Chinese (mogolian) horseriding

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Chinese (mogolian) horseriding

Post by HomoCaballus » Fri Feb 22, 2008 11:04 am

On request by Mr.Rodell I start this topic on horse riding.

The focus will be on why Chinese riding is as it is in respect to the riding by the typical medieval Western knight

Several of you will be riders and I ask you to forget about what you have been taught as that is not the issue. Napoleonic warfare has changed cavalry and subsequently horse riding profoundly and the subject predates this.
Forget about the forward charges on the bit, forget about the Victorian rising to the trot, forget about the riding developed for military (jumping) by Federico Caprilli, forget about modern dressage, etc.
My other request is that you follow the general argument: I do NOT intend to cover all and sundry of horse riding. Cavalry is submitted to the demands of warfare and seldom efficient riding. The riding of the numerous forms of cavalry is dictated to a large extend by the tactical role it is meant to fulfil; a compromise with the program ‘horse’ to suit human martial wishes.

Basically horse riding has only two general, fundamentally different, approaches: ‘on the bit’ or on a loose rein. Without going into the details both western medieval knights and Chinese cavalry basically needed to be able to ride without direct rein contact.

Another basic fact is that action equals –reaction. Meaning that all you do on horseback is equalised by a counterforce or you will drop off. Stick out one arm and you will need to lean to the other side of press with the opposite leg.
Same thing with any force on the reins or whatever: you hit something with your sword and the horse will need to support the action, you throw a spear and the horse will need to oppose the launching force.
http://www.mijnalbum.nl/Foto-VXEAX6MO.jpg

Right, now we take two detours
- biomechanics
The above explained physics mean that for the most efficient riding an independent seat is required. The riders sits behind the ‘seat bones’, rides spiralling the spinal colom and relaxes the shoulders. Rides synchronous with the movements of the horse.
The best explanation of the anatomical correct posture was given in the book by the Dr.s Schusdziarra who did good scientific footwork for this. A recent translation of the original german work is http://www.amazon.com/Anatomy-Dressage- ... 0939481693
An easy to understand version in their footsteps on the crux for this topic http://www.equinestudies.org/knowledge_ ... _ride.html

To shoot a bow the archer pushes the bow and pulls the string, with full pull coming from the back and shoulders.

A citation from an archery manual on the draw:
A. Tighten back muscles Tighten your back muscles and draw the bow string. Keep your back and arms straight at the target. Like any sports. Archery also requires some muscle strength. Exercise regularly to improve your strength in both arms and back.
http://library.thinkquest.org/27344/med ... pointa.gif

The biomechanics of riding and shooting a bow are contradictive. You can either ride well or shoot well.
Horse archery therefore always is a compromise between the correct riding posture using a light bow or the correct shooting posture with a heavy bow and the horse purely as a mobile platform.
Please note that I do NOT imply that the Mongol horseman or the Manchu who shot their horsebows could not ride: they compromised their riding WHILE shooting! and their riding was also a compromised function of their mounted artillery warfare which they were masters in.
The medieval knight did not have to compromise his riding in the same way as he needed the independent seat riding by coincidence is needed for his way of fighting too.

- the horse
Looking at it very simplified the front legs of the horse support the structure, the hind legs propel it. It is rear driven, front steered so to speak.
For speed the horse needs length of stride, with a forward weight bias and the price is loss of manoeuvrability.
For manoeuvrability the front needs freedom, less weight thus ‘ collecting’ on the rear quarters at the price of stride length = speed.

Back to the subject.
Horse riding meant mobility but not in the same way. For the Asian steppe riders it meant covering long distances quicker, in western Europe (and nw Africa) it meant covering all sorts of terrain quicker.
The difference is vital in respect to the riding style: the steppe riders rode with a forward weight bias, the European warriors with relative elevation of the front.

During the late migration period/early middle ages in western Europe the feudal system adopted almost exclusively the heavy cavalry as a very specific form of cavalry.
The knight and horse were specialised in shock warfare AND individual combat: rider to rider was vital.
The knight needed a manoeuvrable horse above all and had a corresponding seat. He sat well backwards in the saddle as low as possible, with his legs as long as possible. The saddle and seat firmly on the saddle supported the rider and he needed his legs ‘free’ to ride, steer the horse as this was paramount.
The knightly saddle had a seat enabling legs draped downwards like wet towels, well planted buttocks and also prominent support by the pommel and cantle for their forceful fighting.
http://www.geocities.com/Athens/8020/DURER.GIF
Western knight rode the ultimate full contact form of cavalry.

The Asian steppe riders relied heavily on the bow and can to a large extend be called mobile artillery. They covered a lot of ground fast and had as many arrows in the air as possible with reach of the shooting as the priority. Only when reaching the enemy true accuracy became an issue and steering the horse was of secondary importance.
This type of riding asked for forward riding with the rider leaning in the shot, compromising riding and needing the grip of the legs to maintain position meaning standing above the saddle with shorter stirrups.
Their saddle enabled the to stand gripping the horse with upper legs and knees. The pommel and cantle provide security but also allowed ample movement of the torso so as to enable leaning into the shot.
Peter Dekker has added some very nice illustrations of Manchu riders shooting already.
Mongol/Chinese riding was to a large extend mobile archery speed riding
The ways of the steppe riders heavily influenced cavalry in China. Just as Napoleonic warfare would form modern western horse riding.

The fundamental difference can be accentuated by the fact that the treed saddle and stirrups were vital to the development of the feudal bravante shock warfare whereas the Mongol/Chinese warfare (although benefiting) could do without.

For those who want a sideways look at the two differing cavalry styles can search Youtube for Paco Hermosa de Mendoza (rejoneo) and Kassai Lajos (horsearchery).

That is the essence of it really and thank you for bearing with me.

Petrus
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Post by Linda Heenan » Fri Feb 22, 2008 3:59 pm

That is an excellent description, well thought out and very informative from much experience and research. My experience is less informed but the topic is of great interest. To put it in perspective, I was one of those "horsey" farm kids that began riding at 14 months of age, jumped bareback onto any horse I could persuade close enough to a fence post, spent years riding bareback, and tamed an Anglo Arab by riding him in a halter with an old sack on his back. We used to enjoy shooting homemade bows from our horses, pretend jousting, galloping flatout toward a friend and swinging them on behind, etc - all the tricks kids and horses seemed to think was fun. I have not had the land to keep my own horse for a long time, but it's part of the plans for the future.

I would love to be part of bringing back the mounted side of our tradition. I think the first essential is a good, intelligent horse with plenty of courage. Clicker training seems the best to my thinking at this point. It may surprise people to realise how widely spread is the need to cooperate with a horse without depending on a bit. Australian stockhorses are the first that come to mind. Then there are gymnkhana ponies. Racing around alternate poles can't be done with hand control. I have a friend who is an American trick rider. You can't use the reins while hanging upside down by one leg at a full gallop. We have jousters among the reenactment types in our country. Their horses wear bridles, but they are of no use charging down the lists with a long pole to control.

A question - were the Mongol's horses/ponies, armoured? It seems a shame to me to spend so much time training a warhorse, only to have it shot in the first battle.

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Post by HomoCaballus » Fri Feb 22, 2008 5:09 pm

Linda Heenan wrote:A question - were the Mongol's horses/ponies, armoured? It seems a shame to me to spend so much time training a warhorse, only to have it shot in the first battle.
Mongol horses as a rule were not. Those were not all that highly trained either and riders started on campaign with several each.

The need for specific training or a specific form of protection depended on the type of caverly, on the tactical role it was to fulfil.
Although some armies used heavy armour, armour for horses in general was the exception to the rule.
Various examples of armoured horses in the Chinese armies exist.
It is a balance of risc and cost and any form of armour very quickly has too a high cost in deminished functionality of the horse.
A quick and dirty rule of thumb is that the 'heavier' the role of the cavalry is, the more use the armour for the horse is.

It is common battle strategy to first aim at the horse not the rider, to first aim for the officers not soldier. No difference between chinese and any other civilisation :idea:
Good battle strategy takes this into account up to a point: war IS messy. It is not more of a waste to kill the investment in a good horse than it is to put a countryside to the torch so the opposing army cannot forrage. Sometimes 'good' war strategy nonetheless.
It is not more of a shame to kill a good horse than a good soldier.

In wars thousands (to hundreds of thousands) of horses perished and horse breeding was an extremely lucrative business on a large scale for well over two millennia very much like the automotive industry today.
It was standard practice to impose a tax in horses on occupied territory: this would both immobilise the home forces and restock on the own losses.

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Post by HomoCaballus » Sat Feb 23, 2008 5:31 am

Btw, about armour there is a striking difference too as chinese armies used paper as armour.
Cut in lamels, pressed in several layers, lacquered and bound together with leather thongs to be worn over a padding of silk/felt.
Relatively light, flexible and mobile yet appearantly VERY effective.
This construction would be far less restrictive to rider and horse than metal plate armour as used by medieval knights.
The invention of paper did not reach western europe untill the 13th. c.

I know it is not an actual example and not accurate but imagine this http://i19.ebayimg.com/08/i/000/d6/67/5b4c_1.JPG with such a paper lamel cover over the torso in comparison with 'tinned knight' :wink:

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Post by Peter Dekker » Sat Feb 23, 2008 11:39 am

Great post, Peter!

A further note on armor:

Mongol
Although the vast majority of the Mongol army consisted of light unarmored cavalry indeed, they did have heavy cavalry divisions with spears and armored horses, typically shown on artwork with lamellar armor on both rider and horse. These usually only came into play to finish it off once the opposing force was adequately weakened with arrows and victory was certain. The Mongol light cavalry is also said to have worn layers of silk, apparently the silk helped to retreive barbed arrowheads as it went in the wound with the arrowhead.

Manchu
Early Manchu forces also only had a portion of their men armored, like the Mongols. Their armor consisted of the same lamellae that is described above but consisting of little iron plates. This worn over a padded vest was recently tested to be the most effective of armors against arrows. Still the Manchu bow is said to have been able to pierce it but perhaps only under perfect conditions: relatively close range and at the right angle.

Me and some archer friends tested a heavy bow with armor piercing arrows. It penetrated mail easily but the same arrow bounced off a stuffed animal. Later Qing era Chinese / Manchu troops seem to wear many layers of fabric only. They may have still been pretty well protected, the layers absorbing much of the arrow's kinetic energy.

On Manchu shooting behaviour
Different than the Mongols, the Manchus preferred closer ranges and liked to strive for a hit with every arrow and they typically only took 12 arrows with them. Their arrows were the largest and heaviest of arrows known to have been used in warfare. Their bow was very stable, accurate and powerful but all this at the expense of range. The Mongols in their golden age had smaller, faster bows with considerable range with lighter projectiles before they also adopted Manchu design.

I wonder whether the closer range the Manchus operated on affected the way they rode their horse compared to the 13th century Mongols. Unfortunately we have much better Qing artwork available than we have Mongol artwork and actual antique items from the Mongol era are quite rare.

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Antique Chinese Arms & Functional reproductions

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Post by HomoCaballus » Sat Feb 23, 2008 1:12 pm

Peter Dekker wrote: I wonder whether the closer range the Manchus operated on affected the way they rode their horse compared to the 13th century Mongols.
You have two excellent illustrations depicting just this in the series matching the one you posted with the bare sabre through a ring.
Both show an unarmoured Manchu ride; one at full pull, the other in preparation of a shot. Their riding style is captured to perfection.

You have btw also an extremely catching illustration of a mongol-chinese (I thought Yuan) rider showing the bridle; a rope halter and safety rope. I LOVE that one :D

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Post by Peter Dekker » Sat Feb 23, 2008 1:13 pm

Hi Petrus,

Yes that one is Ayuxi, one of my favourites as well. It dates from the sixties or seventies of the 18th century. He was a Dzunghar (a Mongol empire that later got exterminated by the Qing) that was captured by the Qing and offered a position as officer, which he gladly took. According to Qing history, he was an unrivalled spearman and brave warrior. I post his picture below. I believe that the original is in the Palace Museum of Taipei.

Image

In addition, I post two details of a very nice painting by Giuseppe Castiglione depicting the Qianlong emperor and his hunting buddies / guardsmen chasing hare. It shows a wealth of interesting details. It is property of the Palace Museum in Beijing.

Image
The Qianlong emperor in full draw, about to shoot a hare. Customarily, the emperor is depicted larger than the other people on the painting. It clearly shows the Chinese manner of horseriding explained by Petrus above.

Image
One of his guardsmen / hunting buddies, about to nock a new arrow. A well decorated man with three peacock eyes visible and the yellow riding coat, signs of high distinction awarded only by the emperor himself and usually so for bravery on the battlefield.

-Peter
Knowing is not enough, we must apply.
Willing is not enough, we must do.


-Bruce Lee

http://www.mandarinmansion.com
Antique Chinese Arms & Functional reproductions

http://www.manchuarchery.org
Fe Doro - Manchu Archery

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Post by HomoCaballus » Sat Feb 23, 2008 3:20 pm

Peter Dekker wrote:Yes that one is Ayuxi, one of my favourites as well. It dates from the sixties or seventies of the 18th century.
Beautiful too yes and indeed a perfect representation of the riding style like the other ones.
I meant an earlier one without a bit. Sofar I have not found it :roll:

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Post by josh stout » Mon Feb 25, 2008 11:36 am

It looks like he is shooting a whistling arrow.
Nice.
Josh
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Post by Peter Dekker » Mon Feb 25, 2008 1:23 pm

Ah, that one!

I first thought it to be Ghengis Khan but looking again it appears to be Kubilai Khan's bodyguard. Indeed he appears to be shooting a whistling arrow.

What is interesting in relation to the thread about jian / dao suspension is that he wears his saber hilt forward, but you can see that his bowcase hangs so that the bow points backwards when holstered in order to prevent entanglement with the bow.

See this thread here: viewtopic.php?t=661

One can also clearly see the difference between these and the later Manchu bows from the illustration. Such bows were used all over central Asia for a period of time, but got replaced by the Manchu type. It is not a bit less sophisticated than the latter, but just had a different focus of use and was more suitable for propelling lighter arrows.

-Peter
Knowing is not enough, we must apply.
Willing is not enough, we must do.


-Bruce Lee

http://www.mandarinmansion.com
Antique Chinese Arms & Functional reproductions

http://www.manchuarchery.org
Fe Doro - Manchu Archery

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Post by HomoCaballus » Mon Feb 25, 2008 3:38 pm

The rider is a detail from a larger illustration which is a hunting scene:

Image

As several are looking upwards I suppose he is aiming at a bird.

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Post by josh stout » Tue Feb 26, 2008 10:25 am

That is why I commented that it was a whistling arrow. At first glance I assumed the bowman was aiming at a bird, but the arrow is all wrong for birds. I think it must be as a signal.

Regarding the shooting posture, I find it strangely counter intuitive. Leaning forward while shooting back and up seems to make less sense than simply turning around and pointing the bow upwards. I think it must be part of bracing the torso and making it independent of the horses movement. I would like to hear comments from those more experienced with bows, but I assume the posture was not dreamed up by the artist, and must be functional.
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Post by Peter Dekker » Tue Feb 26, 2008 10:55 am

Hi,

Good observation on the arrow. It indeed is a whistling arrow, but you can also see a sharp tip. These were multifunctional arrows that were usually used for hunting and gave off a signal. On some animals like hare, it apparently startled the animal so it kept still until impact. I don't expect it to have such a function on a bird, so what we are looking at here is a bit unclear indeed. Perhaps he uses it just because he only had these arrows with him. Whistles only for signalling typically had bigger whistles to make a louder noise, and no serviceable tip.

On his posture, the old Chinese used to say: "five points level, three points close" which refers to having the bow arm and drawing arm ligaments all in one line with where the bow is aiming. This gets increasingly important when you start drawing heavier bows. The three points close also refers to a good grip on the bow, and having arrow and string close to the body. The closer these points are, the better your body is aligned to bear the weight of the bow. So his awkward position derives from the fact that he needs his whole upper body to accomodate the bow while his feet are restricted to either side of the horse.

Some other interesting points in this picture are how multicultural the guards are, some may be Indian or African. Kubilai's bow is kept in cloth instead of a holster, which reminds of how Korean bows are sometimes corrected when they developed an imbalance or twist. Perhaps in this case, it is merely protection for an undoubtly expensive bow. It is also interesting to see what appears to be a domesticified panther on the back of one of the horses!

-Peter
Knowing is not enough, we must apply.
Willing is not enough, we must do.


-Bruce Lee

http://www.mandarinmansion.com
Antique Chinese Arms & Functional reproductions

http://www.manchuarchery.org
Fe Doro - Manchu Archery

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Post by HomoCaballus » Tue Feb 26, 2008 12:00 pm

On horseback all you do besides riding is compromised by the riding.
In this example if the guard would twist the legs, the horse would turn round because that is what he would then be signalled. Not ideal when taking aim :wink:

The passenger is an indian cheetah. These were frequently used just like gazehounds and were as 'domesticated' as a falconers hawk is. Kept and possibly bred in captivity for hunting but not domesticated, not a captive subspecies. Capturing cheetahs for hunting is though to have been a major contributor to its extinction in Asia.
There is a gazehound in the painting too. Gazehounds and falcons were commonly used in a partnership: there are some very good videos of this on youtube. Nowadays the hunt is often followed by offroad vehicles, rarely on horseback alltough in asian heartland several hunters still make their living the traditional way.

petrus

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Post by josh stout » Wed Feb 27, 2008 11:47 am

That would be a hunting cheetah, perhaps obtained from Persia or India. Good eye.

Cheetahs were not uncommonly used as hunting animals. I have seen Egyptian, Indian, and Persian depictions. They could not breed in captivity, so this practice undoubtedly helped wipe out the Asian population. There are less than 100 in Iran, and they are gone from India. 800 years ago the cheetah would have been found throughout Asia.

On a strange side note they seem to have arisen as a species in Mexico and then the whole species was taken down to a few individuals in Asia about 10,000 YA. The extinct North American version may have given rise to the no longer needed speed of the pronghorn gazelle.
Josh

Petrus- we seem to have posted at the same time. Excuse the redundant info.
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