Han Dynasty Donghai Military Inventory

Feb 2011
6,384
#1
During February 1993 some medicine harvesters stumbled upon a grave, inside which lies a military account book. It was titled "The Military Storehouse of YongShi's 4th year Equipment Account Book" 《武库永始四年兵车器集簿》. This puts the date at 13 BC. People say that this was their military inventory for Donghai commandery. However, from the account, it seems that the Han had an unreasonably huge amount of equipment for such a sparsely populated region. In fact to me it appears that this would actually be the military inventory's entire total, rather than the amount for just one commandery. Any more info would be appreciated.

I have taken the trouble of translating:

Bows&Crossbow:
--------Crossbow: 537,707 (imperial owned: 11,181)
--------Bows: 77,521
--------Subtotal: 615,228
Projectiles:
--------Crossbow bolts: 11,458,424 (imperial owned: 34,265)
--------Imperial owned arrows: 1,199,316 (imperial owned: 511)
--------Subtotal: 12,657,740
Armor:
--------Jia Armor: 142,701 (imperial owned: 34,265)
--------Iron thigh clothing: 255, 1 pair of unique ones
--------Kai armor: 63,324
--------Armored thigh clothing: …ten thousand 563
--------Iron lamellar armor: 587,299,
--------Leather armor is 14 jin [7.5 lbs]
Helmets:
--------Helmets: 98,226
--------Horse armor: 5,330
Shields:
--------Shields: 102,551
Polearms:
--------Bronze Ge: 632 (imperial owned: 563)
--------Spear: 52,555 (imperial owned: 2377)
--------Imperial owned sheng: 943
--------Pi sword-staff: 451,222 (imperial owned: 1421)
--------Ji halberd: 6,634
--------YoFang: 78,393
--------Duan: 24,167
--------Subtotal: 614,546
Blades:
--------Sword: 99,905 (imperial owned: 4)
--------JingLu Dagger: 24,804
--------Saw…sabre: 30,098
--------Sabre: 156,135
--------Great Sabre: 127 (232)
--------Subtotal: 311,069
Axes:
--------Iron axe: 1132 (136)
Battle Carts:
--------ChengYuZheng chariots, drum chariots,
--------WuGang chariots:18
--------Soldier’s ChengYu chariots: 24
--------Interconnected Crossbow Carriage: 564
--------Charging chariot: 37
--------Drum Chariot: 4
--------Battle Chariot: 1
--------…chariot: 564
--------…chariot: 1
--------WuGang strong crossbow chariot: 10
--------ZuiBi chariot: 1
--------Battle chariot: 502
--------3 wheeled soldier’s chariot: 1 (168)
--------Tracking: 9
--------High…chariot: 11
--------….chariot: 7
--------….chariot…chariot: 2133
--------Su…heavy chariot: 1993
--------Soldier’s…chariot: 677
--------He chariot: 2
--------FeiLow temporary chariot: 2
--------Subtotal: 7174 (imperial owned 42 + 7132)

As you can see this would be enough to arm an army of ~1 million men. How could so much equipment be localized within one commandery? Wouldn't it be unreasonable to have such a huge surplus of equipment, unless if it was for the entire empire? From the equipment list the only thing that seems lacking would be the Wugang chariots and helmets, if the inventory was for the entire empire. Weiqing was said to have sniped a Xiongnu chieftan with such a chariot, and this would be unlikely to have happened unless if the Wugang chariots were common. However here the list shows only 18 Wugang chariots and 10 Strong Crossbow Wugang chariots. It was recorded that there were only 98,226 helmets while on the other hand there is enough body armor for 793,324 men.

This is the original text I translated from:
弩弓:弩537707(乘舆11181),弓77521,小计615228
矢:弩矢11458424(乘舆34265),弓乘舆1199316(乘舆511),小计12657740
甲铠:甲142701(乘舆379),乘舆铁股衣225两1奇,铠63324,股甲衣□□□万563,铁甲札587299,革甲14斤。
头盔:(左革右是)暓98226(乘舆678),马甲(左革右是)暓5330
防牌:盾102551(乘舆2650)
枪:铜戈632(乘舆563),矛52555(乘舆2377),乘舆鈒943,鈹451222(乘舆1421),戟6634,有方78393,锻24167,小计614546
刀剑:剑99905(乘舆4),泾路匕首24804,锯□刀30098,刀156135,大刀127(232),小计311069
斧:铁斧1132(136)
战车:乘舆钲车、鼓车、武攠车18乘,乘舆兵车24乘。
连弩车564乘,冲车37辆,将军鼓车10乘,轻车301乘,将军兵车比二千将□鼓车116乘,□□车180乘,钲车8乘,鼓车6乘,战车1乘,□□车 564乘,□车1乘,武刚强弩车10乘,嘴弊车1乘,战车502乘,三轮兵车1乘(168),踪⒐瓿?乘,高□车11乘,□□车7两,□□车□车2133 两,素□重车1993乘,兵□车677乘,合车2乘,蜚楼行临车2乘。小计7174乘(乘舆42+7132)

If anyone could noticed faults in my translations, that would be appreciated too.
 
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Mar 2012
4,354
#6
The Han had multiple inventories, and this was clearly one among many.
It is doubtful that the Han government even recorded the entire military stockpile in the entire empire since the central controlled military inventory had a separate administration from the local one. The Central weaponry making official was known as aogong 考工 while the regional weaponry making official was known as Gongguan 工官 who was in charge of both the iron office and the military inventory.
According to a Yuan dynasty book Han Tang Shijian: "During the Han, from the commandery up to the capital, all had inventories and soldiers. In all the commandery there were inventories and the office of Gongguan was set up there. " 汉自郡国至京师,皆有武备,在郡皆有库兵,或置工官”
In the case of the Donghai military inventory, it probably belonged to the Central Government and not to the local commandery as there were records of imperial owned weapons, which was probably shipped to the region temporarily to crush a revolt.

There are several reasons why the inventory had such a large amount of weapons.
First the Donghai commandery is among the top ten largest commandery in the Han Empire and the same Yi Wan tomb which the inventory record was found recorded a population of over 1.3 million people in 13 BC(compared to 1.55 million recorded in the Han Shu in 2 AD). The Donghai commandery was originally part of the Chu kingdom but was taken from it by Han Jingdi, and when the king of Chu rebelled against the Han and was crushed, his large military inventory was probably given to the Donghai commandery and since there were few wars in the south, the stockpile simply got larger over time. Due to this reason, the inventory also probably had the military stockpile of the surrounding commanderies and from generals who was born in the region and attained weapons elsewhere to put into the Donghai inventory for most notable is the record of "ninety three(items of) envoys of the Princess of Wusun and fief lords" and "nine Zhi Zhi Chanyu's weapon" among the Donghai inventory weapons listed. The Jieyou princess married to Wusun came from the Chu kingdom which the Donghai commandery was located, so it made sense that there were weapons from the Wusun princess there. Yan Shou, protectorate general of the western region, who campaigned against Zhi Zhi, also came from Pei county from the old Chu kingdom. After he defeated Zhizhi, he took the weapon of the Xiongnu Chanyu and that was probably put into the Donghai commandery as well.

Second, there was a major rebellion in the south under Su Lin in 14 BC that reached some 10,000 in size and the Han government had to sent 30,000 soldiers to crush it. This rebellion shook the south and the central government probably temporarily enlarged the local inventory and imported weapons from elsewhere in the empire, including the capital. In another word, the inventory record of 13 BC was probably temporarily expanded to this size under red alert. The stockpile was enough to support over 500,000 soldiers, which is typical of large Han military inventories against dangerous enemies.
 
Feb 2011
6,384
#7
Thanks heavenlykaghan, what you said explains a lot. However, the inventory says that there is enough armor available to equip almost 800,000 men, very likely enough for the entire empire! This heavily suggests that the Han(with inventory from other commanderies) had more armor than soldiers, by a very large margin too. Even with a rebellion and surplus armory from other places, I don't think this could fully explain why the commandery would have so much. It's simply too much of a surplus to be within my realm of believability.

On another note, the amount of horse armor recorded (5,330) must make me rethink about the lack of heavy cavalry for the Han army. If the record was for the commandery only, then there should be enough cavalry armor within the empire to equip a handful of separate armies with significant amounts of heavy cavalry. This completely contrasts with the 3 Kingdoms era, in which Cao Cao complained that he only had 10 sets of cavalry armor as compared with Yuan Shao's 300 sets. However, the fact that "horse armor" is listed in the helmets section do raise the possibility that perhaps only the head of the horse was protected.
 
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#8
During February 1993 some medicine harvesters stumbled upon a grave, inside which lies a military account book. It was titled "The Military Storehouse of YongShi's 4th year Equipment Account Book" 《武库永始四年兵车器集簿》. This puts the date at 13 BC. People say that this was their military inventory for Donghai commandery. However, from the account, it seems that the Han had an unreasonably huge amount of equipment for such a sparsely populated region. In fact to me it appears that this would actually be the military inventory's entire total, rather than the amount for just one commandery. Any more info would be appreciated.

I have taken the trouble of translating:

Bows&Crossbow:
--------Crossbow: 537,707 (imperial owned: 11,181)
--------Bows: 77,521
--------Subtotal: 615,228
Projectiles:
--------Crossbow bolts: 11,458,424 (imperial owned: 34,265)
--------Imperial owned arrows: 1,199,316 (imperial owned: 511)
--------Subtotal: 12,657,740
Armor:
--------Jia Armor: 142,701 (imperial owned: 34,265)
--------Iron thigh clothing: 255, 1 pair of unique ones
--------Kai armor: 63,324
--------Armored thigh clothing: …ten thousand 563
--------Iron lamellar armor: 587,299,
--------Leather armor is 14 jin [7.5 lbs]
Helmets:
--------Helmets: 98,226
--------Horse armor: 5,330
Shields:
--------Shields: 102,551
Polearms:
--------Bronze Ge: 632 (imperial owned: 563)
--------Spear: 52,555 (imperial owned: 2377)
--------Imperial owned sheng: 943
--------Pi sword-staff: 451,222 (imperial owned: 1421)
--------Ji halberd: 6,634
--------YoFang: 78,393
--------Duan: 24,167
--------Subtotal: 614,546
Blades:
--------Sword: 99,905 (imperial owned: 4)
--------JingLu Dagger: 24,804
--------Saw…sabre: 30,098
--------Sabre: 156,135
--------Great Sabre: 127 (232)
--------Subtotal: 311,069
Axes:
--------Iron axe: 1132 (136)
Battle Carts:
--------ChengYuZheng chariots, drum chariots,
--------WuGang chariots:18
--------Soldier’s ChengYu chariots: 24
--------Interconnected Crossbow Carriage: 564
--------Charging chariot: 37
--------Drum Chariot: 4
--------Battle Chariot: 1
--------…chariot: 564
--------…chariot: 1
--------WuGang strong crossbow chariot: 10
--------ZuiBi chariot: 1
--------Battle chariot: 502
--------3 wheeled soldier’s chariot: 1 (168)
--------Tracking: 9
--------High…chariot: 11
--------….chariot: 7
--------….chariot…chariot: 2133
--------Su…heavy chariot: 1993
--------Soldier’s…chariot: 677
--------He chariot: 2
--------FeiLow temporary chariot: 2
--------Subtotal: 7174 (imperial owned 42 + 7132)

As you can see this would be enough to arm an army of ~1 million men. How could so much equipment be localized within one commandery? Wouldn't it be unreasonable to have such a huge surplus of equipment, unless if it was for the entire empire? From the equipment list the only thing that seems lacking would be the Wugang chariots and helmets, if the inventory was for the entire empire. Weiqing was said to have sniped a Xiongnu chieftan with such a chariot, and this would be unlikely to have happened unless if the Wugang chariots were common. However here the list shows only 18 Wugang chariots and 10 Strong Crossbow Wugang chariots. It was recorded that there were only 98,226 helmets while on the other hand there is enough body armor for 793,324 men.

This is the original text I translated from:
弩弓:弩537707(乘舆11181),弓77521,小计615228
矢:弩矢11458424(乘舆34265),弓乘舆1199316(乘舆511),小计12657740
甲铠:甲142701(乘舆379),乘舆铁股衣2251奇,铠63324,股甲衣□□□563,铁甲札587299,革甲14斤。
头盔:(左革右是)暓98226(乘舆678),马甲(左革右是)暓5330
防牌:盾102551(乘舆2650
枪:铜戈632(乘舆563),矛52555(乘舆2377),乘舆鈒943,鈹451222(乘舆1421),戟6634,有方78393,锻24167,小计614546
刀剑:剑99905(乘舆4),泾路匕首24804,锯30098,刀156135,大刀127232),小计311069
斧:铁斧1132136
战车:乘舆钲车、鼓车、武攠车18乘,乘舆兵车24乘。
连弩车564乘,冲车37辆,将军鼓车10乘,轻车301乘,将军兵车比二千将鼓车116乘,□□180乘,钲车8乘,鼓车6乘,战车1乘,□□ 564乘,1乘,武刚强弩车10乘,嘴弊车1乘,战车502乘,三轮兵车1乘(168),踪⒐瓿?乘,高11乘,□□7两,□□2133 两,素重车1993乘,兵677乘,合车2乘,蜚楼行临车2乘。小计7174乘(乘舆42+7132

If anyone could noticed faults in my translations, that would be appreciated too.
Those poor, poor Romans. The Legions never stood a chance:D
 
Mar 2012
4,354
#9
Thanks heavenlykaghan, what you said explains a lot. However, the inventory says that there is enough armor available to equip almost 800,000 men, very likely enough for the entire empire! This heavily suggests that the Han(with inventory from other commanderies) had more armor than soldiers, by a very large margin too. Even with a rebellion and surplus armory from other places, I don't think this could fully explain why the commandery would have so much. It's simply too much of a surplus to be within my realm of believability.
Military inventories should always attain a surplus over the amount of men it can conscript as backup in case of damaged armaments. The storehouse here probably include the weapons confiscated from the kingdom of Chu a century before. Having a vast surplus of weapons over soldiers is therefore not improbable. The Western Han practiced universal conscription and might have had as much as over 1.5 million soldiers at one time at its height under Wudi and Wang Mang.


On another note, the amount of horse armor recorded (5,330) must make me rethink about the lack of heavy cavalry for the Han army. If the record was for the commandery only, then there should be enough cavalry armor within the empire to equip a handful of separate armies with significant amounts of heavy cavalry. This completely contrasts with the 3 Kingdoms era, in which Cao Cao complained that he only had 10 sets of cavalry armor as compared with Yuan Shao's 300 sets. However, the fact that "horse armor" is listed in the helmets section do raise the possibility that perhaps only the head of the horse was protected.
Thats probably right as the Chinese account recorded was Majia Timao which directly translates as "horse armor helmets" in conjunction.

What is more notable is probably the earliest mention of stirrups in China in the form of Shangma Qiao "horse mounting bridge". This has been interpreted to be similar to the leather stirrups found in Buddhist murals in India around the same time instead of the full metal stirrups of later times.


And opposed to older theories, it appears spear already outnumbered the Halberds as the common infantry polearm by this time.

Since the tomb has only been discovered in 1993, a lot of works published in regard to it has only been made in the past decade and probably haven't received wide attention in the west, especially Central Eurasian studies, the crux or which were made in the 20th century under prominent scholars like Denis Sinor.
 
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