Jixiao Xinshu

Jixiao Xinshu (simplified Chinese: 纪效新书; traditional Chinese: 紀效新書; pinyin: Jìxiào xīnshū) or New Treatise on Military Efficiency[1] was a military manual written by the Chinese general Qi Jiguang (戚繼光) of the Ming dynasty. The book discusses the subjects of military strategy, combat tactics, weapons and equipment, training, armed and unarmed fighting techniques, logistics, and other aspects of warfare. The Jixiao Xinshu is one of the earliest Asian texts to describe armed fighting techniques, and is one of several late Ming texts to address the relevance of the martial arts to military training and warfare. Several contemporary martial arts styles of Qi's era are mentioned in the book, including the staff method of the Shaolin monastery.


Unarmed fighting as depicted in the manual.

In the late 16th century, the military of the Ming dynasty was in poor condition. As the Mongols forces of Altan Khan raided the northern frontier, China's coastline fell prey to wokou pirates. Qi Jiguang was assigned to the defense of Zhejiang in 1555. With no preexisting standards defining military organization, equipment, tactics, training, or procedures, it fell upon Qi to develop his own.[2] He published his recommendations in the Jixiao Xinshu after achieving several victories in battle.


There are two editions of the Jixiao Xinshu. The first edition, written around 1560-1561, consists of 18 chapters, and is thus also known as the 18 chapter edition. The later edition, re-edited and also including some new material, had a total of 14 chapters, and was known as the 14 chapter edition. It was published in 1584 around the time of General Qi's retirement. The chapters included in the 18-chapter edition are as follows:[3]

Chapter Subject
1. Five man squads
2. Signals and commands
3. Motivating troops
4. Issuing orders; prohibitions during combat
5. Training officers
6. Evaluating soldiers; rewards and punishments
7. and 8. Field camp activities; in-camp drilling with flags and drums
9. The march
10. Use of polearms
11. Use of the shield
12. Use of swords
13. Archery
14. Quanjing Jieyao Pian (Chapter on the Fist Canon and the Essentials of Nimbleness); unarmed fighting
15. Devices and formations for defending city walls
16. Illustrations of standards, banners, and signal drums
17. Guarding outposts
18. Coastal warfare

Mandarin duck formation

In the Jixiao Xinshu, Qi Jiguang introduced the so-called "mandarin duck formation" (Chinese: 鴛鴦阵; pinyin: yuānyāng zhèn). This formation consisted of a unit of eleven soldiers and one person for logistics.[4]

The mandarin duck formation was symmetrical; excluding the corporal and cook/porter, the ten remaining men could be split into two identical five-man squads when appropriate. If the Japanese pirates made it past the long lances, the saber-and-shield men formed a protective screen for the vulnerable lancers. In battle, the two saber-and-shield men had different roles. The one on the right would hold the advance position of the squad, while the one on the left was to throw javelins and lure the enemy closer. The two men with multiple tip bamboo spears would entangle the pirates while the lancers attacked them. The trident carriers guarded the flanks and rear.[5]

Each squad was drilled in coordinated and mutually-supportive fighting with clearly defined roles for everyone. Because Qi's troops were recruited from among peasants, and were not individually the equals of their Japanese foes, Qi Jiguang emphasized the use of combined arms and squad tactics to defeat Japanese pirates. Units were to be rewarded or punished collectively: an officer would be executed if his entire unit fled the enemy, and if a squad leader was killed in battle, the whole squad would be put to death.[6]

Weapons production

In dealing with the piracy crisis, the Ming dynasty never had a unified supply chain for the design or manufacturing of advanced weapons. Instead, the standard procurement procedure for a commander such as Qi Jiguang was for production quotas to be assigned by provincial officials to each local district under the commander's responsibility. The resulting weapons produced by this method would vary widely in quality. In particular, muskets exploded with alarming frequency, leading Qi to eschew reliance on firearms in favor of using simpler tools such as swords, rattan shields, and sharpened bamboo poles, even later in his career when he had better access to firearms.[7] Qi included in his manual an estimation of the percentage of firearms that would fail to fire.[8]

The manual provides the following description of the forging of swords:

The following steps in the manufacturing process of the short sword are necessary:

  1. The material of iron used must be forged many times (that is heated, hammered and folded numerous times).
  2. The cutting edge must be made from the best steel, free of impurities.
  3. The entire part of the blade where the back or ridge of the blade joins the cutting edge must be filed so that they appear seamlessly joined together. This process is necessary to enable the sword to cut well.

Unarmed fighting

The last chapter of the Jixiao Xinshu, the Quanjing Jieyao Pian, covers the subject of unarmed combat. Qi Jiguang regarded unarmed fighting as being useless on the battlefield. However, he recognized its value as a form of basic training to strengthen his troops, improving their physical fitness and confidence.[9] Qi selected thirty-two postures to illustrate, from among the martial arts of the period. The description of the techniques is written in verse, typically with seven characters per line.

In the chapter's introduction, Qi names sixteen different fighting styles, all of which he considered to have been handed down in an incomplete fashion, "some missing the lower part, some missing the upper".[10] Among the arts listed is the Shaolin staff method, which was later documented in detail in Cheng Zongyou's Exposition of the Original Shaolin Staff Method, published around 1610.[11] By contrast, Shaolin unarmed fighting techniques are not mentioned. The entire listing of late Ming dynasty martial arts was later copied without attribution by a manual of the Shaolin style, the Hand Combat Classic (Quanjing quanfa beiyao). However, the later manual, with a preface dated to 1784, altered the text, adding a spurious claim that the history of hand combat had originated at the Shaolin Monastery.[12]

Qi's discussion of hand-to-hand combat makes no mention of a spiritual element to the martial arts, nor to breathing or qi circulation. By contrast, Chinese martial arts texts from the Ming-Qing transition onward represent a synthesis of functional martial arts techniques with Daoist daoyin health practices, breathing exercises, and meditation.[13][14]


Qi Jiguang was one of several Ming authors to document the military tactics and martial arts techniques of the era. The late Ming period piracy crisis produced the earliest known documentation of specific styles of Chinese martial arts, as scholars and generals such as Qi and his contemporary Yu Dayou turned their attention to reversing the decline of the Ming military system. In the late 16th century, the Japanese invasion of Korea spurred great interest in military training methods within the Korean government. Qi Jiguang's writings were of particular interest because of his successful campaigns against Japanese pirates several decades prior. The 14-chapter edition of the Jixiao Xinshu served as a model for the oldest known Korean martial manual, the Muyejebo.

In Japan the book was published several times, in both the 14 and 18 chapter editions. Some methods from the Jixiao Xinshu are written in the Heiho Hidensho (Okugisho), a Japanese strategy book written by Yamamoto Kanasuke in the 16th century.


  1. Shahar 2008, p. 62
  2. Huang 1981, p. 159
  3. Gyves 1993, pp. 16–18
  4. Huang 1981, p. 168
  5. Huang 1981, pp. 168–169
  6. Huang 1981, pp. 167–169
  7. Huang 1981, pp. 170–171
  8. Huang 1981, p. 172
  9. Gyves 1993, p. 33
  10. Gyves 1993, pp. 34–35
  11. Shahar 2008, pp. 56–57
  12. Shahar 2008, pp. 116–117
  13. Shahar 2008, pp. 148–149
  14. Lorge 2011, p. 202


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