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Old 29th July 2021, 08:05 PM   #1
Gustav
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Default Canon from Beijing

This absolutely isn't my area of interest, but here ist is.

It stands in the garden of Historical Museum of Bern (Switzerland). The description is currently removed because of a renovation, but if I remember correctly, it is from Beijing, Forbidden City.

No measurements, if somebody is interested, I can take them the next time I will visit Bern.
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Old 30th July 2021, 08:19 AM   #2
Peter Andeweg
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Very interesting cannon, beautifully casted. The inscriptions are both in Manchu (left) as traditional Chinese (right).
Thanks for sharing Gustav!

I wonder if there is any possibility to have a close up of the inscriptions? Could be interesting to see if it was actually linked to the forbidden city and if it is dated.

Regards,
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Old 30th July 2021, 09:35 AM   #3
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There are cannons displayed in Forbidden City, and some of them are very similar, yet I doubt they had them on Forbidden City walls.
This one is from Kangxi time (1661-1722), and there are more similar.
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Last edited by Gustav; 30th July 2021 at 02:22 PM. Reason: spelling
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Old 30th July 2021, 03:18 PM   #4
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Well, some information I did find.

The inscription says, this cannon was made in the 28th year of Kangxi emperor, which would mean around 1689, designed by Nan Huairen. Nan Huairen is the Chinese name of flemish jesuit Ferdinand Verbiest (1623-1688).

1681 he designed a new model of a cannon, shenwei jiangjun, more then 2 m long, around 250 kg in weight, with high precision range of 300 m. In the following seven years Verbiest designed three more models, shengong jiangjun, chongtian jiangjun and wucheng yonggu da jiangjun. The cannon in Bern is the last, biggest model. Between 1687 and 1689 61 cannons of this type were made. They werent surpassed till 19th cent.

The cannon with 11 other ones, all from Beijing arsenal, came 1901 after the supression of Boxer rebellion to Germany, and were displayed in Museum of Militar History in Zeughaus Berlin. 1936 eight of these should be melted down for reasons of space (!). The Historical Museum of Bern acquired 2 of these, and since 1936 it is in Bern.

The inscription says, translated in German:

Im 28. Jahr des Kangxi-Kaisers der Grossen
Qing-[Dynastie] [1689]
gegossen.
«Militaerisch vollkommener [und] ewig standhafter
Generalissimus» verwendet
fuenf jin Schiesspulver [und]
Kanonenkugeln aus Eisen von zehn jin,
«Sternhoehe» ein cun fuenf li
Beamter fuer die Konstruktionstechnologie:
Nan Huairen;
Werkaufseher: Fobao,
Shuositai;
Beamter fuer die Herstellung: Wang Zhichen;
Handwerkliche Dienstleute: Li Wende,
Yan Si.

The wucheng yonggu da jiangjun cannons were made in three sizes - the bigger one for 10 jin (6 kg 32 g) gunpowder, cannonball of 20 jin in weight, middle one sized for 6 jin 8 liang (3kg 880 g)/ 13 jin (7kg 842 g), and a small one for 5 jin/10 jin.

In China only one of 61 wucheng yonggu da jiangjun is preseved, of the biggest size. It is displayed at Duanmen gate in the Forbidden City (see the picture in *3). Two wucheng yonggu da jiangjun are still in Berlin, one in Ingolstadt, one in Coburg. Throughout there are 14 known wucheng yonggu da jiangjun outside of China, 13 in Europa and 1 in Japan.
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Old 31st July 2021, 05:15 AM   #5
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In 1994 I also saw a pair of these on the terrace outside the National Museum, Budapest.

A smaller sized barrel of field-gun size, similar markings, and in a Chinese-style carriage with wooden wheels, is in the museum of the US Military Academy at West Point, NY. There are two others like it in British military museums, one of which is dated 1689 and the other remounted in a much later British military gun carriage.
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Old 31st July 2021, 05:19 AM   #6
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There are an unknown number of these cannons in private hands as well. One, of the middling size with its wheels, sold a few years ago at an antique firearms auction in the US. I wouldn't be surprised if there are at least a couple others in the hands of collectors around the world.
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Old 31st July 2021, 08:29 AM   #7
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Here is the one from auction:

https://doyle.com/auctions/12as01-as...on-and-caisson

The inscription says:

"made on the 34th year of the reign of the Emperor Kangxi at Jingshan Nei
Cannon titled General Zhisheng
Specification powder capacity 1 jin 8 lians, iron cannon ball 3 jins, long range shot should be set at 45 degrees with slightly more powder added from top
General Manufacture Executive Hai Qing - Imperial Guard 1st Class
Manufacture Overseer Ba Fu Shou - Titled Manufacture Administrator
Documentation Administrators Shuo Si Tai and Ge Er Tu
Casting Masters Li Wende and Yuan Shi"

The caisson made up of period wheels and metal straps restored based upon a contemporary model. Diameter of bore 3 inches, diameter of trunnions 3 inches, length 63 1/2 inches, length overall 9 feet 6 inches, diameter of wheel 39 inches.

Provenance:
Lieutenant Colonel Webb C. Hayes
Western Reserve Historical Society, Cleveland, Ohio

For similar examples see West Point Military Academy, West Point, New York
Rutherford B. Hays Presidential Center, Freemont, Ohio

The object description is good, so I will copy it in its entirety here:

During his reign (1661-1722) the educated and enlightened Emperor Kangxi traded and learned from Europeans while resisting their expansion. He invited Jesuits to court to teach mathematics, geography and science, as well as help in diplomatic and military affairs, all in an effort to modernize the Empire. The Emperor was known as a diligent and fair ruler, reigning for 61 years.

The Jesuit priest Ferdinand Verbiest was born in 1623 in Belgium. His Chinese name was Nan Huairen. In 1659 he arrived in China, and by 1660 he was summoned to Beijing to assist Johann Adam Schall von Bell, the German missionary in charge of the Imperial Astronomy Board. At court, Verbiest taught rulers and high court officials. He composed a table of all solar and lunar eclipses for the next 2000 years, thus reworking the calendar, and was awarded head of the Mathmatical Board and Director of the Observatory by the Emperor.

In 1673 half of China's territory was swept into "the Rebellion of the three Feudatories". The Emperor realized the repression of the rebellion would require a much improved artillery, with particular focus on mobile and nimble cannon. Verbiest was asked to take part in the casting of these light cannon.

The Emperor sent orders to the board of war When Our Grand Army marches to suppress the rebels, it will need firearms very badly. We order Nan Huairen, the Director of the Imperial Board of Astronomy, to cast light but effective cannon, convenient for transportation, Kangxi shilu, p. 6b. quoted in the translation of Fu Lo-shu, A Documentary Chronical of Sino-Western Relations (1644-1820).

Verbiest fulfilled his orders. A total of 905 cannon were cast during the Emperor Kangxi's reign, more than half were under Verbiest's supervision. Verbiest wrote a book on how to cast cannon for the Qing government titled the Shenwu tushuo, which has since been destroyed, but is described in another publication by Verbiest Xichao ding'an. Three types of cannon designed by Verbiest are mentioned in the Qinding da Qing huidian (Great Qing code approved by the Emperor), shenwei, wuchengyonggu and shengong. The cannon offered in the current sale is of the shengong variety. The overseers listed are Ba Fu Shou and Shuo Si Tai, the craftsmen Li Wende and Yuan Shi, in keeping with the inscription on the gun. The cannon are always cast in bronze, the mouth of the barrel being a little narrower than the rear part. The central part of the barrel is situated with two axles which support balance and adjust the slant while enlarging the cannon's power and movability, thus meeting the needs of the warfare of the Qing Dynasty.

In a letter to The Honorable L. E. Holden, president Western Reserve Historical Society, dated 9 May 1901 written at Spiegel Grove, Fremont, Ohio Lieutenant Colonel Webb C. Hayes described the background of his war souvenirs: "Dear Mr. Holden, I am happy to announce the arrival here of the Tartar bronze cannon which I found as part of the defense of the Ha Ta Gate of the Tartar City of Peking. These three guns were supposed to have been brought to Peking when the Mongols or Tartars conquered the Chinese some four hundred years ago and established the present reigning Tartar dynasty. These guns were used not only in bombarding the Legation but also against the allies, so it is said, and were the most interesting guns from a curio standpoint found on top of the Tartar wall of the city of Peking. The inscription on the cannon I hope can be deciphered. There were but three of these guns on the wall of Peking, and all were under Russian jurisdiction but through the efforts of Lt. Colonels [Joseph T.] Dickman [U.S.V., General Chaffee's Assistant Chief of Staff] and [Henry O.] Heistand, both Ohio men, I secured the promise of them all. Unfortunately, however, the Russians surrendered the care of the Ha Ta Gate to the Germans and with it the control of these guns, so that the whole question had to be taken up again. The three guns were hauled to Tung Chow some 15 or 20 miles and then dismantled an placed on Chinese junks for the 100 mile trip down the Pei Ho (River) to Tein Tsin (illegible)-then by rail to Tong Ku some thirty miles-then by lighter to the transport off Taku and thence to San Francisco. I believe that these are the only Chinese cannon brought to the United States. Very Truly Yours, (signed) Webb C. Hayes."
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Old 31st July 2021, 08:31 AM   #8
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Perhaps at least one more in China, in Nanjing (yet it could be the same from #3, just brought to Beijing at some point, and painted green ).
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Last edited by Gustav; 31st July 2021 at 09:26 AM.
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Old 31st July 2021, 09:19 AM   #9
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And one from Veste (fortress) Coburg in Germany:
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