Wednesday, 27 January 2010

The Song Dynasty

Once the Mongols had conquered the Jin Dynasty in Northern China, they were faced with the prospect of conquering the Song Dynasty.

A good (I think!) history of the Song and its neighbours and successors can be found in Mote's "Imperial China".

The Song (or Sung) Dynasty had emerged from the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period and fairly rapidly subdued the majority of China. However, on the northern border the Liao Dynasty had been founded by the Khitan. The last of the states to fall to the Song, the Northern Han,  was a client of the Liao so its conquest created tension between the two states. Further tension was created by Liao occupation of lands once held by the Tang, which the Song claimed.

 The Song attempted to regain these lands by force but were rebuffed with great losses - the emperor fleeing the battle in an ox cart. There were several further campaigns over the next twenty years. The Liao invasion of 1004 was bought off with what the Song called gifts and the Liao called tribute - a massive 200000 bolts of silk and 100000 ounces of silver per year.

 The war party in the Song court thought that the Liao could have been defeated but the peace party prevailed. The policy has divided opinion ever since - the cost was high but less than would have been needed for defensive troops. However, it also encouraged a military decline which would make future defence more difficult.

 This was shown to some extent with the rise of the Tanguts or Xi Xia. They were neighbours of the Song and the Liao. Initial Xia success led the Liao to again threaten to invade. The Song renegotiated the tribute to the Liao - the Tanguts were seemingly disgruntled that their hard work had produced gains for the Liao. The Song used this to their advantage - the Xi Xia were persuaded to attack their erstwhile allies, receiving substantial gifts from the Song as a reward. Over the next century, Xi Xia and Liao relations veered between war and negotiation - Song diplomacy seems to have help to manipulate the states to cut down on the threat of a new alliance between these two states.

 The Song had further conflict with the Xi Xia. During one of these wars, the Chinese infantry are said to have begun to use a large sword for killing horses, the zhan ma dao  - also see here.

 The Liao became increasingly settled and apparently unaggressive, so that when their subjects, the Jurchen, revolted the Liao armies rapidly crumbled. The Song tried to take advantage by occupying the land they claimed but this led to war with the Jurchen. This time, the Song lost all of their northern territories. The period before this is therefore known as the Northern Song, the period after as the Southern Song.

 The Jurchen estabished a  new dynasty known as the Chin or Jin (depending on which system you are using). There were a number of wars between Song and Jin including a massive waterbourne assault by the Jurchen across the Yangtze. This was repelled with massive losses and led to most of the remainder of Song-Jin relations being pretty peaceful. Just before the Mongol invasions began, a Song invasion of Jin was defeated and a further invasion in alliance with the Mongols ended up annoying the nomads.

 The Mongol invasion of Song went through several phases, interrupted due to the death of the Khan. The final invasion began with a siege - this webpage has some very useful information about Song armies.

 A major problem with putting together a wargames army for the Song is that 15mm figures covering this dynasty are few and far between. Those which are available are generally based on the WRG 'Armies and Enemies of Ancient China' which is very patchy in its accuracy. Eureka Miniatures has the Song in its '300' club and probably only needs a few more subscribers to reach its magic number. The Song's southern neighbours - the Nanzhao - are also in the '300' club and rumour has it that sculpting is in progress.

 I used mostly 'Grumpy' miniatures available from Eureka and East Riding Miniatures. These are pretty nice figures and easy to paint. They are produced for the Ming and Koreans rather than the Song so I took some liberties and did a bit of conversion.

The cavalry in the picture at the top of this post have very distinctive horse armour which would be nice to see. I made do with unarmoured horses except for a couple of SHQ horses I have. The Central Asian Turkish armoured horses from Outpost are also pretty suitable. I cut away the plumes and flags from the Grumpy cavalry and replaced them with Milliput plumes. Most also have little wings added to the helmets which gives a more Song profile.

 The armour on the figures is textile covered. While appropriate for the Ming, this would seem to have been rare for the Song period or even non-existant. Lamellar or 'mountain pattern' armour would be better.

The flag is homemade. The Chinese had a system which used symbols standing for the five cardinal directions - you can see examples on Wikipedia.

These infantry represent poorly equipped militia with some better equipped troops in front. I use the better ones to represent foot generals.
I also use some of the Grumpy figures with helmets so that I can distinguish regular and irregular troops.

A major feature of the Song army was its use of artillery.
The fire lance troops are conversions from Grumpy figures. Fire lances were apparently popular with  peasants although in an Imperial force they would probably have been better armoured.

The bolt shooter is a double crossbow from Outpost's Tang range.

The man-powered catapults are mostly Donnington - I replaced the arm with a bundle of florists' wire to give the impression of bamboo.

A very useful source for artillery and other aspects of the  later Chinese military is here. Most of the pictures are Ming or later but they draw on earlier texts.

Monday, 4 January 2010

Comparisons of Knights

Here's a comparison between the knights from various companies.

First, the horses. From the left
Legio Heroica, Essex, Mirliton, Black Hat, Alain Touller.

The Touller horses have been redesigned since I bought mine and I haven't seen them.

Again, from the left
Legio Heroica, Essex, Mirliton, Black Hat, Touller
The Black Hat knights aren't quite as versatile as their infantry, being noticeably smaller than other ranges. The Legio figures are a bit taller but it is their bulk which makes them stand out next to other figures. Their shields are just about identical in size to the ones from Mirliton though a little thicker. The Mirliton figure is one of the later ones in this range. Some of the earlier ones are a little smaller though not so much that it couldn't be natural variation. The Essex figure is one of their Spanish range wearing obsolete gear for the mid- to late-13th century.
From some pictures I've seen elsewhere, the Old Glory 'Crusader' range is a pretty good match for size and build of the Mirliton figures. Most of this range carry heater shields more typical of the mid 13th century than the 3rd Crusade. The ones in the 'Holy Order' range have larger shields which are of an earlier form though still more early 13th than late 12th century. The range seems to have a mix of early 13th century 'face mask' helms and mid century full helms. Both of these were found earlier, but full helms in particular seem to have been extremely uncommon pre-1200 and not predominant for another generation or more. The Old Glory figures also have most of the knights on barded horses which were probably uncommon before 1200.

I've used Mirliton figures for my Italians as well as French and German forces which are in progress. I used Touller figures for the Spanish. My current project is a Feudal English army of roughly the time of Simon de Montfort. I've had the urge for a while to paint a few figures bearing the arms of the nobility who held lands close to where I live. I've found even more information than I hoped and so now I shall do a whole army. About a dozen figures done so far so watch this space.