Weapons That Guard the Frontier
Reporters Wang Jiangang, Sun Bing, Li Jianglong, Zhang Na, Han Dong
Introduction: We are on a quest to find the treasures of time and to touch concrete history. Next is our television documentary series -I love my hometown - generous gifts from history. The Great Wall Museum of Shanhaiguan is a museum of monographic research of the Great Wall and is also the biggest and most famous of its kind. Now let the reporter show you around the museum and view its most valuable holding: the Red Coat Cannon.
Handong: A cannon is a type of large-calibre weapon that launches a projectile using gunpowder. In ancient China, there were many types of cannons, of which the most famous one is the Red Coat Cannon. Now I am at the Great Wall Museum of Shanhaiguan, beside me, you can see a Red Coat Cannon.
Main text: This cannon is 3 meters long and weighs 3 tons. It consists of four parts: cannon, gun ear, gunpowder chamber, and gun tail. The front part of the cannon body was cast twice. It is one of the best preserved Red Coat Cannons in China. Zhao Hongli, vice director of the Great Wall Museum, told reporters that this very precious cannon was almost sent to the ironmaking furnace as waste.
Narrator Zhao Hongli, vice director of the Great Wall Museum: In August, 2004, Shanhaiguan was building the Lianhuahu (Lotus Lake) Park. At that time, a person collecting waste discovered the unearthed iron cannon with a metal detector. He then hired a crane and a truck to carry the cannon to the waste collection station for sale.
Main text: Knowing the situation, the cultural relics department of Shanhaiguan District quickly dispatched personnel to investigate the waste collection station. Soon after, the cannon was found in Lvjiagou Village, east of Shanhaiguan. With the cooperation of the Nanguan police station, the cultural relics department collected the cannon and sent it to the Great Wall Museum for preservation.
History Scholar Guo Zemin: There are inscriptions on this cannon. The total number of visible words is 92. First, let's take a close look at the casting age. It is the 16th year of Chongzhen(1610-1644). It also mentions the person who was in charge of casting this cannon at that time. He is also responsible for any problems of the cannon.
Main text: Historically, the official name of the Red Coat Cannon should be "Godly Powerful General." There is such an inscription on the muzzle position of another cannon in the Museum. So why is it called "Red Coat Cannon"?
History Scholar Guo Zemin: Firstly, we imported the cannon from the Netherlands. At that time, we Chinese degraded them as barbarians, the red race or colour. so they called the cannon Red Cannon. Secondly, for protective purposes, they are covered with red cloth, so they are called Red Coat Cannons.
Main Text: Cannons have a long history in China. According to research, the earliest cannons appeared in the Yuan Dynasty(1271-1368). In the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing dynasties(1616-1911), according to the needs of the war, military generals made many different types of cannons by introducing foreign technology or by innovation. At the Great Wall Museum of Shanhaiguan, a collection of ancient cannons pieces is on display. So why are the red coat cannons more widely known than most cannons?
Narrator Zhao Hongli, vice director of the Great Wall Museum: Compared with traditional Chinese cannons, the body of a red coat cannon was lengthened, which greatly improves the effectiveness of gunpowder. Through the support of the ears, operators can adjust the angle of the muzzle, and then control the amount of gunpowder. This greatly increased its firing range and hit rate.
Main Text: The advanced technology has made great power and has naturally received wide attention. Another reason for the historical reputation of the Red Coat Cannons is that it played a huge role in the war in the late Ming Dynasty. In a sense, it even rewrote history.
History Scholar Guo Zemin: It played a considerable role in the late Ming Dynasty. In the sixth year of Tianqi, during the battle with the Later Jin(1616-1636), the Ming army commanded by Yuan Chonghuan, the governor of Hebei and Liaoning, seriously injured the army of Nurhaci (the founder of Qin dynasty, 1559-1626) with red cannons , which became a turning point in history.
Main Text: Realizing the great power of the red coat cannon, the Ming government began to cast this cannon in large quantity by imitation. Shanhaiguan City is built between the mountain and the sea, and dominates the passage of the Liaoxi Corridor. It is a battleground in the course of Chinese history. As a decisive weapon in the military defence system of Shanhaiguan, the red coat cannons were deployed in Shanhaiguan and the surroundings. For quite a long time, the Manchurian cavalry feared the power of the red coat cannons and did not dare to attack Shanhaiguan directly.
However, the advanced weapons did not save the crumbling Ming Dynasty. Due to the surrender of Wu Sangui, the general of the Pass of the Ming Dynasty, the Red Coat Cannons that had been used to resist the invasion of the Qing Dynasty, were turned around and began to attack the remnants of the Ming Dynasty and the peasant army. What is even more tragic is that after the establishment of the Qing Dynasty, the art of casting cannons was not significantly improved due to the close-door policy.
Reporter Han Dong: Beside the hall of the Red Coat Cannon, there is another cannon cast in 1841 in the Qing Dynasty. It was discovered in Nantu village, south of Shanhaiguan.
Main Text: According to measurement, the cannon body has a length of 3.69 metres and a weight of 5 tons. The front of this cannon body is damaged. According to research, during the invasion of Eight-Power Allied Forces to Shanhaiguan in 1900, the defenders deliberately damaged the cannon in the course of retreat, in case it fell into the hands of aggressors.
Narrator Zhao Hongli, vice director of the Great Wall Museum: Compared with the Red Coat Cannon cast 200 years ago, the cannon of the Qing Dynasty did not have any great technical improvement except that of weight.
History Scholar Guo Zemin: Because of the closed-door policy of the Qing government, its industry was stagnant. Not surprisingly the cannon casting technology was far behind the Western countries, which led to the military humiliation of the two Opium Wars (1840-1842，1856-1860) and the invasion of the Eight-Power Allied Forces in 1900. Therefore, our country must reform and open up and revitalize itself through science and technology.
Reporter Han Dong: Cultural relics are an incarnation of the history. If you have free time and are interested, you should visit the Great Wall Museum of Shanhaiguan to see the Red Coat Cannon and to feel the might of the heroic cavalry and its magnificent years.