Ancient Chinese were astounding warriors, famous for their military organization and skills, as well as their ethical principles that guided them during the times of conflict.
However, it wasn’t always like that. China’s first soldiers weren’t particularly trained and organized.
All armies before the warring states period consisted of ordinary peasants who were occasionally given bows and spears to fight for their feudal lords, who acted as generals.
Later, when different states started fighting for supremacy over the rest of the Chinese world, their armies started changing, and their warriors become more and more skilled.
Professional warriors came in place of conscripts. Bit by bit, the class of warrior became well respected and had special treatment in society.
Pre-Waring States Warriors
- In earliest times, Chinese troops consisted of draftees – ordinary peasants who lived regular life of agricultural workers until the king of their home state needed an army.Those were men whose primary commitment was to provide food, but at times they needed to take the role of warriors because there was no one else who would go to war.
- These first warriors were equipped with bronze weapons and armor, and they were ill supplied. Because of limited capacity, their military actions would never last for more than a couple of months.
- It wasn’t just peasants who needed to transform into warriors. Elites went to war as well, but as officers on chariots rather than the infantry.Wealthier men contributed as well, and they served as charioteers. During this early period, if you belonged to the nobility, that was enough to earn you the title of an officer.
Warring States Warriors
- The Waring States period was a time of huge change in the way the whole society is organized. At the same time, technological progress brought new types of weapons, such as crossbows, that were made of iron.
- Chinese warriors now had to devote time and effort to develop new skills. This made infantry much more efficient, while chariot-riding aristocrats lost the significance they previously had in an army.
- No one could go to war unprepared. All conscripts now had to go through one to two years of practice before joining the army, which was now large, highly organized and disciplined.Everyone knew their role in the army, which became an incredibly efficient force.
- Some states understood better than others the importance of having skilled warriors. For example, the Wei state made it really difficult – but also extremely rewarding – to become a soldier.Those men had to march 50 kilometers a day under heavy equipment – iron armor, a helmet, spear, sword, crossbow with fifty arrows – and three days’ supply of food.On the other hand, they enjoyed a series of benefits that other members of society didn’t.
- Other than each other, Ancient Chinese warriors often encountered several nomadic tribes that had superior cavalry.Because of that, the state of Wei (and later the Zhao) developed their own cavalry units.
Qin and Han Dynasty Warriors
- The first Chinese imperial army was large and very mobile, thanks to newly-built roads that connected remote parts of the empire.
- However, warriors needed to be in the right places at the right time. For that reason, the emperor moved almost sixty thousand men with their families to live around the Great Wall of China.
- Those men were both farmers and warriors, and they knew how to fight on foot. But they weren’t able to deal with the enemy’s cavalry forces. The emperor then employed mercenaries to serve as imperial cavalry.
Three Kingdoms Soldiers
- The Wei dynasty formed a new class of warriors, called the Buqu. The greater part of the infantry came from the members of the Buqu families.
- The Buqu lived on the land that was given to their families. Children and relatives of warriors inherited their profession. Also, the descendants of warriors were only allowed to marry into other Buqu families.
In which period in ancient history did Chinese states start to train new soldiers for a year on two before they would be ready to become warriors?
It was during the Warring States period.
How did the empire deal with enemy tribes’ cavalry?
The Chinese used mercenaries from other nomadic tribes.
Who were the Buqu?
They were the military class that emerged in the Wei state during the Three Kingdoms period.
- Back to – Ancient China