Jixiao Xinshu

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The Jixiao Xinshu (simplified Chinese: 纪效新书; traditional Chinese: 紀效新書; pinyin: Jìxiào xīnshū) or New Treatise on Military Efficiency[1] was a military manual written by the Ming dynasty general Qi Jiguang (戚繼光). The book discusses military strategy, combat tactics, weapons and equipment, training, armed and unarmed fighting techniques, logistics, and other aspects of warfare. The Jixiao Xinshu is one of the earliest Asian extant texts to describe armed fighting techniques, and is one of several late Ming texts to address the relevance of martial arts to military training and warfare. Several contemporary martial arts styles of Qi's era are mentioned in the book, including the staff method of the Shaolin temple.


Unarmed fighting as depicted in the manual.

In the late 16th century the military of the Ming dynasty was in poor condition. As the Mongol forces of Altan Khan raided the northern frontier, China's coastline fell prey to wokou pirates, who were ostensibly Japanese in origin. Qi Jiguang was assigned to the defense of Zhejiang in 1555, where he created his own standards of military organization, equipment, tactics, training, and procedures.[2] He published his thoughts on military techniques, tactics, and strategies in the Jixiao Xinshu after achieving several victories in battle.


There are two editions of the Jixiao Xinshu.

The first edition, written from 1560-1561, consists of 18 chapters, and is thus also known as the 18 chapter edition. The later edition was published in 1584 during Qi's retirement, and was re-edited to include new material, had a total of 14 chapters, and was known as the 14 chapter edition.

The chapters included in the 18-chapter edition are as follows:[3]

Chapter Subject
1. Five man squads
2. Signals and commands
3. Motivating troops
4. Issuing orders; prohibitions during combat
5. Training officers
6. Evaluating soldiers; rewards and punishments
7. and 8. Field camp activities; in-camp drilling with flags and drums
9. The march
10. Use of polearms
11. Use of the shield
12. Use of swords
13. Archery
14. Quanjing Jieyao Pian (Chapter on the Fist Canon and the Essentials of Nimbleness); unarmed fighting
15. Devices and formations for defending city walls
16. Illustrations of standards, banners, and signal drums
17. Guarding outposts
18. Coastal warfare

Mandarin duck formation[edit]

The 'secret formation,' a predecessor to Qi Jiguang's Mandarin Duck formation. The five man team consists of a leader who wielded a shield, a man wielding a wolf brush, and three pikemen. 'Secret formations' were deployed on flat terrain in large blocks so that the shieldmen and wolf brush soldiers protected the pikemen from arrows and melee weapons.
Qi Jiguang's 'mandarin duck formation' in standby and combat. It consisted of two teams of five, one leader, and one porter. Each team consisted of one swordsman who was the leader, one wolf brush soldier, two pikemen, and one trident soldier.
Qi Jiguang's 'first step squad.' A contingent of armored soldiers.
Qi Jiguang's 'killer squad.' The killer squad was a reconfigured Mandarin Duck formation. It was often used in conjunction with the 'firearm squad.'
Qi Jiguang's 'firearm squad.' The firearm squad consists of one squad leader, ten troopers, and one porter. Ideally a single squad would have nothing but musketeers, but often had only two or five, while the other squad members wielded sabers.

In the Jixiao Xinshu, Qi Jiguang recommended a 12 man team known as the "mandarin duck formation" (Chinese: 鴛鴦陣; pinyin: yuānyāng zhèn), which ideally consisted of 11 soldiers and one person for logistics.[4]

  • 4 men with long lances (twelve feet or longer) (chang qiang shou 長槍手)
  • 2 men with sabers and rattan shields, one on each side of the lancers (dun pai shou 盾牌手)
  • 2 men with multiple tip bamboo spears (lang xian shou 狼筅手)
  • 2 men with tridents or swords (duan bing shou 短兵手)
  • 1 corporal (with the squad flag) (dui zhang 隊長)
  • 1 cook/porter (logistical personnel) (fuze huoshi de huobing 負責夥食的火兵)

The mandarin duck formation was ideally symmetrical. Excluding the corporal and cook/porter, the ten remaining men could be split into two identical five-man squads. This was so that when Japanese pirates made it past the long lances, the saber-and-shield men formed a protective screen for the vulnerable lancers. In battle, the two saber-and-shield men had different roles. The one on the right would hold the advance position of the squad, while the one on the left was to throw javelins and lure the enemy closer. The two men with multiple tip bamboo spears would entangle the pirates while the lancers attacked them. The trident carriers guarded the flanks and rear.[5]

After suffering several defeats to pirates, Qi also made a recommendation for a concerted campaign to integrate musket teams into the army, based on their superior range and firepower compared to bows and arrows.

Having suffered setbacks and been thus forced to consider things, [I] used defeat to strive for victory and replaced [our] bows-and-arrows with the tactic of proficiently firing muskets.[6] — Jixiao Xinshu

Qi became enamored with the musket after his defeats and became one of the primary proponents of their use in the Ming army.

It is unlike any other of the many types of fire weapons. In strength it can pierce armor. In accuracy it can strike the center of targets, even to the point of hitting the eye of a coin [i.e., shooting right through a coin], and not just for exceptional shooters.… The arquebus [鳥 銃] is such a powerful weapon and is so accurate that even bow and arrow cannot match it, and … nothing is so strong as to be able to defend against it.[6] — Jixiao Xinshu

Ideally an entire musket team would have 10 musketeers, but often had 4 or 2 in practice. The optimal musket formation that Qi proposed was a 12 man musket team similar to the melee mandarin duck formation. However, instead of fighting in a hand to hand formation, they operated on the principle of the musket volley fire, which Qi pioneered prior to the publication of the first Jixiao Xinshu.[6]

Each team has ten muskets. One can divide it into two layers, with each layer having five muskets. Or one can divide it into five layers, with each layer having two muskets. Or one can not divide it at all, putting the ten muskets all in one line.[7] — Jixiao Xinshu
Once the enemy has approached to within 100-paces, listen for one's own commander (總) to fire once, and then each time a horn is blown the arquebusiers fire one layer. One after another, five horn tones, and five layers fire. Once this is done, listen for the tap of a drum, at which then one platoon (哨) [armed with traditional weapons] comes forward, proceeding to in front of the arquebusiers. They [the platoon members] then listen for a beat of the drum, and then the blowing of the swan-call horn, and they then give a war cry and go forth and give battle.[7] — Jixiao Xinshu

Or if melee is not a possibility, then:

wait until the face-the-enemy signal [is given], and then, whether from behind wooden stockades, or from moat banks, or from below abatis (拒 馬), [they] open up on the enemy, firing by turns (更 番 射 賊). Those who are empty reload; those who are full fire again. While the ones who have fired are loading, those who are full then fire again. In this way, all day long, the firing of guns will not be lacking, and there must be no firing to the point of exhaustion [of ammo] and no slipups with guns.[7] — Jixiao Xinshu

Each squad was drilled in coordinated and mutually-supportive combat scenarios with clearly defined roles. Because Qi's troops were recruited from among peasants, and were not considered the equals of their Japanese foes, Qi Jiguang emphasized the use of combined arms and squad tactics. Units were rewarded or punished collectively: an officer was executed if his entire unit fled the enemy, and if a squad leader was killed in battle, the whole squad would be put to death.[8]

Weapons production[edit]

The standard procedure for the procurement of weapons for a commander such as Qi Jiguang was for production quotas to be assigned by provincial officials to each local district under the commander's responsibility. The resulting weapons produced under this system varied widely in quality. Muskets in particular exploded with alarming frequency, leading Qi to eschew reliance on firearms in favor of using melee tools such as swords, rattan shields, and sharpened bamboo poles.[9] However, later in his career Qi became a strong proponent of integrating muskets after suffering several defeats to the pirates. Qi's reconsideration of firearms in warfare led to the creation of the first well drilled musket teams in China. Qi was also a pioneer of the musket volley fire technique, which would later be adopted throughout China and Korea. Included in the manual are several passages detailing the usage of muskets, the volley fire, and an estimation of the percentage of firearms that would likely fail to fire.[10]

The manual provides the following description of the forging of swords:

Unarmed fighting[edit]

The last chapter of the Jixiao Xinshu, the Quanjing Jieyao Pian, covers the subject of unarmed combat. Qi Jiguang regarded unarmed fighting as being useless on the battlefield. However, he recognized its value as a form of basic training to strengthen his troops, improving their physical fitness and confidence.[11] Qi selected thirty-two postures to illustrate, from among the martial arts of the period. The description of the techniques is written in verse, typically with seven characters per line.

In the chapter's introduction, Qi names sixteen different fighting styles, all of which he considered to have been handed down in an incomplete fashion, "some missing the lower part, some missing the upper".[12] Among the arts listed is the Shaolin staff method, which was later documented in detail in Cheng Zongyou's Exposition of the Original Shaolin Staff Method, published around 1610.[13] By contrast, Shaolin unarmed fighting techniques are not mentioned. The entire listing of late Ming dynasty martial arts was later copied without attribution by a manual of the Shaolin style, the Hand Combat Classic (Quanjing quanfa beiyao). However, the later manual, with a preface dated to 1784, altered the text, adding a spurious claim that the history of hand combat had originated at the Shaolin Monastery.[14]

Qi's discussion of hand-to-hand combat makes no mention of a spiritual element to the martial arts, nor to breathing or qi circulation. By contrast, Chinese martial arts texts from the Ming-Qing transition onward represent a synthesis of functional martial arts techniques with Daoist daoyin health practices, breathing exercises, and meditation.[15][16]


Qi Jiguang was one of several Ming authors to document the military tactics and martial arts techniques of the era. The earliest known documentation of specific styles of Chinese martial arts were produced during the late Ming piracy crisis, as scholars and generals such as Qi and his contemporary Yu Dayou turned their attention to reversing the decline of the Ming military. In the late 16th century, the Japanese invasions of Korea (1592–98) also spurred great interest in military training methods within the Korean government. Qi Jiguang's writings were of particular interest because of his successful campaigns against Japanese pirates several decades prior. The 14-chapter edition of the Jixiao Xinshu served as a model for the oldest known extant Korean military manual, the Muyejebo, and was disseminated among Korean military thinkers. During the Qing conquest of Ming, Joseon provided 10 000 musketeers to aid the Ming army in the Battle of Sarhu and successfully fought the Manchus until their allies were defeated.

In Japan both the 14 and 18 chapter editions were published several times, and some methods from the Jixiao Xinshu were transferred over to the Heiho Hidensho (Okugisho), a Japanese strategy book written by Yamamoto Kanasuke in the 16th century.


  1. ^ Shahar 2008, p. 62
  2. ^ Huang 1981, p. 159
  3. ^ Gyves 1993, pp. 16–18
  4. ^ Huang 1981, p. 168
  5. ^ Huang 1981, pp. 168–169
  6. ^ a b c Andrade 2016, p. 172.
  7. ^ a b c Andrade 2016, p. 174.
  8. ^ Huang 1981, pp. 167–169
  9. ^ Huang 1981, pp. 170–171
  10. ^ Huang 1981, p. 172
  11. ^ Gyves 1993, p. 33
  12. ^ Gyves 1993, pp. 34–35
  13. ^ Shahar 2008, pp. 56–57
  14. ^ Shahar 2008, pp. 116–117
  15. ^ Shahar 2008, pp. 148–149
  16. ^ Lorge 2011, p. 202