At the beginning of the Chin dynasty the permanent garrison of the Imperial armies consisted of the Seven Armies (七軍 Ch'i-chün) and the troops of the Five Colonels (五校 Wu-hsiao). The Seven Armies were the Left Guards (左衛軍 Tso-wei Chün), Right Guards (右衛軍 Yu-wei Chün), Forward Army (前軍 Ch'ien Chün), Rear Army (後軍Hou Chün), Left Army (左軍 Tso Chün), Right Army (右軍 Yu Chün) and the Valiant Cavalry (驍騎軍 Hsiao-chi Chün) each with its own general while overall command of the armies lay with the court. The Five Colonels were still the same as the Han organization of the Encamped Cavalry (屯騎 Tun-chi), the Yüeh Cavalry (越騎 Yüeh-chi), the Infantry (步兵 Pu-ping), the Long Stream (長水 Chang-shui) and the Sound of Shooting Arrows (射聲 She-Sheng) each managing a camp (營 ying, or a battalion) of 1,000 men and was later augmented with the additon of two camps, the Support Army (翊軍 I-chün) and the Massed Bows (積弩 Chi-nu, could also be a crossbow), to also become part of the permanent guard. Among all of these armies the two Guards, Left and Right, were the most important. During the period when Chin Wu-ti was subduing the kingdom of Wu he also organized four units of troops, the Forest of Plumes (羽林 Yü-lin), Rapid as Tigers (虎賁 Hu-pen), Upper Cavalry (上騎 Shang-chi) and Opposing Force (異力 I-li) under the command of the Valiant Cavalry General (驍騎將軍 Hsiao-chi Chiang-chün). During the revolt of the Eight Kings the imperial armies were divided and scattered so that by the coming of the Eastern Chin period the organization of the central Imperial armies was much reduced. During the reign of Chin Ai-ti an edict changed the name of the Left Army General to that of Mobile Attack General (遊擊將軍 Yu-chi Chiang-chün) who was then paired with the Valiant Cavalry General and along with the Left and Right Guards combined to form the Four Armies (四軍 Ssu-chün) while the Front, Rear, and Right Armies along with the Five Colonels were disbanded. This is the approximate situation of the central military organization during the Western and Eastern Chin Dynasties.
After Chin Wu-ti had pacified Wu, he did away with the later Han problem of local military structures carving up the country by completely doing away with the troops of the provinces and commanderies while in large commanderies he established one-hundred men as civil military officials with fifty in the small commanderies with only the brave to be led. Since the countryside had no regular standing army when the Five Barbarian Tribes revolted and bandits rose up in swarms there was no way to restrain them. At the same time that this was happening the landed nobility (king, duke and marquis) were usurping military authority from the government, each leading his own troops and setting up garrisons along strategic routes thus leading to the formation of a peculiar kind of feudal power that while it was not strong enough to deter foreign intrusion did lead to numerous revolts that finally culminated in the Revolt of the Eight Kings during the Western Chin. With the advent of the Eastern Chin and the loss of the north, the regime entered into a prolonged period of chaos and social upheaval brought about by war. In the countryside the provincial prefects (刺史 tz'u-shih) assumed authority over military affairs while the titles of the various generals multiplied with the names such as the Four Campaigns (征 Cheng), the Four Pacifies (鎭 Chen), the Four Stabilize (安 An) and the Four Tranquilize (平 P'ing) (each prefixed with a direction: east, south, west and north). All of the Prefects and Inspector-Generals (都督 Tu-tu) had the power and authority to conscript troops along with tactical and strategic command. The government office of the generals and inspector-generals was the chün-fu (軍府 army headquarters) whose organization was staffed by a chang-shih (長史 Chief Clerk), Ssu-ma (司馬 major), chu-ts'an-chün (諸參軍 Military consultant), fu kung-ts'ao (府功曹 staff bureau of merit) and chu-pu (主簿 master of records). At first the military and civil administrations were separate with the military headquarters managing only military affairs and the prefect's staff managing only civilian affairs, but later this distinction gradually disappeared as the military staff came to dominate the provincial officials. Thus, the military authority of the countryside grew greater with each passing day in a situation that bore a striking resemblance to that of the local administrative units that carved up the empire during the last days of the Han. In addition to these, on the agricultural lands of the frontier the Western Chin set up the hu-ch'iang (護羌 protecting the Ch'iang), the hu-i (護 protecting the eastern barbarians), the hu-man (護 protecting the man) and other colonels (hsiao-wei) as well as generals of the Gentlemen of the Household (郎將 chung lang-chiang) protecting the Hsiung-nü (護 hu-hsiung-nü), protecting the ch'iang, protecting the western barbarians (護 hu-jung), protecting the man (護 hu-man), protecting the eastern barbarians (護 hu-i), and protecting the yueh (護 hu-yueh) with separate military commands along the borders to guard against incursions by the barbarians, but after the mutiny of the Five Barbarians they were disbanded. The Eastern Chin also set up Colonels Protecting the Western I, protecting the Southern Man and others, however, they were set up without any particular order and were for the most part sinecures with no real power.
During the Eastern Chin local military strength was divided into upstream and downstream, the upstream military center was in Ching-chou while the downstream military center was in Yang-chou. The downstream military power were the troops called the Pei Fu-ping (北府兵 Northern Military District Troops) enlisted from among the seasoned fighters of Huai-nan which were stationed at Ching-k'ou () in the Kuang-ling () area, while those stationed in the Li-yang () area were known as the Hsi Fu-ping (西府兵 Western Military District Troops), however, the Northern Military District Troops are the best known. This formation had its beginnings in the year T'ai-yuan 1 (376 A.D.) when Hsieh Hsüan (謝玄) garrisoned Kuang-ling in the north and enlisted accomplished fighters from Huai-nan, trained as a fresh fighting force, and with Liu Han-chih as their Military Consultant (ts'an-chih) they could not help but win every battle to thus make noble the name "Northern District Troops." The victory at Fei-shui and Liu Yu's gaining fame were both dependent upon these Northern District Troops.
The organization of the central military formations for the Southern Dynasties was about the same as that of the Western and Eastern Chin, but during the period of the Liu-Sung the Left and Right Armies and the Five Colonels were revived while during the Liang the Six Armies were reestablished: Left Guards, Right Guards, Directing the Army (軍 Ling-chün), Protecting the Army (軍 Hu-chün), and the Mobile Attack and Valiant Cavalry Armies. Also during the Southern Dynasties the troops which were based in the capital area were known by the title of T'ai-chün (軍 Imperial Army) but these forces had a very weak combat strength so that when they were used to guard against foreign incursions during an outbreak of civil war they often were defeated and scattered. Large military forces were for the most part confined to local garrisons whose organization was similar to that of the Eastern Chin.
When the Northern Wei first set up their capital in P'ing-ch'eng the central government established the General-in-Chief of the Four Suburbs (hsiang) to command the imperial armies. When the emperor Hsiao-wn-ti transferred the capital to Lo-yang 150,000 war-like and spirited soldiers were selected to form the Forest of Plumes (羽林 Yü-lin) and Rapid as Tigers (虎賁 Hu-pen) armies in order to fill out the permanent guard. The central armies of the Northern Ch'i were divided into Inner and Outer Bureaus, the Inner Bureau representing the cavalry and the Outer Bureau the infantry. The local military organization consisted of prefects serving as concurrent inspector-general of military affairs much like the dynasties in the south. During the initial years of the Northern Wei large local forces were concentrated in the various garrisons along the northern frontier and the majority of the garrison commanders were chosen from capable relative and the sons of illustrious families and given handsome compensation. After the move to Lo-yang this organization was disbanded while the border troops were neglected, a circumstance which eventually led to the revolt of the Six Garrisons. The local military organizations of the Northern Ch'i were approximately the same as those of the Northern Wei.
The system of district troops (府兵 fu-ping: a kind of militia administered through local military districts) that was established by the Northern Chou, was a major improvement in the military systems of the Southern and Northern Dynasties period, the institution first taking shape during the reign of Yu-wen T'ai. As the power behind the Western Wei throne, Yu-wen T'ai accepted the advice of Su Ch'o setting up Six Armies on the pattern of the Chou Li. Because at the time the Hsien-pei tribal levies were already decayed and useless, therefore, among the households of the upper six ranks (beginning in the Northern Wei the civilian population was divided into nine ranks on the basis of their total assets) able-bodied men of good families with property and ability were ordered to submit to military service. All of those who did serve were exempted from paying taxes (land and labor service), and when the state needed them they were called up for active duty but otherwise they tilled their fields to support themselves. During the agricultural slack season there was training and field exercises in battle formations with the entire country organized into some one-hundred military districts which functioned as peacetime training organizations. (NOTE: These fu were depots where recruits assembled and trained. As such the fu is an administrative unit, but it is not clear if it also functioned as a tactical unit.) Every district had a lang-chiang (郎將 Gentleman Officer) assigned to it who was in charge of training, while one-hundred districts were grouped into twenty-four armies (開府 chün) each of which were commanded by a K'ai-fu Chiang-chün (開府將軍 General Palatine), and for every two of them there was a Ta Chiang-chün (將軍 Grand General), and for every two of them there was a Chu-kuo Chiang-chün (柱國將軍 Pillar of the State General), thus in the entire state there were six Pillar of the State Generals, twelve Grand Generals, twenty-four Generals Palatine, and one-hundred Gentlemen Officers in command of the one-hundred military districts. At the time Yu-wen T'ai himself was the Inspector-General of All Inner and Outer Military Affairs and in complete control of an army that had become an extremely tight-knit organization.chart
Ever since the collapse of the Han Dynasty system of citizen-draft, the system of military manpower procurement during the Ts'ao-Wei, Chin and Southern Dynasties fell into complete disorder and this was particularly true during the rebellion of the Five Barbarians when the capital was moved to the left-bank of the Yangtze. After that many of the military units were organized from refugees, prisoners of war, slaves, native peoples (t'u-jen) and exiles and at the time this was usually called "sending slaves to become soldiers" or "enlistment according to the times." To analyze the background and nature of these troops is extremely complicated. What follows is a brief outline of what it known.
Ever since the Ts'ao-Wei and Chin Dynasties there has only been the military households, these households were included in the military registers and were not the same as the ordinary civilian households. Those who became a military household would usually spend all of their life in military service as son replaced father, and younger brother replaced older brother to create a sort of hereditary caste of professional soldiers, whose situation in life was very bitter. During major national ceremonies military households were often remitted to become commoners. The majority of those that had been organized into military households were political or criminal exiles. There were also those captured from wild tribes and then organized into military households. These are all different from those of the Hsien-pei tribal levies of the Northern Dynasties who entered into military service for the glory.
We have already seen the rise of the pu-chu in a preceeding volume, in the midst of the Western and Eastern Chin when the Central Plain was in turmoil there were many pu-chu as numerous groups of helpless wanderers all either came to rely on or put forward a military leader as their protector becoming his dependents, the largest ones had over one-thousand families while the smallest wer several tens of households. From the very first these pu-chu, because of their shared suffering were always willing to give their lives for their leader and usually had a significant fight capability. For example, those who Tsu T'i led into combat against Shih Le were for the most part pu-chu. Over a long period of time the pu-chu also became transformed into a kind of professional soldier and it was common to confuse them with the military households. The difference between them was that the military households were national troops who were loyal to the government, while the pu-chu were private troops loyal to their military commanderand then when these military commanders obeyed the orders of the state then the pu-chu gradually became the same as military households.
The nobility and aristocracy of the Western and Eastern Chin and the Southern Dynasties all maintained large groups of male slaves and when the nation began military operations it would frequently requisition their slaves to send into battle. For example, during the reign of Chin Yuan-ti, Tai Yuan mobilized ten-thousand commoners and slaves from Yang-chou to serve as soldiers, and when Yu I wanted to campaign in the north he mobilized the slaves of six provinces to serve as his soldiers.
Because in the Western and Eastern Chin and the Southern Dynasties there was a manpower shortage and insufficient combat power, there often was enlistment who aim was to recruit fresh troops with special combat abilities, for example, during the reign of Chin Wu-ti, Ma Lung was ordered to campaign against Shu-chi-nung in the northwest, prior to which he held a special enlistment form men who had the strength to draw a thrity-six chün bow (a pull of about 48 lbs). In addition, the above mentioned North District Troops that were trained by Hsieh Hsüan of the Eastern Chin were also the result of thie kind of enlistment and those that were recruited were all able-bodied men of Chiang-pei and Huai-nan. It had been the case that from the Eastern Chin on down through the Southern Dynasties the common men of Chiang-nan were for the most part weak and cowardly. It was only the inhabitants of Chiang-pei and the Huai valley that were imbued with a fierce spirit and practiced fighting, and the men of the time knew them as the "able-bodied outcasts of Ch'u" (ts'eng-Ch'u chuang-shih). Among the pu-chu of Tsu T'i and the North District Troops of Hsieh Hsüan there were many of these stout-hearted outcasts of Ch'u. This is just like the saying in the north that "the land to the west of the Pass sends forth leaders" (Kuan-hsi ch'u chiang). Therefore, following the loss of Huai-nan to the enemy the military strength of the Southern Dynasties then disintegrated.
Following the move south the people wandered about aimlessly so there could be no secure registration of households and so there was no way to carry out a state-wide citizen draft, however, whenever there was a major undertaking usually there was a provisional requisition of male citizens. An example of these extraordinary measures is found in the year 450 when in preparation for a major northern campaign the Liu-Sung emperor Wen-ti mobilized the entire population of the six provinces of Ch'ing, Chi, Hsü, Yu, and the two Yen where every family with three adult males was to send one, and those with five were to send two men to serve who ten days after the tally (fu) arrived were to be packed and on their way. However, since there had been no orgnized peacetime training these civilians who had been one day suddenly requisitioned for service found it difficult to participate in military operations and thus were finally unable to defeat the enemy and win the battle. The situation in the north at the time was about the same for in 383 Fu Chien King of Ch'in issued instructions for a major campaign against the south with every ten adult males over 20 with ability and courage were to be appointed Gentlemen of the Forest of Plumes (Yu-lin Lang) in what was also a temporary extraordinary requisition.
The basis of the Northern Wei recruitment system was the Hsien-pei tribal custom that all of the men had the obligation of military service and for the most part this was true of all the other nomadic peoples of the north, and this was known as the "tribal levy" (pu-tsu ping). Moreover, among the tribal levy of the Hsien-pei the core force was composed of those from the T'o-pa clan. The central palace armies at the beginning of the Northern Wei were all the elite cadres of this core clan force. In 396 when T'o-pa Kuei mounted a major campaign in the south against Mu-jung Pao he personally led an army of over 400,000 out of Ma-i and these certainly included all of the able-bodied men of the T'o0pa clan in north Tai at the time. Afterwards, when they had obtained mastery of the Central Plain they had also conquered many Wu-wan (or Wu-huan), Hsiung-nü, Ti and Ch'iang who were all organized into military units which could be called an allied tribal levy and among them it was the Wu-wan that had a relatively close relationship with the original Hsien-pei. The other tribes were often enslaved by the Hsien-pei and used as expendable troops (wai-wei ping-chung) who were forced to serve in the front ranks during a battle. Although the men of Wei ruled northern China they were at first fearful of the men of Han and so they followed the principle of only allowing Han Chinese to engage in agricultural pursuits and provide labor, while serving in the army and fighting was the prerogative of the Hsien-pei. It was only later when the Northern Wei had set up village officials, instituted the "equal fields" system and the household registers could be verified that they then put into practice a consctiption system based on classical Chinese models. At the age of eighteen males were given land, at twenty they were became liable for military service until they reached sixty, but when it actually came to fighting it was still done primarily by the Hsien-pei and it was only in times of necessity that the Han Chinese were called up. In these situations it was common to call up one out of every ten adult males from the local population. Besides this, the Northern Wei also had military households, pu-chu (military retainers) and volunteers. Nevertheless, during the last part of the Northern Wei Dynasty the lifestyle of the Hsien-pei aristocracy became corrupt, the northern borders were deserted and desolate, and the troops had lost their fighting spirit so the numbers of Han Chines serving in the military gradually increased to produce a situation where the Hans and barbarians were mixed together and then shortly after this the Northern Wei was torn apart and fell into chaos.
In fighting the men of the north attached great importance to horses for many of them were horse archers, therefore, the Northern Wei also had a policy for raising horses. Ming-yuan-ti of the Wei commanded that all of the provinces were to produce one war-horse for every sixty households, and later increased this to one war-horse and one large bull for every twenty households. It was by means of this that from beginning to end the military power of the Northern Dynasties was stronger than that of the Southern Dynasties.
The Northern Ch'i carried on the traditions of the Northern Wei state with their system of military conscription the same as that of the late Northern Wei. The only difference was that most of the troops garrisoned in the countryside were military households.
Following Yu-wen T'ai's introduction of the system of district troops, the
system of military conscription was reinvigorated and thus the Northern Chou
had the best system for military service. The district troops system of
military service had the following advantages:
1). It cleaned up and standardized the bewildering array of military systems that had sprung up since the rise of the Western Chin.
2). The commoners who became soldiers were selected from the top six grades and had family, property and moreover were robust and healthy. (Beginning in the Northern Wei civilian households were divided into nine ranks on the basis of their assets. They were graded from shang-shang (AA) to hsia-hsia (CC) and the top six grades are those from BC on up which were middle-class families.) AA AB AC - BA BB BC - CA CB CC The initial regulation was on recruits from among families having three adult males to promote the principle of crack troops which rectified the past excesses of the system of slave-soldiers.
3). There was no distinction between Hsien-pei and Han Chinese and no matter whether they were Chinese or barbarian they all were liable for military service which revived the system of national military conscription. (In reality, the Hsien-pei element was still dominant in the army.)
4). With civilians performing military service the state was able to reduce its fiscal burdens, moreover by establishing military districts the militia was provided with regular and strict training. (This system became the basis of the fu-ping system of the later Sui and T'ang dynsties.)