UNIT: Tang Elite Vanguards: Jet Black Armor Cavalry 玄甲军 Part. 1

Music: Prince of Qin Breaks through Arrays (Tang)

Clad from head to toe in heavy jet black armor, the 玄甲军 Xuan Jia Jun or "Blacks" were 1,000- 3,500 of the most dangerous horsemen of the early Tang army and could be found repeatedly breaking all of early Tang's enemies to pieces. Many warriors of this elite corp would go on to become Tang's founding fathers, some would even become so illustrious that they became not only figurative but literal Gods in China's pantheon. Within a single generation, and with these men leading at the vanguard of its armies, the mere provincial backwater of Tang rose up and unseated the reigning Sui empire, destroyed all of its rival warlords across the realm, reunited China, then proceeded to conquer half a dozen kingdoms around its boarders. Then, again with these same men at the helm, it was able to subdue and conquer both of the 7th century East Asia's massive superpowers (the Eastern and Western Gokturk Khaganates) within the same generation. The historical and geopolitical significance of this legendary unit was something quite unmatched in the whole of Asian history, perhaps only eclipsed by Ghengis Khan's Keshigs and Alexander's Companions.

玄甲军, Xuán jiǎ jūn: "Jet Black Armor Horsemen" 
(Lit, Black Armor or Obscure Armor Army)
"玄" denotes black, gloomy, obscure
and mysterious.


The Jet Black Armor Cavalry was personal raised up by the brilliant 18 year old Prince Li Shimin of Tang. Li would not only personally win his father's rebellion against the reigning Sui dynasty as his father's champion but he also would play a pivotal role in defeating several of his emerging dynasty's most dangerous opponents in a staggering succession. These victories would lay a foundation to solidify Tang rule over China for the ensuing two and half centuries. Li Shimin would also one day become one of China's greatest Emperors: Taizong of Tang. When the Jet Black Armor Cavalry was raised, they were to act as his 1,000- 3,500 bodyguard and vanguard shock cavalry, composing of his best horsemen and nearly all of his trusted field commanders.

The design and characteristics of the Jet Black Armored Cavalry reflected the era in which it was raised. By 7th century China, northern China had seen nearly 3 full centuries of cyclical warfare between the Chinese natives and invading hordes from the steppe lands. It was through these endless clashes that the way of cavalry warfare in China dramatically changed. Especially in the manner of heavy cavalry warfare. Where as preceding Chinese dynasties in the past centuries favored extremely heavy cataphracts: men and horses all encased in heavy armor and only ordered to charge at a decisive moment in battle, by the Sui Dynasty a new great power had emerged on the back of what had been Sui China. 

The mighty Gokturk Empire that dominated all of the steppe lands with their nimble deadly horse backed archers. One of the key observations the Chinese recorded from their engagements with this fast and dangerous foe is that the Gokturks frequently do not equip their horses in heavy armor but was still able to triumph in many of their engagements: their aggressive charges and devastating charges very well compensated for their loss of heavy protection to such an extent that that the Chinese too began to eschew cataphract armors.

The Gokturk horsemen were so uncontested in their power that they made its neighbors from centuries of Chinese dynasties, Persia, and as far as the Byzantine Empire to adopt countermeasures to them. In the repeated confrontation between Sui cavalry and the Gokturks, out of sheer need match the characteristics of their nimble enemy, the Sui began to mimick the armament and tactics of their  Gokturk counterparts.

Namely- northern Chinese generals began to unilaterally changed their heavy cavalry to fight like light cavalries. In time, the Sui had elite cavalry divisions modeled after such victorious models: called Yingyang- or "Soaring Hawk" Regiments, whereby the Soaring Hawk commanders attained prominent prestige and privileges compared to the rest of the Sui Fubings (drafted units.) With the "Soaring Hawks" the Sui were able to contest the Gokturks on an even field.


Li Shimin's father, Li Yuan, the Duke of Tang, was one such military governor of Sui's northern frontiers that bordered the Gokturks. For decades he was tasked with the responsibility of defending against the Turkic incursions. The backbone of his cavalry were all Soaring Hawk regiments. In the course of his experience of war with the Gokturks, he reverse engineered many of the Turkic manner of warfare, in time, the ways of east Asian's best best cavalries were further perfected and passed on down to his children.

A contemporary Sui military governor recorded that the Turks quite feared the Soaring Hawks: "This cavalry can tactically rival the Turkic fighters." Though the warrior atop the galloping horse is armored, his horse is completely unarmored and was ridden like a nimble light cavalry. This basis can be seen as the original template of the Jet Black Armor vanguards.

As we have mentioned before, Li Shimin was very familiar with the ways of steppe warfare by being very close to his father. Despite his youth and being a second son, Li Shimin was Li Yuan's only son to be taken and study the duties of being a military governor, Shimin was his father's aide-de-camp and secretary and was thus well versed in both governance as well as warfare. Both traits he would use well in the coming age of inequity that would see the realm in flames.


Though Li Shimin was only 18 at the time of his father's rebellion, he was both a capable military commander and political leader in spite of his youth. Like all members of his aristocratic class, he was trained with both literary arts to run a civilian administration and a martial arts needed to lead men into battle. He was fully literate and was an accomplished poet + calligrapher. On the other hand, Li Shimin was also an expert in horsemanship from childhood (mother's side of the family was Xianbei thus Proto- Mongolian and had served as great cavalry generals of the proceeding Northern Zhou and Northern Wei dynasties.)

Because Shimin joined the army at an early age, he was trained in archery and swordplay, and was accustomed to wrestling. One chronicler recorded that the young son of the Duke would fight until his sword was broken and his sleeves were drenched in blood and dirt.

In his formative years, while his father was the military governor- Shimin also made decisions as his father's secretary and shadowed his father's rule. Therefore it would be unsurprising that one day, this talented son of a top tier regional governor would win the entire realm fighting as the champion of his father, and then, one day ascend the throne himself and became perhaps the greatest emperor of the dawning Tang dynasty.

The first to be enrolled into the Jet Black Armor Cavalry were Li Shimin's small group of friends and trusted aides. Shimin has always had a talent for both spotting and recruiting talented warriors and scholars (many scholars believed that he was the spy master of his father.) When Li Yuan started his rebellion, the best of Li Yuan's army was an elite cavalry unit under the leadership of generals Qiu Xinggong and Duan Zhixuan (both veterans of Sui wars in Korea) and others were pooled around Li Shimin.

In order to distinguish themselves as a unit, all of the soldiers of the vanguard was issued an ornate black armor with colorful lacework. For each of the coming battles Prince Shimin would wade in, he would donne his own black armor and fight near the vanguard of his cavalry. Soon, the Jet Black Armor Cavalry would be simply referred to as his "black troops" 玄军 or his 黑军 "blacks."


Boasting the likes of Tang founding fathers such as Qin Qiong (秦琼), Cheng Zhijie (程知節), Yuchi Jingde (尉遲恭), and Zhai Zhangsun (翟長孫) and dozens of other top tier generals and legendary first generation Tang statesmen, the names and accomplishments of the Blacks was nothing less than extraordinary. For anyone vaguely familiar with the named great ministers of the Tang, and the legendary generals and governors of this period, it was interesting to find them all serving within this illustrious unit. So as to say: some of the first "Cabinet" of the Tang were all here serving together in all of Tang's uphill battles. It was a mixture of Han, Xianbei (Proto- Mongol, as in the case of Yuchi Jinde and Qin Qiong) and many other ethnicities typical of northern China's cultural mixture.


As we have discussed before, this is a unit modeled on steppe warring traditions, thus well relied on the nimble ways of light cavalry warfare. They were heavy shock cavalry that fought like light lancers. Despite being well armored, they were familiar with indirect approach is if in a hunt. They were well practiced with sudden maneuvers and changing of directions. Most of all, they were also trained with classic steppe tactics such as feigned retreat and feigned attacks. To the Sui Chinese forces (especially to the southern natives who would have been completely unfamiliar with the warfare of the empire's north) they might as well have been Gokturks.

Elite Tang dynasty cavalryman wearing the distinctive 虎冠 "tiger crown" that marked them as some of the most elite warriors on the battlefield, sometimes the item would be sewn out of colorful fabrics with gilded rims and lacquered features that imitated a grimacing tiger while other times real tiger skin (claws and head) would be used to give the wearer a ferocious aspect. These wings usually gathered the bravest and the highest quality of fighting troops 

One of the critical advantages of such unit (after unburdening the horse from heavy cataphract armor) is that the mobility for the Blacks was very strong. Many times if they were not able to make direct gains they would frequently wheel about and make a roundabout flanking maneuver. Another advantage is their capacity for long distance campaigns and prolonged pursuits. In the campaigns against generals Xue Renyi and Liu Wu Zhou, there was a record of long-distance chase, in the pursuit of Liu Wu Zhou, after breaking through his lines, the Blacks were able to chase him for more than 3 days in a row.

In order to further maximize this unit's dangerous range and maneuverability, Li Shimin sought out to double the capability of each of those areas. Tang Army cavalry at this time should be less than 10,000, even by the time they reached Luoyang, but in order to Li Shimin adopted a new cavalry usage, he equipped one soldier with two horses each. Thus, out of his 3500 horsemen, he gave 7,000 horses to each, including horses provided from the Gokturks. With this, even autonomously, the Blacks were able to achieve long-range deep raids by themselves.


There are thirteen kinds of armor in the Tang Dynasty, the cavalry mainly uses the Mingguang armor which featured a sturdy helmet made of lamellar covered with frame and rimed by leather, some form of cheekguards, extended pauldrons to protect the shoulder and neckguard collars to protect the neck of the user; chest armor generally had coverings that were divided into two pieces, the whole cuirass was held together by having the overlapping pieces tied to the waist and shoulders and also fastened with a series of vertical and longitudinal silk ropes. Frequently there was also an additional waist tie which "locked" the entire armor and bolted it to the user's waists. Greaves would be extended down from the waist belt until they covered the two knees and the thighs.

Tang cavalry weapons are as follows: Bows and arrows, Tang cavalry were mostly equipped with a long arrow case made of leather and wood frame, where one can store up to 30 arrows. They were expected to shoot comfortably within 200 steps. The long-handled fighting weapon of the cavalry was an ornate lance (spear and not in the medieval sense) that has a long grip. The second would be a spear that also featured a single trident like fork. Another was a long glaive- like staff sword similar to a straightened nagitana that has prevailed since the Northern and Southern Dynasties. 

Short-handled fighting weapons mainly consisted of a short-handled long sword with a tassel to prevent slipping from the rider's grip. In addition to the popular guardless ring sword which was favored since the Han Dynasty, there was also a new long curved cavalry sword with a guarding handle and no ring at the handle. This blade was later spread to Japan and became the progenitors of the katana. Cavalry also use warpicks, maces, ax, whip (meteror hammers) and other weapons. For most cavalry they used a smaller circular shield.

A note to the capabilities of these first armored Blacks. First is that Taiyuan- being a major frontier garrison served as a logistic supply depot for possible invasions against the Gokturks thus was well stocked with pieces of armors, a chief provider and supplier of this army was none other than the father of the future Empress Wu Zetian. Though the total estimated number of cavalry does not exceed 3,000, it should be pointed out that compared to many of the other armies within Sui who yet suffers from local financial collapse and under-supplied by the imperial court, Tang's cavalries were well equipped in their armor.



The Blacks were raised from the basis of the Sui Fubging drafting system. Often, the drafted militia would be receive training in two forms of exercises during winter, one would train the soldiers with the effects of formation discipline and battlefield coherence. They would be drilled with learning changes in formation and how to retain cohesion as a formation. The soldiers would familiarize themselves with flags and drums of the army and the various combinations of commanding orders, repeatedly ordered to advance and reposition, to change formations and recognize and react to sudden complex orders.

The other which applied to the army was called "hunting" or "Hunting Operations" which mimicled a hunt through long treks and trained soldiers in the process of martial arts, improve individual combat skills of the soldier, and forced them learn self reliance and initiative to achieve set goals. During their spare times, the soldiers often practiced riding and hunting.


According to records, Li Shimin mimicked his father's most accomplished general Xuan-Jiajun's tactics and would use the Jet Black Aromor Cavalry in three forms of attacks: flank assault, ambush, frontal assault. Predictably for such shock cavalries, the common tactic used by Li Shimin is the flank assault, but it should be made clear, flanks in this translation may not only be the side of the enemy array, but it may also be the enemy's weak links, this also includes detours in order to get to the enemy's array.

It was recorded that: "the Prince of Qin (Li Shimin) would total his most elite riders, the mysterious armored army (Blacks) and split them into a left and right team." Each would be the other's hammer, each would be the other's anvil. Though they would be given extensive battle plans before a battle, if one is engaged the other would automatically seek out a way to exploit the pinned foe from the opposite direction and attack the weak exposed areas.


Prince Li Shimin often would observe his foes for a long extended period of time with scouts and would ride to a vantaged spot and gauge their weaknesses by himself. Frequently he would then harry them with skirmishers and launch several feined noncommital attacks to probe the enemy's response time, from which he would mentally catalog different tallies of his enemy's strength and weaknesses.

Once weakness are spotted, such as lack of supplies or general incohesion, gaps, and inexperience perceived. He would then continue the guise of maintaining the previous skirmish while preparing for a decisive battle. To engage his foes, he often split his force- each of which if required could be used as two hammers and anvils. While the enemy is pinned, the other would approach suddenly from an indirect location that flanked the enemy and quickly charge in to break them. It is in the context of knowing that Li would divide his whole forces that one understand why there were always two Jet Black Armor Cavalry wings.

Once his foes are pinned down his true fatal attack is commited in full force and Prince Shimin would ride at the head of the assault and deliver the fatal blow. His favorite point of contact often are directed against the weakest and most undisciplined "links" in the enemy flank, thus the weakest of the whole enemy army and the most unreliable soldiers. Such attacks were often fatal and would crash the enemy. As we have previously stated, because the Blacks were as fast and maneuverable as light cavalry, often they would not be expected to appear from the direction they charged out of.

As for frontal assaults they were comparably rare, although the Blacks were perhaps the best armored cavalry and could be relied on to accomplish their goals, Li Shimin himself was also very brave, often fighting at the vanguard of this vanguard, such attacks were still very risky, especially in the face of tenacious enemies. When Li Shimin and a formidable warlord named Wang Shichong clashed at Guiyang outside the metropolis of Luoyang, fierce fighting broke out.

Per his character, Li Shimin wanted to see the enemy lines with his own eyes but found little areas to offer a good view, the battle was going well for his troops but because he was unable to see the progress he felt frustrated and sought for a more advanced position along his array. Although Wang's formation was beaten up, Wang Shichong's elite cavalry spotted Li's banners, and also saw from their position that Li was extended from the lines in a poorly guarded bulge. They rushed forward and began to shower a hail of arrows against the Tang Prince. Li Shimin's mount was shot down in the melee, but thanks to the desperate rescue of the Blacks he was pulled out of danger, after several continual rounds of fierce fighting, Wang Shichong's forces were finally defeated.

But such attacks are also more complicated. An ever innovative commander, Li Shimin often allowed his horsemen to mix these three attacks up upon their own discretion. It's not uncommon for the first charge to be launched as a flank assault while the enemy was pinned down by his infantry, then have the other Black wedge attack as in an ambush, finally, reorient enough so that he could finish the much weakened enemy with a frontal assault.

Compared to frontal assaults, the second most frequently used attack was ambush. Because of their nimbleness, these units were ideal to be suddenly sprung up against an unsuspecting enemy- especially sparsely paced enemy marching columns.

During the decisive Battle of Hulao Pass, Li Shimin led 1,000 cavalry and challenged the massive 100,000- 12,000 army of Dou Jiande and succeeded in ambushing their general staff, capturing the enemy King/ Generalissimo in one fell swoop. In total, Li- with only 3,000 soldiers utterly crushed a foe 30- 40 times its entire size, capturing two enemy warlord Emperors, subduing their provinces, and made Tang the undesputed regime of China proper all done with the decisive blow delivered by his best riders: A feat that should be regarded as the crowning masterpiece of the Jet Black Armor army.


Music: Prince of Qin (Prince Li Shimin) Breaks through Enemy Arrays
Composed by Li himself and his staff

Please tuned in for our next chapter as we explore the legendary battle record of this illustrious unit. We have simplified so much about the key figures and key factions of this conflict that it would do well that you see the great context: and the great colorful narrative in which Prince Li Shimin rose from the son of a backwater frontier governor to put his own father on the dragon throne and see himself become the conqueror of whole east Asia. Where we also see his brainchild- his Jet Black Armored army went on to break nearly all of his foes to pieces in the great contention. 

If we know anything about scarcity of information in regards to Tang's meteoric rise on *the internet, you know that you don't want to miss the story that would not leave any colors, any emotions, any feats, and any details out. It is a story of revolution, survival, and conquest. A realm plunged into chaos and a Battle Royale that pitted a whole realm against a remarkable family unlike any other. Stayed tuned for Chapter 2.

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➢ ☯ José Luis Fernández-Blanco
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Dragon's Armory said…
David Graff: Medieval Chinese Warfare 300-900
Old Book of Tang
New Book of Tang (Translated)
Peter Lorge: The Asian Military Revolution: from Gunpowder to the Bomb
Haywood, John, Historical Atlas of the Medieval World, AD 600-1492
David Graff: The Eurasian Way of War Military Practice in Seventh-Century China and Byzantium,
Wright, Arthur F: The Sui dynasty (581–617)
Igor Shenderski said…
While understandable (considering context),
These cavaliers were by no means light.
Borderline between light and heavy cavalry is about horses, not about armor of a mount or even of a rider.

There is a good(albeit modern and artificial) term medium cavalry for such intermediate cases.
Dragon's Armory said…
Agreed, if anything they should be designated as shock cavalry.

I have the same problem with the world "knight" from time to time, because they could be both light, medium, or very heavy
Igor Shenderski said…

Shock cavalry is a game term.

Mounted infantry: anything capable of carrying a soldier will do, they aren't designed to fight on horse to begin with.
Funnily enough, the bulk of fearsome stepoe archers aren't too far from this category, despite almost always fighting from the mount.

Light cavalry: mass of the mount below 500kg.
Both the most useful cavalry and the most limited on the battlefield, essentially incapable of a combat with unbroken enemy. Great material for archers, though.

"medium" cavalry(for most nations can be read as heavy). 500-600kg mount.
Most types of cavalry are here. Directly combat-capable(can charge), decently mobile. Heavier horses in this category are perfectly capable of carrying armor and man-at-arms, but it restricts them in many ways(getting tired much faster, can't jump over obstacles and so on).

"heavy"- above 600(previously many sources stated 800+ for destriers, but it just doesn't match available barding).

European Knight...well, proper European Knight is always heavy.
Even if he's 10th century one, with just a sleeved long mail shirt, helnet and shield.
Otherwise(wrong mount and/or equipment) he just isn't proper :-)
Dragon's Armory said…
I see. I think by this categorization they are medium cavalry.

This is a unit that was able to cover a lot of grounds by themselves aside from being sometimes reserved for that decisive charge. As we continue with their history I'll detail their performance records in the next chapter.
Dragon's Armory said…
I'm actually quite happy with categorizing them as medium cavalry, yeah its modern but then again, the distinction's there. Just out of curiosity, you would label something like: say, Carolingian knights as medium too by this metric right?

Earlier when I was talking about light cavalry, I was thinking of Numidian cavalry of antiquity, stradiots in the late middle ages, hussars in the 18th century Europe etc. As you can see, a good number of them despite being ^ within your categorization as light thus " essentially incapable of a combat with unbroken enemy," could be relied on for opportunistic charges and when they do- could deal a reasonable amount of damage.

I was never under the impression that the Blacks were light, not in my article either (yeah *as you said I was referring to the horses) medium right now sounds the best.
Igor Shenderski said…
I am not educated about Carolingian Knights, or about era of Charlemagne for the matter.
Probably some kind of intermediate unit, really.
Norman Knights(X century on) certainly were heavy.
But it's worth saying what European heavy cavalry from 9-10 century on deviates a lot from the rest of the world in the way how it fought.

Horse armor is useful with 3 conditions: (1)you can afford it and produce it, (2)catching up with your opponent(I.E.agility and endurance) isn't a problem, and (3)You need combat persistence against dedicated infantry.

Classic examples - Parthians against roman legions, Liao/Jin against Song, or 15th century European knights.
Der said…
What are your thoughts on the sociological affects of ditching heavy cataphract type cavalry by the Tang due to nomadic influence? Heavy cavalry is expensive, with armour for rider along with armoured horse, weapons, horse(s) and of course constant training. A cataphrati (or knight) needs an estate worked by serfs to pay for this panoply. This has caused the rise in classic feudalism in Europe with knights, sipahis in the Ottoman empire, and samurai in Japan, and cataphract themselves in Sassasnid Persia. This didn't happen in Tang China, despite Li Shimin himself wanting to revive feudalism like the classic Zhou dynasty with hereditary holdings for his generals and ministers. Interestingly his ministers are the ones who argued against it.
Dragon's Armory said…
Feudal Warrior Aristocracy
There is always a possibility for that: By the end of the Northern and Southern dynasties, northern China was essentially very feudal. It is composed of a warrior aristocracy, trade has stagnated to such a degree that it had reverted to a barter system in many areas, wealth became further tied to landholdings, all of which entrenches the military aristocrats. I could almost see a possibility to have locally raised empire- nobles (like the Timariot Spahis for the Ottomans) as a middle way between the Fubing levy system or the later more professional military system of the Jiedushi. But without Li implementing it empire wide its just relegated to the realm of imaginations for me. I for one am glad for the early Tang bureaucracy, Taizong, Wu, and Xuanzong made it work and I can't complain of the golden age they presided over.

Dragon's Armory said…
As for revive feudalism:
Well in that front, thank God Li didn't get his wish, I mean just look at the Jiedushi and what came after in the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period. Idk, I just never gave feudalism that much credence. I always felt China was rather avant garde by the Qin and Han to be a proper empire and ditch a feudalistic system. I feel that a feudal system is often too localized and most of the time I care not for inheritance laws or wasteful wars of succession (unless in fantasy novels.) Aside from cool warrior- aristocrats and colorful sigils I feel it divides the people too much, Gallic chiefdom and Indian princely states comes to mind.

My point being, what's the good to come off it? Especially when its predicated on a system of division and localization where landholders fights within the same people? I always imagined that feudalism have to eventually at some time give way to the modern nation state, and I'd say most often an empire would have an easier time transition into one.

HRE and Polish Lithuanian Commonwealth both failed in this regard, and both were essentially "Republic of Princes" as one German Prince- Elector declared during the 30 Years War. ^I'd point to both of them and say that too high of local autonomy ruined everyone's collective chance of having a steamlined nation.

I remember distinctively reading that in Poland-Lithuania, if a noble is mad about the Diet's decisions, they could actually legally raise their own army and declare a mini- civil war against the government in order to facilitate his demands. It's called a "Confederation" and its the most ANCAPISTAN thing I have ever heard. Japan is the exception to the rule, but I would argue that the cabal of elites actually wanted a nation and in turn used the emperor to create a new unified reality in order to escape from the feudal (Shogunate) past.

I'm sure a lot of late Western Zhou, early Spring and Autumn, late Han early Three Kingdoms warlords reveled at the opportunity in chaos (Cao Cao comes to mind,) or late Tang and early Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period, or Late Qing and Warlord Era. My point being, whenever central court is weak in China, most of the time it descends and Balkanize into a patchwork of bloodthirsty warlords who cared little for the peasants while they warred among themselves. Early Han and Early Tang ^were exactly like that as well but fortunately they were able to rapidly consolidate their reign thus preventing a possible alternative political reality.
kol said…
You know my DnD character most likely they will implement Legalist style reforms in a feudal fantasy setting .
kol said…
Dragon's Armory said…
Is this Thomasbol :D
Der said…
Thank you for the response!

I have always thought that China's escape from feudalism is all due to one man ... namely Li Si of the Qin State (and later Qin Dynasty), the Minister of Justice of Qin and later Chancellor of the First Emperor. It is all due to his persuasive skills and logical mind that an all-powerful Emperor decided not to walk the same path of the Zhou Dynasty. This is sort of like serfdom/slavery in Russia being banned by fiat by Czar Alexander in the 1860's unlike the Americans who fought a bloody Civil War. Europe had to go through the Black Death of the 14th century to end serfdom and their feudalism, and Japan still had feudalism and an enslaved serf/peasant class right up to the end of the Tokugawa dynasty in the 19th century!

I think because of this centuries long antipathy to feudalism is what persuaded Tang Taisung's from reimposing feudalism, the notion was considered rediculous by his Ministers.
Dragon's Armory said…
Kol: My apologies, one of my friend is actually working on that, Thomas Col's his name

As for Kaiserreich, yeah its a cool project man, and I have see the concept art for the factions/ units. But I'm afraid I don't know coding :(. I am, however familiar with Chinese language and art...and its culture.

Dragon's Armory said…

Political organizations are foremost one thing in my opinion, systems. And those who can institute long term unity and stability has the best chance of expanding out while their neighbors suffers from disunity and fragmentation as a result of aforementioned disunity.

On that front I must say the Tang were smart to see the example of the Zhou warlord-Kings and the giant mess the collapse of Han authority ushered in: over three centuries of warfare and weakness.

What you said about Russia and Japan were quite right. It was extremely unpopular reforms, even before Alexander, Peter the Great tried to modernize Russia and he faced opposition to each. As for Japan same thing happened, there were so many peasants against the notion of publicly funded westernized schools that in one year hundreds of those schools across the realm were burnt. But the govt kept insisting on such modernization measures. I always thought that to truly affect change, it needs to be done in a top down manner and thoroughly educated throughout the polity's ranks, what's more, is that the powers-that-be needs to have the persistence in follow through the policy for generations to have it systematized.

And although I consider myself well in the green square of the political compass, this is how Rome integrated so many people within one system, how Christinization expanded, and how the 19th century nations were truly forged. All admittedly authoritarian, but at those times- it was do or die, polities that didn't affect such adaptive changes (such as Poland) were broken up and gobbled up by the empires on its fringes and wholly absorbed. This is also how the various Indian princes were all absorbed by the British and Dutch and Portugese etc. So perhaps you can understand how I would look at the examples of Poland and India and say that a people sometimes much implement top down direct reforms...ironically in order to preserve the very freedom and sovereignty they have?

I mean, ultimately despite Japan's great feudal resistance to change, it modernized to relevancy and a great power status while Poland was utterly consumed and chained until Id say the 1990s.
Der said…
Haha, you're an advocate of authoritarian centralized power? How politically incorrect!! How Legalist of you, I suppose your're an admirer of Shang Yang too?

There are many advocates of this ancient school of Legalism these days, hence the popularity of such leaders as Vlad Putin and the recent moves in China with Xi's move to scrap term limits.

For me, I think there is good and bad in all systems, for every Li Shimin of Tang there is a Puyi of Qing. For every Xi Jingping there is a Donald Trump right?

But I think the history of Rome is instructive, their office of Dictator saved Rome during many emergencies throughout the history of their Republic, most notably during the Punic Wars against Hannibal. But it was Dictatorship that finally destroyed their Republic. Like I said, good and bad.
Dragon's Armory said…
I'm not a legalist but I do hate endless partisan deadlock.
Not saying I am one but at least looking at historical models I see the merit for strongmen type of governments to get things done. Yeah, gets things done in the short term, screws up the playing field and the meritocracy in the long term. And its not all terrible, look at Kemal Attaturk, Haile Selassie of Ethiopia (a monarch,) Broz Tito, Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore and I'd say they were good leaders compared the the backward strife- filled quagmire before them.

All depends on the context: Republic is good because ideally most of the time people could legally challenge those candidates. However if left unchecked it will descend to mind numbingly stupid partisan impotence. Nothing will get done and everyone hates everyone only the rich corporations and lobbys have their belly full while the plebs are drowning.

Conversely a purely hereditary authoritarian regime will be unchecked even if they are screwing up everything royally, and worst of all, alternatives outside their cliques are regarded as a threat rather than a legitimate path at the citizen's discretion.

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