Can anyone tell me in detail about battle ships of Ming and Japan?


Ad Honorem
Aug 2013
United States
It was recorded that a typical Ming Fuchuan junk was usually mounted with one large cannon (probably the generals type) and a few supporting mortars or breech-loaders. In terms of armaments they were indeed behind European ships, but sufficient to deal with other East Asian ships.
Which source is that?

They had various types of Fuchuan, and plus many medium and small ships.
What were these?
Last edited:
Jul 2015
Japari Park
Which source is that?
Don't know what "typical" Fuchuan he's referring to, but I guess it should be Qi Jiguang's Ji Xiao Xin Shu version.

While one of the most famous Ming general, Qi Jiguang wasn't particularly renowned as a naval general, and the equipment he listed probably lag behind his contemporaries.

Basically "Big fuchuan", "Medium fuchuan" ,"Small fuchuan" and "Smallest fuchuan", although they had specific names such as Hai Chan Chuan etc.
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Jul 2015
Japari Park
So were these discrete classes or just arbitrary size distinctions?
Discrete classes. Sort of like the difference between an Atakebune and a Sekibune or a Panokseon and a Turtle ship. Same shipbuilding template, different size and role.

Here's a Cang Shan Chuan (苍山船), (one of the) smallest kind of Fuchuan. This was the version sent to Korea.

Fuchuan classes:
Class 1 & 2: Da (Big-) Fuchuan or Fuchuan

Class 3 & 4: Cao Pie Chuan (草撇船)/Shao Chuan (哨船) and Hai Cang Chuan (海沧船) (Two distinct classes)

Class 5 : Cang Shan Chuan (苍山船). Usually modified from fishing boat. It is too small for direct ramming against Japanese ships, unlike its larger class 1~4 cousins. As far as ship goes, Cang Shan Chuan was considered more or less equal to Japanese ships. Neither ships could gain upper hand in a ramming contest. Boarding, however, was advised against.

Other Variants: Chong Qiao Chuan (艟橋船), Gao Ba Shao Chuan (高把稍船), etc. Some of these were modification of Qi Jiguang as basically "Class 4.5". Powerful enough to overcome Japanese ships, but still agile enough to sail to shallow/narrow places that previously only accessible to smaller Class 5 ships. Had oars.

Note1: "Japanese ship" here refers to medium to small ones such as Sekibune. It was very unlikely that Wokou could afford Atakebune-level warships.

Note2: Even the smallest of these ships were still v-bottomed. So it would get stuck in certain places while a flat-bottom Shachuan wouldn't.
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Dec 2011
Mountains and Jungles of Southern China
I've heard there's Japanese Tekkousen (ironclads) in excess of 50m in length, so at least the Japanese had that thing going for them. Of course, at that size, it was probably more of a floating brick...
That's probably an over-exaggeration. I don't think with pre-modern technology they could built an ironclad ship over 50 meters in length. Even if they managed to build one, it would be highly impractical and extremely difficult to maneuver, basically a sitting duck in water.
Dec 2011
Mountains and Jungles of Southern China
Here are two commonly used close range Ming naval weapons, from Great Ming Military blog: Great Ming Military

Huo Tong (Fire Bucket)

Huo Tong (火桶, fire bucket) is a primitive but rather powerful short range naval weapon used by the Ming navies. It is improvised from a large wooden bucket filled with five catties of low grade or spoiled gunpowder (deemed unsuitable for cannon charge) and then covered with a layer of dry sand or soil. A bowl filled with embers covered in ash is carefully placed on top of the soil layer just before the bucket is sealed and thrown (or dropped) onto enemy warship. Once the bucket gets knock over, it will either explode into a burst of flame or spilling burning gunpowder everywhere. Huo Tong can be used in siege defense as well.

Huo Zhuan (Fire Brick)

Huo Zhuan (火磚, lit. 'Fire brick') is a type of brick-shaped hand grenade used by the Ming navy. It is a small box made of thin wooden planks and filled with one catty and four taels of gunpowder charge, twenty paper firecrackers, twenty flying fireworks/miniature incendiary rockets known as Fei Yan (飛燕, flying swallow) and thirty iron caltrops. The grenade is waterproofed by wrapping it with four to five layers of oil paper, and can be ignited by means of a burning fuse.

Huo Zhuan measured one chi by four chun by two chun, roughly comparable in size to a large TV remote controller. It is one of the more common Ming Chinese hand grenades. Like all early grenades, there's a risk that enemy combatant would pick up the grenade and throw it back.
Supposedly the more recent "Pechili trader" style of ship was a direct descendant of Ming (and possibly earlier) seagoing junks. A very old style of ship that only faded away recently (early 20th century I believe)