.

Executors of the Law, these are the aides of the constables, usually hired to protect the judges and deliver punishment to the offenders. They carry a great baton used to...chastise the offender's backsides. It's no joke, if you found yourself the end of it.

Secretaries, Overseers and Attachés

The senior officials managed the civil affairs of the campaign, acted as secretaries for the generals and managed the endless paperwork/ requisition orders. If a military governorship was needed, these men would serve as a miniature court, able to establish laws in accordance with the rest of the empire. Most are trained with the local dialects and are familiar with the local politics thus advised their commanders on the peculiarities of the enemies tactics, local customs, and the dynastic politics of their foes.

They also served as the Emperor's eyes and ears, ensuring that the generals will not negotiate with the enemies on an ad hoc basis. Since China is an empire rather than a feudal state, the generals are frequent rotated across the realms to ensure the would not use the funds to form their own private armies, and thus feudal fiefs of their own. This also ensured that the boarder guards will always be refreshed with fresh troops.

These aides protected and entertained the royal princes, it was always necessary for promising princes to follow their fathers on great campaigns. Later in the empire, especially after the neglectful Wanli Emperor, most of the emperors abandoned this tradition.

High ranking aid that served the inner court. Notice the elaborate robe he possessed that matched those of high ranking officials.

Civil/ Military officials, they served usually as secretaries for the generals.

Mandarin official in campaign gear. Notice the distinctive Mandarin square on his chest and the official's hat. These powerful men attained their positions through taking Imperial Civil Exams and were appointed as magistrates, judges, secretaries, and military advisers.

Mandarin official geared for northern campaign. Those who served on the northern fringes of the empire wore these rather anachronistic looking bear hats.

High ranking official. Note his elaborate robe.

Civil official. Dressed in scholar's robe. Wears the hat of the court tutors.

Imperial secretary in teal robe.

A royal prince of the blood, royal cousin serving as campaign aide.

Imperial Generals

For nearly 150 years, the generals are perhaps the only ones left in the army to dress themselves in the elaborate heavy armor of classical China. This is in reflection of the great peace in the Ming interior during the early days of the empire. Since most of the threat to the state now comes from foreign kingdoms and frontiers, and thus needed constant mobility, much of the heavy old mountain scale armor was shrugged down. It makes sense in a way, battles are no longer mostly between Chinese vs Chinese generals each fielding heavy armors for a nearby contested province, the goal of the generals now involved fielding large mobile armies to cover long stretches swiftly.

Emphasis is now more about having larger number of troops to reach frontier hotspots, outmaneuver your foe, out gun your foe with the newly introduced firearms, so the armors of the individual soldiers, including that of the generals are lessened throughout the dynasty. For comparison again, please refer to the late Ming generals on top.

Early Ming generals.

Early Ming general or guard, in classic bronze gilded mountain scale surcoat, armed with a pole ax and bow. Note the fluted wing decor of his helmet reminiscent of classic Tang/ Song helmets.

Early Ming general, with classic bronze gilded mountain scale armor, an officer's mace and sword. Note the fluted wing decor of his helmet reminiscent of classic Tang/ Song helmets.

Heavy infantry, guard troops. Note that the imperial guards are similarly armed. These heavy troops are usually entrusted with guarding important officials and key cities, or escorting the emperor on his grand tours. Armored with heavy lamellar surcoat and segmented arm guards, a glaive and a tiger skin wrapped bow. Has bronze gilded helmet signifying his rank.

The Emperor and his aides.

The Emperor sometimes accompanied his troops on distant campaigns. Like most Chinese dynasties, the early Emperors are vigorous and warlike (mainly through their lineage as the sons of military men who seized the realms) but as the dynasty progressed, most are but puppets in the hands of powerful court factions, solely withdrawn in their harems. The Ming emperors attempted to retain their martial heritage, but despite their efforts succumbed to the factionalism at court. The last emperors would spent most of their lives trying to reform and alter the course of the dynasty's downward spiral.

Early Ming emperor's court regalia.

Late Ming emperor's court regalia. Decorated with many Taoist symbols.

The a prince of the blood unarmored in his campaign costume.

Wanli emperor's parade armor, found in his mausoleum, simple iron cuirass and an officer's jian.

Wanli Emperor's campaign armor, armed with bow and jian. Elaborate silver gilded fish scale surcoat, arm guards. Little difference compared to the standard officers except perhaps the occasional plumes.