Shang Chinese
circa. 1700-1000 BC

By Clive McLeod

The Shang is the first Chinese dynasty about which there is any information.  A previous dynasty , the Hsia, may have existed but this could be only a myth.  Even with the Shang there is little detail, so much of this list is conjectural.  It is possible that the Shang used elephants as the Indian variety was found in China up to the 1st millennium B.C.  I have not included them in the list.  There is no certainty that they were used, and if they were it was probably rare.  Wargamers being wargamers however, if they were in the list every Shang army would have them rampaging about. 

Traditionally the Shang were founded by T’ang who overthrew the last Hsia Emperor.  They were organised as a number of City States one of which would serve as capital depending on which was dominant at the time.  Warfare between the states was fairly common, but the main effort was against the non city-dwelling peoples of Northern China.

Initially the army was all infantry with a heavy emphasis on archers  (she) supported by close quarter fighters (shu).   Even the nobility served as archers.  Later, on  the nobles adopted the chariot (ma).  These were initially a two horse design with an archer and driver for crew.  These probably used the hit and run, skirmish tactics common to early charioteers such as Mitanni and Egyptians.  Later a third crewman may have been added.  I have assumed that the increase in weight would preclude skirmish tactics and assumed that they were more shock oriented, like similar Hittite chariots.


This is a tricky army to use.  Its mainstays are poorly protected archers and close fighting foot. The early pre-chariot army has no real answer to cavalry armies.  Skilful use of terrain is necessary against such opponents.  Its only advantages are lots of missile troops and weight of numbers. Against its historical opponents  it can certainly hold its own however.