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Epic Mounted Archery

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China has a long history of mounted archery. Prior to the Warring States period (475–221 BCE ), shooting from chariot was the primary form of battlefield archery. Eventually, horseback archery replaced chariot archery during the Warring States period. The earliest recorded use of mounted archery by Han Chinese occurred with the reforms of King Wuling of Zhao in 307 BCE. Despite opposition from his nobles, Zhao Wuling's military reforms included the adoption of archery tactics of the bordering Xiongnu tribes, which meant shooting from horseback and eschewing Han robes in favor of nomadic-style jodhpurs. The style of drawing that is most commonly associated with Chinese archery is the thumb draw, which was also the predominant draw method for other Asian peoples such as the Mongolians, Tibetans, Koreans, Indians, Turks and Persians; However, during earlier periods of Chinese history (e.g., Zhou dynasty), the 3-finger draw was common at the same time that the thumb draw was popular. Furthermore, the various styles of Chinese archery offered different advice on other aspects of shooting technique. For example: how to position the feet, what height to anchor the arrow, how to position the bow hand finger, whether to apply tension to the bow hand, whether to let the bow spin in the bow hand after release, as well as whether to extend the draw arm after release. In addition, the various Chinese styles used a variety of draw lengths: literature, art and photographs depict Chinese archers placing their draw hand near their front shoulder, near their cheek, near their ear, or past their face. The dichotomy between ritual/examination archery technique and battlefield archery technique provides a significant example of the contrasts between different Chinese styles. Wang Ju, an author from the Tang dynasty, favored a ritual/examination style that involved a post-release follow-through where the bow spins in the bow hand, and the draw arm extends straight back; by contrast, certain authors such as Zeng Gongliang (Song dynasty), Li Chengfen (who was influenced by Ming dynasty generals Yu Dayou and Qi Jiguang) and Gao Ying (Ming dynasty) eschewed aesthetic elements (such as Wang Ju's follow-through) in favor of developing a more practical technique. In the Zhou dynasty (1146–256 BCE), nobles regularly held archery rituals which symbolized and reinforced order within the aristocratic hierarchy. The typical arrangement involved pairs of archers shooting at a target in a pavilion, accompanied by ceremonial music and wine. In these rituals, shooting with proper form and conduct was seen as important in order to hit the target. Ritual archery served as a counterpoint to the typical portrayal of archers, who were often skillful but brash. Confucius himself was an archery teacher, and his own view on archery and archery rituals was that "A refined person has no use for competitiveness. Yet if he cannot avoid it, then let him compete through archery!" Although civil archery rituals fell out of favor after the Zhou dynasty, examinations inspired by the Zhou-era rituals became a regular part of the military syllabus in later dynasties such as the Han, Tang, Song, Ming and Qing. These exams provided merit-based means of selecting military officials. In addition to archery on foot, the examinations also featured mounted archery, as well as strength testing with specially-designed strength testing bows.
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