Wujing Zongyao

Wujing Zongyao

The "Wujing Zongyao" (Zh-cpwl|c=武经总要|p="Wǔjīng Zǒngyào"|w="Wu Ching Tsung Yao"|l=Collection of the Most Important Military Techniques) was a Chinese military compendium written in 1044 AD, during the Northern Song Dynasty. Its authors were the prominent scholars Zeng Gongliang (曾公亮), Ding Du (丁度), and Yang Weide (楊惟德), whose writing influenced many later Chinese military writers. The book covered a wide range of subjects, everything from naval warships to different types of catapults. Although the English philosopher and friar Roger Bacon was the first to mention the sole ingredients of gunpowder in 1267 (i.e. strictly saltpetre, sulphur, and charcoal) when referring to firecrackers in "various parts of the world", the "Wujing Zongyao" was the first book in history to record the written formulas for gunpowder solutions containing saltpetre, sulphur, and charcoal, along with many added ingredients.Ebrey, 138.] It also described an early form of the compass (using ), and had the oldest illustration of a Chinese Greek Fire flamethrower with a double-acting two-piston cylinder-pump that shot a continuous blast of flame.Needham, Volume 5, Part 7, 83]


Under the imperial order of Emperor Renzong of Song (r. 1022-1063 AD), a team of Chinese scholars compiled the treatise of the "Wujing Zongyao" from 1040 to 1044, in order to improve the knowledge of all the known martial techniques used in warfare.Needham, Volume 5, Part 7, 601] Needham, Volume 5, Part 7, 19.] Its chief editor was Zeng Gongliang, while he was assisted by the prominent astronomer Yang Weide and the scholar Ding Du. The Wujing Zongyao was one of 347 military treatises listed in the biographical chapters of the "Song Shi" (1345 AD), the historical work that embodied part of the Twenty-Four Histories. Of these 347 different military treatises from the Song Dynasty period, only the "Wujing Zongyao", the "Huqianjing" (Tiger Seal Manual) of Xu Dong in 1004 AD, and fragments of similar works found in the later "Yonglo Datian" have survived. The original text of the Wujing Zongyao was kept in the Imperial Library, while a number of hand-written copies were distributed elsewhere, including a copy given to Wang Shao by Emperor Shenzong of Song in 1069 AD.Needham, Volume 5, Part 7, 19-20.] However, with the sacking of the capital Kaifeng by the invading Jurchens in 1126 AD, the enormous amount of prized literature found in the Imperial Library was lost, including the original copy of the "Wujing Zongyao".Needham, Volume 5, Part 7, 20.] After the original was lost, there was only a scarce amount of surviving copies rewritten by hand. There was a scarcity because the book was meant to be kept a secret amongst a few trustees of the government, as publishing and printing many copies using woodblock printing would have allowed the possibility of it falling into enemy hands. Nevertheless, from a remaining copy of the "Wujing Zongyao", it was remade into a newly published edition in 1231 AD during the Southern Song Dynasty era. Then, during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644 AD), a book published in 1439 AD featured fragments of the original "Wujing Zongyao" edition of 1231 while omitting some material and combining it with two other books, the preface of this book written by Li Jin.Needham, Volume 5, Part 7, 21.] Then there was a reprinted edition of the entire "Wujing Zongyao" in 1510 AD, this complete version being the oldest extant copy available. Furthermore, the historian Joseph Needham asserts that this edition of 1510 AD is the most reliable in its faithfulnes to the original version, since it was printed from blocks that were re-carved directly from tracings of the edition made in 1231 AD.

After the edition of 1510 was printed, other Ming Dynasty copies were made. This included the Jiajing edition (1522-1566 AD), the Wanli edition (1573-1619 AD) of Quanzhou, and the Wanli edition (1573-1619) of Jinling by Tang Xinyün (preserved by Cunjingge). During the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911 AD) it was also reprinted in two different editions during the 18th century, and again in 1934 with the Shanghai edition.

Compass and navigation

In the 3rd century, the Chinese engineer Ma Jun invented the South Pointing Chariot. This was a wheeled vehicle that employed differential gearing in order to lock a figurine of an immortal in place on the end of a long wooden staff, the figure having its arm stretched out and always pointing to the southern cardinal direction. Although the authors of the "Wujing Zongyao" were mistaken in believing that the design of the South Pointing Chariot was not handed down (as it was reinvented during the Song period and combined with an odometer), they described a new device which allowed one to navigate. This was the 'south pointing fish' (a thermoremanence compass), essentially a heated iron (or preferably steel) object cut in the shape of a fish and suspended in a bowl of water. The "Wujing Zongyao" text stated:

When troops encountered gloomy weather or dark nights, and the directions of space could not be distinguished, they let an old horse go on before to lead them, or else they made use of the south-pointing carriage, or the south-pointing fish to identify the directions. Now the carriage method has not been handed down, but in the fish method a thin leaf of iron is cut into the shape of a fish two inches long and half an inch broad, having a pointed head and tail. This is then heated in a charcoal fire, and when it has become thoroughly red-hot, it is taken out by the head with iron tongs and placed so that its tail points due north. In this position it is quenched with water in a basin, so that its tail is submerged for several tenths of an inch. It is then kept in a tightly closed box. To use it, a small bowl filled with water is set up in a windless place, and the fish is laid as flat as possible upon the water-surface so that it floats, whereupon its head will point south.Needham, Volume 4, Part 1, Page 252]

Writing several decades after the "Wujing Zongyao" was written, the scientist and statesman Shen Kuo (1031-1095 AD) wrote of the first truly magnetized compass needle in his book "Dream Pool Essays" (1088 AD). With a more efficient compass magnetized by lodestone, the thermoremanence compass fell out of use.Needham, Volume 4, Part 1, 252-253.] The later maritime author Zhu Yu soon wrote of the magnetic needle compass as a means to navigate at sea, in his book "Pingzhou Table Talks" of 1119 AD.

Gunpowder formulas and weapons

Gunpowder warfare began in China during the early 10th century, with the advent of the blackpowder-impregnated fuse that was used to light the burst of the Chinese two-piston flamethrower.Needham, Volume 5, Part 7, 80-82.] However, despite circumstantial evidence to the invention of gunpowder as early as the 3rd-4th century BC by the alchemist Ge Hong,Liang, pp. Appendix C VII] it was not until the "Wujing Zongyao" that the exact formulas for early Chinese blackpowder was revealed. In the "Wujing Zongyao" there are three formulas for blackpowder provided, including one for an explosive bomb launched from a trebuchet catapult, another for a similar bomb with hooks attached so that it could latch on to any wooden structure and set it on fire, and another formula specified for a poison-smoke bomb used for chemical warfare.Needham, Volume 5, Part 7, 117.] The "Wujing Zongyao" stated that simple incendiary weapons were launched from catapults, thrown down from city walls at besiegers, or let down by iron chains from a swape lever set up on the top of the wall.Needham, Volume 5, Part 7, 70-71.] There was also description of the 'igniter ball' used in warfare and in finding firing range. The "Wujing Zongyao" stated the following:

The 'igniter ball' (yin huo qiu) is made of paper round like a ball, inside which is put between three and five pounds of powdered bricks. Melt yellow wax and let it stand until clear, then add powdered charcoal and make it into a paste permeating the ball; bind it up with hempen string. When you want to find the range of anything, shoot off this fire-ball first, then other incendiary balls can follow.Needham, Volume 5, Part 7, 73.]

As Joseph Needham states, the "Wujing Zongyao"'s first recorded blackpowder formula used in these bombs held a potassium nitrate level of 55.4% to 55.5%, sulfur content of 19.4% to 26.5%, and carbonaceous content of 23% to 25.2%.Needham, Volume 5, Part 7, 120.] For the second labeled formula, the inner ball alone had a nitrate percentage of 61.5% to 50.2%, a sulfur content of 30.8% to 25.1%, and if all carbonaceous matter was taken, 24.7%, if just taking the charcoal content alone, the carbon level was 7.7%. If the outer coating and inner ball are both included with the second blackpowder formula, that would yield a nitrate level of 34.7% to 54.8%, a sulfur content of 17.4% to 27.4%, and if all carbonaceous material is used, 47.9% carbon, if only charcoal is used, 17.8%. If the inner ball of the third blackpowder formula is only considered, it held nitrate levels of 39.6% if all carbonaceous matter was taken, 49.4% nitrate if excluding the poisons, and 60% if charcoal is specified alone.Needham, Volume 5, Part 7, 124.] The sulfur content was 19.8% if all carbonaceous matter was considered, 24.7% if this excluded poisons, and 30% if charcoal is specified alone. The carbon content was 40.5% if all carbonaceous matter was considered, 25.9% if this excluded poisons, and 10% if charcoal alone was specified. If both the inner ball and outer coating are considered for the third formula, that would yield a nitrate level of 27% if all carbonaceous matter was taken, 31.2% if this excluded poisons, and 51.7% if charcoal alone was used. The sulfur content would be 13.5% if all carbonaceous matter was taken, 15.6% if this excluded the poisons, and 25.9% if only charcoal alone was specified.Needham, Volume 5, Part 7, 124.] The carbon content was 59.5% if all carbonaceous matter was taken into account, 53.2% if this excluded poisons, and 22.4% if charcoal alone was specified.

The first blackpowder concoction was simply labeled as the "method for making the fire-chemical", with its ingredients and measured weight (in ounces) of each ingredient listed in the section below with the others listed in similar fashion.


1st FormulaNeedham, Volume 5, Part 7, 118.]
*Sulfur (14 oz.)
*Wo huang ('nest yellow', perhaps nodular sulfur) (7 oz.)
*Saltpetre (40 oz.)
*Hemp roots (1 oz.)
*Dried lacquer (1 oz.)
*Arsenic (1 oz.)
*White lead (lead carbonate) (1 oz.)
*Bamboo roots (1 oz.)
*Minium (lead tetroxide) (1 oz.)
*Yellow wax (0.5 oz.)
*Clear oil (0.1 oz.)
*Tung oil (0.5 oz.)
*Pine resin (14 oz.)
*Thick oil (0.1 oz.)Total weight = 82.2 oz.

2nd FormulaNeedham, Volume 5, Part 7, 122.] Inner ball
*Sulphur (20 oz.)
*Saltpetre (40 oz.)
*Coarse charcoal powder (5 oz.)
*Pitch (2.5 oz.)
*Dried lacquer (pounded to powder) (2.5 oz.)
*Bamboo roots (1.1 oz.)
*Hemp roots, cut into shreds (1.1 oz.)
*Tung oil (2.5 oz.)
*Lesser oil (possibly an edible oil) (2.5 oz.)
*Wax (2.5 oz.)Total weight of inner ball = 79.7 oz.Outer coating
*Paper (12.5 oz.)
*Hemp (fibre) (10 oz.)
*Minium (1.1 oz)
*Charcoal powder (8 oz.)
*Pitch (2.5 oz)
*Yellow wax (2.5 oz)Total weight of outer coating = 36.6 oz.Total weight = 116.3 oz.

3rd FormulaNeedham, Volume 5, Part 7, 123-124.] Inner ball
*Sulphur (15 oz.)
*Saltpetre (30 oz.)
*Aconite (aconitum fischeri) (5 oz.)
*Croton oil (croton tiglium) (5 oz.)
*Wolfsbane (aconitum ferox or lycoctonum) (5 oz.)
*Tung oil (5 oz.)
*Lesser oil (2.5 oz.)
*Charcoal powder (5 oz.)
*Pitch (5 oz.)
*Arsenic (2 oz.)
*Yellow wax (1 oz.)
*Bamboo roots (1.1 oz.)
*Hemp roots (1.1 oz.)Total weight of inner ball = 77.7 oz.Outer coating
*Old paper (12.5 oz.)
*Hemp (stalk) skin fibre (10 oz.)
*Pitch (2.5 oz.)
*Yellow wax (2.5 oz.)
*Minium (1.1 oz.)
*Charcoal (8 oz.)Total weight of outer coating = 36.6 oz.Total weight = 114.3 oz.

Flamethrower and Greek fire

The first Chinese battle to use the piston-pump flamethrower firing Greek fire was the battle between Wenmu Wang and Qian Yuanguan in 932 during the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period.Needham, Volume 5, Part 7, 81-82.] The Chinese author Lin Yu explained in his book of 919 AD that Greek fire was acquired from their Arab maritime trade contacts in the Indian Ocean.Needham, Volume 5, Part 7, 82.] Furthermore, the Chinese had been using the piston syringe since the Han Dynasty (202 BC-220 AD). However, it was the later "Wujing Zongyao" that would provide the first illustrated drawing and greater textual explanation for how this flamethrower operated. In describing the drawn illustration of the flamethrower in the book, the "Wujing Zongyao" states:

Then the text goes on to provide further instructions about equipment, maintenance, and repair of flamethrowers:

Illustrations from the Wujing Zongyao

ee also

*History of the Song Dynasty
*Gunpowder warfare
*Technology of the Song Dynasty
*Jiao Yu
*Battle of Tangdao
*Battle of Caishi



*Ebrey, Patricia Buckley (1999). "The Cambridge Illustrated History of China". Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-43519-6 (hardback); ISBN 0-521-66991-X (paperback).
*Feng Jiasheng (1954). "The Invention of Gunpowder and Its Spread to The West". Shanghai: Shanghai People's Press. TQ56-09/1
*Needham, Joseph (1986). "Science and Civilization in China: Volume 4, Physics and Physical Technology, Part 1, Physics". Taipei: Caves Books Ltd.
*Needham, Joseph (1986). "Science and Civilization in China: Volume 5, Chemistry and Chemical Technology, Part 7, Military Technology; the Gunpowder Epic". Taipei: Caves Books, Ltd.

External links

* [http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0073-0548(199612)56%3A2%3C508%3ASACICV%3E2.0.CO%3B2-V JSTOR]
* [http://authors.history-forum.com/liang_jieming/chinesesiegewarfare/index.html Chinese Siege Warfare: Mechanical Artillery & Siege Weapons of Antiquity ]

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