Green Standard Army

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The Green Standard Army (Chinese: 綠營兵; pinyin: Lùyíngbīng; Manchu: niowanggiyan turun i kūwaran) was the name of a category of military units under the control of Qing dynasty China. It was made up mostly of ethnic Han soldiers and operated concurrently with the Manchu-Mongol-Han Eight Banner armies. In areas with a high concentration of Hui people, Muslims served as soldiers in the Green Standard Army.[1]

The original Green Standard troops were the soldiers of the Ming commanders who surrendered to the Qing in 1644 and after. Their troops enlisted voluntarily and for long terms of service; they usually came from the socially disadvantaged, and remained segregated from Chinese society, partly because of the latter's deep anti-military bias during the late Ming period, and partly because they were paid too poorly and irregularly to marry and support a family.

Reform of the Qing military system by the Kangxi Emperor during the last years of the War of the Three Feudatories (1673-1681) led to a fundamental division of military administration and function between two branches of the Qing Army. The Eight Banners of the old Banner system were retained as a guard force of the dynasty, out of which Chinese and Mongol troops were progressively transferred during the 18th Century until most Banner troops were once again ethnic Manchus.[2]

From the 18th century onwards, the Green Standard Army served primarily as a gendarmerie or constabulary force, designed to maintain local law and order and quell small-scale disturbances.[3] However, it also contributed the bulk of forces dispatched in major campaigns. The Green Standard Army was extremely fragmented, with literally thousands of large and small outposts throughout the empire, many with as few as twelve men. It was divided into garrisons of battalion size, reporting through regional brigade generals to commanders-in-chief (提督; Tídū) in each province. Governors and governor-generals each had a battalion of Green Standard troops under their personal command, but their primary duties lay in the judicial and revenue areas rather than coping with invasion or rebellion. During peacetime, it was rare for one officer to command more than 5,000 men.

Strictly speaking, the Green Standard Army was not a hereditary force, although the dynasty directed its recruiting efforts primarily at sons and other relatives of serving soldiers. Enlistment was considered a lifetime occupation, but it was generally very simple to be reclassified as a civilian.

A system of rotation was used for Green Standard troops in frontier areas. In Kashgaria, troops of the Green Standard from Shaanxi and Gansu had to serve for three-year tours of duty, later increased to five years, then returned home.[4]

By 1800 both the Banner forces and the Green Standard armies had declined to a low level of military effectiveness, as was shown during the First and Second Opium Wars and the Taiping Rebellion.

Ma Zhan'ao, a former Muslim rebel, defected to the Qing side during the Dungan revolt (1862–1877) and his Muslim forces were then recruited into the Green Standard Army of the Qing military after the war ended.[5]


  1. ^ Jonathan D. Spence (1991). The search for modern China. W. W. Norton & Company. p. 191. ISBN 0-393-30780-8. Retrieved 2010-06-28. 
  2. ^ Cathal J. Nolan (2008). Wars of the Age of Louis XIV, 1650-1715. ABC-CLIO. p. 123. ISBN 0313359202. Retrieved 2014-04-28. 
  3. ^ Frederic Wakeman Jr. (1986). The Great Enterprise: The Manchu Reconstruction of Order in Seventeenth-Century China. UC Press. p. 480. ISBN 9780520235182. Retrieved 2014-05-07. 
  4. ^ Robert J. Antony, Jane Kate Leonard (2002). Dragons, tigers, and dogs: Qing crisis management and the boundaries of state power in late imperial China. East Asia Program, Cornell University. p. 282. ISBN 1-885445-43-1. Retrieved 2010-11-28. 
  5. ^ John King Fairbank, Kwang-ching Liu, Denis Crispin Twitchett (1980). Late Ch'ing, 1800-1911. Cambridge University Press. p. 234. ISBN 0-521-22029-7. Retrieved 2010-06-28. 


  • Mayers, William Frederick. The Chinese Government: A Manual of Chinese Titles, Categorically Arranged and Explained, with an Appendix. 3rd edition revised by G.M.H. Playfair ed. Shanghai: Kelly & Walsh, 1897; reprint, Taibei: Ch'eng-Wen Pub. Co., 1966.