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Ming Dynasty musketeers in drill formation.

Jiao Yu (Chinese: 焦玉; pinyin: Jiāo Yù; Wade–Giles: Chiao Yü) was a Chinese military officer loyal to Zhu Yuanzhang, who founded the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644 AD) and became known as the Hongwu Emperor. He was entrusted by Zhu as a leading artillery officer for the rebel army that overthrew the Mongol Yuan Dynasty, and established the Ming Dynasty.[1] As a senior advisor and general, he was later appointed to the venerable and noble status of the Count of Dongning.[2] He edited and wrote a famous military treatise that outlined the use of Chinese military technology during the mid 14th century, as far back as his military campaign of 1355 AD.[1] However, descriptions of advanced gunpowder weapons in his treatise extended back to the Song Dynasty (960–1279 AD) in battles against the Khitans, Jurchens and Mongols. In his Huolongjing, he described the fire arrow, fire lance, the early grenade, firearm, bombard, cannon, exploding cannonballs, land mine, matchlocks, naval mine, rocket, rocket launcher, two-stage rockets, and use of various gunpowder solutions that included poisonous concoctions.

Life and career

A portrait of the Hongwu Emperor, founder of the Ming Dynasty, whose many loyal officers included Jiao Yu.

In his youth, Jiao was an aspiring Confucian scholar, although his studies would not secure a great political future, since the ruling Mongols had restricted the amount of Chinese accepted into their governmental administration. Before Jiao Yu took up the cause against the ruling Mongols over China, he had met an adept Daoist intellect living in the Tiantai Mountain known as Chichi Daoren (the "Knowing-when-to-stop Daoist").[3] Like Jiao Yu, Daoren accepted the Confucian teachings of Confucius and Mencius, but in military affairs Jiao was convinced that he had inherited the skill of the ancient Sun Tzu.[3] After Jiao Yu became his protege, Daoren urged Yu to join the cause of Zhu Yuanzhang's rebellion.[4] Daoren had also shared with him various literatary works on 'fire-weapons' and their recorded uses in battle.[4] After joining his ranks, Jiao Yu became one of Zhu Yuanzhang's trusted confidants in the Red Turban Rebellion against the ruling Mongols of Yuan Dynasty China. Zhu was impressed with Jiao's designs of firearms, the knowledge of which he had earlier acquired from Daoren, yet Zhu wanted to test their abilities. Zhu Yuanzhang ordered his officer Xu Da to provide a demonstration of their destructive capability, and after the display Zhu Yuanzhang was most impressed with their power.[4]

With the aid of Jiao's 'fire-weapons', Zhu's army (once stationed in Hezhou amongst a plethora of different rebel groups in surrounding towns) conquered Jingzhou and Xiangzhou in one expedition, in the second expedition the provinces of Jiang and Zhe, and in the third campaign the entire province of Fujian was taken, including its surrounding waterways.[2] After this, Zhu's army captured the whole of the Shandong province in one campaign, strengthening his base while the authority of the Mongol regime at Beijing was collapsing all around.[2] Zhu Yuanzhang finally drove the Mongols north in 1367, establishing a new capital at Nanjing soon after (while Beijing remained the secondary capital).

After the successful rebellion and establishment of Zhu as China's new Hongwu Emperor, Jiao was put in charge of manufacturing firearms for the government.[4] Jiao was eventually appointed as the head officer in charge of the enormous Shen Zhi Ying Armory, where multitudes of manufactured guns and artillery were deposited for storage and safekeeping.[4] Proper maintenance and safety measures for gunpowder arsenals were taken very seriously by the Chinese during Jiao's time. This was because previous disasters occurred during the Song Dynasty, with Prime Minister Zhao Nanchong's personal arsenal catching fire and exploding in 1260 AD,[5] alongside the monumental disaster of the enormous Weiyang arsenal accidentally catching fire in 1280 AD and killing more than 100 people.[6] With Zhu Yuanzhang in power over the government, he established various manufactories in the capital at Nanjing for the manufacture of gunpowder and fire-weapons, stored in various arsenals throughout the country.[4] The Hongwu Emperor even established a new Gunpowder Department in the central administration of the capital.[2] Indeed, Jiao Yu placed a lot of emphasis on the importance of these fire-weapons, as he once wrote in a preface to his book, "the very existence or destruction of the Empire, and the lives of the whole armed forces depend on the exact timing of these weapons. This is what fire-weapons are all about."[3]

Along with the scholar, general, and court advisor Liu Ji (1311–1375), Jiao Yu was the main editor of the 14th century military treatise known as the Huolongjing (Fire Drake Manual), which would include quotations from both editors.[7] The Nanyang publication of the book, known as the Huolongjing Quanzhi (Fire Drake Manual in One Complete Volume) featured a preface written by Jiao Yu much later in 1412 AD. Both publications falsely attributed the earliest passages of the book to the ancient Chinese Prime Minister Zhuge Liang (181-234 AD) of the Shu Kingdom,[7] even though gunpowder warfare did not exist in China until the advent of the gunpowder-fuse-ignited flamethrower (Pen Huo Qi) in the 10th century.[8] In any case, the oldest passages found in the Huolongjing were made no earlier than circa 1270 AD.[9]

Although Jiao Yu's biography does not appear in the official Ming historical text of the Ming Shi (1739), Yu was mentioned in Zhao Shizhen's book Shenqipu (1598 AD), He Rubin's book Binglu (1606 AD), and Jiao Xu's book Zekelu (1643 AD).[4] His text of the Huolongjing was also reprinted in the 19th century, during the late Qing Dynasty.[7]

The Huolongjing

Ming Dynasty (1368–1644 AD) era matchlock firearms featuring serpentine levers.

The Huolongjing (Chinese: 火龍神器陣灋), compiled and edited by Jiao Yu and Liu Zhi, outlined the use of many different gunpowder weapons found in China during the 14th century. It provided information for:

For more, see the article on the Huolongjing.

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 Needham, Volume 5, Part 7, 26.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Needham, Volume 5, Part 7, 31.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Needham, Volume 5, Part 7, 29.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 4.6 Needham, Volume 5, Part 7, 27.
  5. Needham, Volume 5, Part 7, 209.
  6. Needham, Volume 5, Part 7, 209-210.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Needham, Volume 5, Part 7, 25.
  8. Needham, Volume 5, Part 7, 82.
  9. Needham, Volume 5, Part 7, 24.
  10. Needham, Volume 5, Part 7, pp. 180–187.
  11. Needham, Volume 5, Part 7, p. 183.
  12. Needham, Volume 5, Part 7, pp. 153–154.
  13. Needham, Volume 5, Part 7, pp. 192–196.
  14. Needham, Volume 5, Part 7, pp. 203–205.
  15. Needham, Volume 5, Part 7, p. 229.
  16. Needham, Volume 5, Part 7, pp. 314–325.
  17. Needham, Volume 5, Part 7, p. 264.
  18. Needham, Volume 5, Part 7, p. 459.
  19. Needham, Volume 5, Part 7, 489.
  20. Needham, Volume 5, Part 7, p. 508.
  21. Needham, Volume 5, Part 7, pp. 498–503.


  • Needham, Joseph (1986). Science and Civilization in China: Volume 5, Chemistry and Chemical Technology, Part 7, Military Technology; the Gunpowder Epic. Taipei: Caves Books Ltd.

External links

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