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palace mandarin

It was compiled under auspices of the Qianlong emperor himself, who to our great fortune as arms historians, was all about the careful recording of the minute details of the workings of his dynasty.

The work lists no less than 31 pole arms, among which various types of spears, forks and halberds.

For this article I have kept to the spears and their close relatives, leaving out some of the less conventional shapes, coming to a total of ten spear types.

This leaves a full overview of Qing pole arms to another article.

The Chinese didn't differentiate between spear and lance, both are called (槍).

As such we do not always know which of these were used on foot, and which from horseback.

I will consistently call them spear in this article, even though some are surely used as lances, because we cannot rule out their use as a spear either.

On military artwork of the Qing we frequently see even Manchu elite cavalry dismount and face the enemy on foot with bow, arrow, and spear.

An interesting difference between the spears in this article and the spears we see later in the hands of civilian militia and martial artists, is that the military spears have less of a taper and are mostly counterbalanced by a large steel fittings at the butt end.

Civilian and martial arts spears are often balanced by having a strong taper, with a very thick butt end narrowing down considerably towards the tip.

The metal parts being quite expensive in pre-industrial China, this was probably a cheaper way to reach a similar balance.

In this diagram I have drawn all ten spears to scale, as described in the historical text. Spear 1 to 3 were in use by the Manchu and Mongol troops of the Eight Banners, an elite front-line arms that were stationed in the capital and a series of garrisons on strategic locations.