|Section of the Ming Dynasty scroll painting 'Kang Wo Tu Juan (《抗倭圖卷》)', depicting Lang Bing armed with hook-like polearms. Other weapon such as Zhan Ma Dao (斬馬刀) can be seen in the illustration as well.|
The exact composition of Lang Bing is still a matter of debate. It is commonly accepted that the term is a corruption of Liang Bing (俍兵, troops of Liang ethnicity), and Lang Bing consisted of troops from Tong Ren (獞人, modern day Zhuang people) and Yao Ren (猺人, modern day Yao people) ethnic groups. Nevertheless, sometimes soldiers from Tong and Yao ethnic groups were placed under Tu Bing (土兵) and considered distinct from Lang Bing, while other times the term was used to refer to all Tu Si troops from Guangxi and Guangdong region regardless of ethnicity. The presence of "fake" Lang Bing complicated the matter even further.
By mid Ming period, former Lang Bing began to form their own social/ethnic group known as Lang Ren (狼人, lit. 'Wolf people').
Lang Bing were famous for their Yan Wei Pai (燕尾牌) and poisoned crossbow. They also used spear, javelin and sabre, and were quite accustomed to firearms as well. Lang Bing usually fought unarmoured, but probably had access to leather or even iron armour.
Lang Bing were among the first to adopt Jiao Chong (交銃) through border conflicts with the Vietnamese. Jiao Chong was considered the finest matchlock gun of the time.
Organisation and Tactics
Under Tu Si system, Lang Bing acted as a militia reserve force that was only mobilised in time of war. However, as they were mobilised very frequently, some Lang Bing were stationed at places far from their homeland and eventually settled there permanently. Some of these Lang Bing formed their own communities and became new Tu Si, while others were put into semi-permanent garrisons that were essentially unofficial Wei Suo (衛所). Others still became regular troops under Wei Suo system.
Lang Bing had a very strict command structure. Officers capable of leading one thousand in other armies were only qualified to lead one hundred in a Lang Bing army. As Lang Bing were lightly armoured swordsmen that relied on aggresive quick dash and ferocious rush to defeat their enemy, they probably fought in looser formation than other Ming troops armed with longer weapons. During battle, they were required to support their comrades at their immediate surroundings. Failure to do so would result in the execution of said Lang Bing.
Lang Bing often fought with such ferocity, it was said that twenty Lang Bing could easily overwhelm two hundred Wokou. However, because of their lack of discipline, Lang Bing were prone to break and flee if the battle went unfavourably for them. Their aggressiveness often caused them to fall easily into enemy ambush.
If left unchecked, Lang Bing often engaged in pillage, murder, rape, slavery and human trafficking at the place they were stationed.