Thursday, April 10, 2008

Chinese Siege Warfare - Mechanical Artillery & Siege Weapons of Antiquity

Too often, when we talk about siege engines - catapults, trebuchets, ballistae, and so forth - we focus on European technology. But it's in the far east where the story begins, at least for gravity powered siege weaponry.

I recently purchased Chinese Siege Warfare, Mechanical Artillery & Siege Weapons of Antiquity by Liang Jieming. A somewhat difficult book to get a hold of (not available on Amazon as far as I can tell), this 150 page book did much to plug gaps in my knowledge. Although much of the book deals with Chinese pre-gunpowder siege weaponry, there are smaller sections on western designs and some early gunpowder devices.

Incredibly, much of the book has been placed on the web for free, and this book an is absolutely wonderful resource for students of siege engines and model makers.

The book is well illustrated, using a combination of line drawings from old texts and colored pictures of the author's recreations of many of the machines discussed in the text. I noticed that Liang uses rope lashing to connect the wooden members of his machines, which is something I discussed in the Viking Catapult chapter of my book The Art of the Catapult. I've often suspected that the ancient builders, world over, made extensive use of lashed joints as they are strong, rigid, and relatively easy to master.

Overall, a good book filled with hard to find information. I recommend it.