Did the Chinese really have hundreds of thousands of men in a single side in a single battle?

Nov 2014
412
ph
Are battles where you have something like 300000 or more men in a single side in Chinese historical accounts real? Given that the largest Roman and Hellenistic armies tend to top out at 60000 or so, and controlling more than 50000 men in an ancient battlefield seemed to be very difficult which the technology of the time, not to mention the logistics train needed to support half a million men in a single battlefield, which was not achieved in the West until the Napoleonic wars.
 
Apr 2017
1,627
U.S.A.
The Persian army that invaded Greece was said to have been 200,000 strong (exaggerated claims say 2 million but that was logistically impossible), so it is not unheard of.
 
Jul 2017
63
France
Probably an exaggeration as is often the case in history.

For example, at the Battle of Azincourt, English columnists said that there were 160,000 French, today we know that there were no more than 12,000

Muslim columnists said that Alp Arslan beat 600,000 Greeks at the Battle of Manzikert

Another example, at the battle of kulikovo, Russian chroniclers go so far as to say that the Russians had 400,000 soldiers or even 1,300,000 soldiers Battle of Kulikovo - Wikipedia


For the Battle of Ankara in 1400 (Ottoman vs. Timurid), columnists said there were more than 1 million soldiers Battle of Ankara - Wikipedia

Even more funny, the Norman sources for the Battle of Hastings say they defeated 1.2 million Anglo-Saxons at the battle of hastings (actually there were no more than 10,000 of them) Battle of Hastings - Wikipedia

"The exact number of soldiers in Harold's army is unknown. The contemporary records do not give reliable figures; some Norman sources give 400,000 to 1,200,000 men on Harold's side."

Or at the battle of bouvines where French sources say that 600,000 Germans were defeated when in fact there were no more than 9,000.

Some sources for the Battle of Dorylaeum say that the Crusaders defeated 1,900,000 Turks (and this is no joke) Battle of Dorylaeum (1097) - Wikipedia

"Contemporary figures place this number between 25,000-30,000, more recent estimates are between 6,000 and 8,000 men.[1][2] Back then numbers were mentioned absurdly high in order to give it a heroic twist, 150,000 men according to Raymond of Aguilers, which was not possible due lack of logistic support, men and since Turks fought a hit and run guerrilla-tactic indicating a small army. Fulcher of Chartres gives the exaggerated number of 360,000."

It is the same for the Greco-Persian wars, the figures given by the Greeks are ridiculously high, but this kind of thing has always existed in history.

There's a good article on that, but it's in French 6 millions de croisés selon les manifestants… 15 000 selon la police
 

Naomasa298

Forum Staff
Apr 2010
35,219
T'Republic of Yorkshire
Osaka Winter Campaign, 1615. 164,000 men on the Toyotomi side, 120,000 on the Tokugawa side.
 
Aug 2015
1,888
Los Angeles
Are battles where you have something like 300000 or more men in a single side in Chinese historical accounts real? Given that the largest Roman and Hellenistic armies tend to top out at 60000 or so, and controlling more than 50000 men in an ancient battlefield seemed to be very difficult which the technology of the time, not to mention the logistics train needed to support half a million men in a single battlefield, which was not achieved in the West until the Napoleonic wars.
Depends on how close you are to your supply depot and how large is your supply depot.

During Sui dynasty, it was said the Luoko Depot has 24 million dan of grain and supplies. You can probably feed a very large army for a very long time.

Of course these are strategic depot for the entire empire, aim to relieve great disasters like famine or flood or drought. So in general you don't want to be messing around with strategic reserve.
 
Sep 2009
1,260
Depending on your definition, the answer though is generally yes, though obviously not actually packed into a single field clashing.

The wars often brought up on these were large campaigns where both sides often had multiple armies and there were actions on several different fronts at the same time, this combined with the logistics crew that need to sustain them, (often these campaigns last months, it was not two army marching up to a field on a sunday.) And most of China's geography isn't very friendly for logistics via water, which means a lot more man power need to be deployed in that regards.

For example, in the battle of Changping the map was like this
1557748542393.png

Ok so what does this all mean? there's several mountain that's listed here and that's where the Zhao forces had setup their camps basically, the Qin forces in red in the early part of the war was very frustrated by this as these were positions that they basically couldn't take (several attempts were made, and failed. ) meanwhile with this setup it also means if the Qin were to try and surround and siege one of the mountains they were in grave danger of forces from the other one coming down on their back.

So just to give you a simple idea, using google map this is the approximation of the two mountain in the center of the above map, where the blue forces made their camps were from each other today on the two sides of modern-day Gaoping city.

1557750077957.png

The straight distance is almost 10 KM long, for comparison point, the battle of Agincourt, if we measure the distance between the village of Agincourt to Tramecourt it's about 1.7km (the actual battle happened in between, though the field's distance is certainly even shorter than that.)

And this distance between the two mountain is just the CENTER of this campaign, the entire map of the area involved in the campaign is easily 2~3 x the distance, AND this campaign lasted for over two years(!!) as most of it was a stalemate of the Zhao holding on and building up fortification spots while the Qin trying to find ways to dislodge and outflank them.

So yes, if we agree that Agincourt was roughly 18~20k combined on both side, just looking at the campaign scale involved in this, not to mention the length and standoff and the logistical nightmare that must have required, one can easily conclude that the magnitude of the Changping almost certainly required even more than a factor of 10 of manpower to have been plausible. sure, most of them were probably closer to laborers than actual warriors, but if you make that argument today to a US military servicemen that logistical crews aren't real military people, you'd get laughed out of the room or worse (most of the US casualties in Iraq and Afganistan have in fact, been logistical people.)