Famous Military Unit of the Ming Dynasty — Lang Bing (狼兵)

Ming Dynasty Wolf Brigade
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.
Lang Bing (狼兵, lit. 'Wolf troop') was a type of auxiliary troops originated from Guangxi province, specifically Donglan, Na Di (那地, southwest of Nandan county) and Nandan. They were organised under Tu Si (土司, government-sanctioned hereditary chieftain) system. Lang Bing were famous for their ferocity in battle, but also notorious for their indiscipline and penchant for causing troubles.

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.

Mixed reputation
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.


  1. Interesting post. Presumably these troops have been used for coastal/local defence against pirates, but would any have been sent to Korea? Also have you any comments on the armour and helmets of the men with armed with the "scorpion tail"?
    Thanks in advance.

  2. Yes, a lot of them were sent to Korea during the Imjin war. In fact, probably more than the elite but less numerous ex-Qi Ji Guang's troops.

    The hat is probably a felt hat commonly worn by Ming troops.

    The armour seems to be some sort of brigandine or studded armor. If you check my leather armour post, you can find an "Armour of Yue Troop" that originated from the same region. However, whether that leather armour was used by Lang Bing or by other Chinese troops from the same region remains unknown. Some sources state that they fought unarmoured.

    (I feel like this blog post is still incomplete, might be updating it after I find more information)

  3. I agree on the armour, its certainly a studded type. It might be the same as the "Yue Troop Armour" but does not appear to have the banded structure (though it may be that the artist has not depicted the bands). Presumably brigandine is a relatively expensive suit to make compared to the leather/cowhide types, so my be less likely.

  4. Or it could be the 'studded paper armour' mentioned in my other post, or "studded cotton armour" similar to Qing Dynasty ones. It is very hard to judge armour type base on painting alone (sigh).

  5. Two other blogs I've read interpreted the studs as floral patterns similar to the one's depicted in Yuan Qu Xuan(元曲選).

    Off topic but do you have any idea how common the Pao Du (袍肚 Waist Guard?) and Jian Jin(肩巾 Scarf?) are amongst lower ranking Ming troops.

    Though I do know that Qi Jiguang specifically stated in Ji Xiao Xin Shu that southern troops used a sash instead of a waist guard to secure armor.

  6. Good day Wansui, and welcome to my blog.

    As with all painting, it is hard to assert whether it is studs or just floral patterns without other evidence to back it up, although IMO it is more likely to be studs or quilt pattern. The Yuan Qu Xuan picture (such as this one http://www.wdl.org/zh/item/2876/) that I Google up also strikes me as studs as well.

    It is clearer in the Wakō-zukan, where Japanese Wokou are depicted as wearing clothing with various detailed floral patterns, while Ming troops are depicted in, well, 'black dots'.

    Pao Du and Jian Jin are quite common among Ming troops, even high ranking ones (although certainly not universal). IMO these are the most iconic equipments of the Chinese troops.

    Although Qi Ji Guang did not specifically mention Pao Du, it could be wear together with a sash.

    Some Korean website (in English language) that I've read seems to suggest that the Jian Jin is used to store rations during the march. I cannot verify it though, maybe that is a Korean-only practice.

  7. Thanks for welcoming me,you have a done a great job translating classical Chinese/military terminology that I couldn't grasp.

    A shame that there isn't any surviving Ming brigandine/patterned clothing,from the books I read armor reconstruction is mainly based on paintings while there's a few exceptions such as Ming Shenzong's personal armor that have been excavated.

    I can spot some troops in the background wearing the Jian Jin in 抗倭圖卷.

    If the Korean explanation is correct that explains why Joseon troops are depicted with large bellies in the 北關遺蹟圖帖.

    Were the Chinese the only ones to wear turbans in the shape of a Fu Tou(幞頭) or did the Joseon Koreans wear them as well?

  8. There seems to be at least two surviving very late Ming Dynasty period brigandines in China, however those are virtually identical to Qing brigandine, so it might actually belong to the Jurchen.

    No, they put the military supply in the 肩巾 (scarf), not 袍肚. (According to that website, anyway).The large bellies are likely artistic license.

    Although I am not well versed in Korean history to answer your last question, some Korean painting I've seen depicting troops that are very identical to Ming soldier, maybe they wear those as well.

  9. In the 唐將書帖,Ryu Seongryong states that ex Qi Jiguang troops wore 白幍巾,is that the turban depicted in the first picture?

    Is the 太功記 depiction of southern troops anachronistic or does it have a historical basis(Other Ming armors in the text are copied directly from the Wu Bei Zhi)?

  10. @Wansui

    Very possible. Wakō-zukan also depicts other troops that match the description in 《唐將書帖》 very closely.

    I know too little about the 太功記 to comment, the drawing does seem to match the 'general appearance' of Chinese troops, but get a lot of details wrong / exaggerated.

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  12. http://pds27.egloos.com/pds/201412/06/23/a0306823_54829842c38f3.jpg

    could be this picture is lang bing?

    1. My God, are those LITERAL werewolves?

      Well the banner wrote 猿兵三百, so they should be monkey-troops? Must be those weird circus legion brought over by Liu Ting.

    2. some korean think that could be a picture of lang bing

      they translate that chinese letter as wolf trooper

    3. http://pds21.egloos.com/pds/201412/21/34/a0053134_5495d8c01f486.jpg

      here is a big picture

    4. I think 狼 and 猿 are quite easy to distinguish though.

  13. Replies
    1. You are free to share it as long as you credit and link back to me.