Join Date: Dec 2004
Thanks, Gonzalo, for referencing that film. You might be interested in hunting down a copy of THE DIARY OF A MANCHU SOLDIER IN 17TH-CENT. CHINA, which is a translation by Nicola di Cosmo of a handwritten diary by a soldier named Dzengseo of his experience on campaign against Ming rebels in the southwest near the Burma frontier (Routledge: NY, also in UK/Canada, 2006).
The journal provides many references to the role of archery in battles of the era, particularly in conjunction with the deployment of firearms and artillery. It is important to note that the Manchus, though holding up the bow and arrow as cultural icons, made ample use of firearms in their conquest of China, and their successful campaigns against hostile Mongol tribes, in Central Asia, and the Himalayas. (the only non-Chinese foe they faced which had an equally firm grounding in the use of guns were the Vietnamese, and for various reasons they didn't fare well against them).
From the onset, the Manchus had ready access to muskets and cannons thanks to large formations of disaffected Ming Dynasty troops who joined their cause, along with small numbers of Korean and even Cossack war captives who were absorbed into the Banners. It is also worth noting that the Ottomans, though they excelled at archery, utilized firearms from the mid-15th cent. onwards; their use of massive siege artillery at Constantinople in 1453 (provided thanks to the expertise of a mercenary Hungarian), is notable for not only its ultimate success but its early adoption by an Eastern culture.
Dzengseo's combat experience as recorded in the diary amply illustrates the perfect fit of the Manchu bow to the preferred battle tactics, which emphasized shooting individual opponents from the saddle, in keeping with the hunting methods perfected in Northeast Asia. ( In another thread (the one about an Algerian musket) I commented on remarks about cavalry firepower made by a British officer during the Peninsular War, which you may find relevant to this discussion as well. ) Volley fire with Manchu bows was not the norm, although the diary does describe its use in repelling a charge by war elephants.
As regards to your comments about missile velocity and range, I can offer the analogy of my experience with shooting high-powered rifles. A cartridge such as .222 Remington sends small light bullets zinging along at dazzling speeds, the trajectory is flat and accuracy at far distances is wonderful to behold. But deflection by crosswinds, or plant growth in the field, affect light projectiles more, and air friction reduces energy at longer ranges as well. A round like .458 Winchester has a massive slug that travels more like a heavy truck than a race car, but boy does it pack a punch -- just what you need to put down that bull moose. It all boils down to physics, no matter if it involves arrows or bullets.