DW Showdown Match 2: Japanese Ashigaru vs. Chinese Imperial Tang Warrior SNEAK PEEK!

January 2, 2011

DW Showdown Match 2: Japanese Ashigaru vs. Chinese Imperial Tang Warrior!

            JHanson712 here again, and this time I’m presenting to you an ancient warrior comparison that pits two warriors against one another that almost could have been on the same battlefield despite being separated by over seven hundred years. I was originally going to use the Samurai in this match, but I decided instead on a contest of two professional soldiers. Hopefully this article informs you of two often overlooked but pivotal warriors in Asian history while being entertaining at the same time.







Asia is a massive and exotic continent full of different tribes, cultures and practices. To the Western mind, it’s so broad and exotic that often ignorance prevails about what the continent actually represented to both Asians and non-Asians. The unequivocal fact is that for over a millennium and a half after the birth of Christ, Asia was the center of human progress and cultural development. While European lords fought petty battles over plots of land and their filthy, uneducated residents, some of the greatest empires of history rose and fell in the East. From the Mongols to the Arabs, Chinese, Japanese, and Indians, Asia during the Middle Ages represented what was great and horrible about mankind. This time on Deadliest Warrior Showdown, two of the best professional soldiers from this time period will face each other for the first time in history. The Japanese Ashigaru, the pragmatic citizen soldier who helped to end feudalism with a hail of gunfire. The Chinese Imperial Tang Warrior; arguably the best professional fighter in the history of China, and the world.  No rules, no safety, no mercy. It’s a duel to the death, to find out WHO is the DEADLIEST WARRIOR!!!!!

 Tang WarriorAshigaru


Contender 1: The Japanese Ashigaru

Overview: In the Warring States period in Japan, the first feudal commanders controlled small, professional armies of Samurai who were primarily horse archers and heavy cavalry. Eventually though, through decades of war among the generals there came to be a shortage of available warriors with Samurai ancestry. Gradually, to replace them a new type of warrior began to emerge much as he did during the feudal period in Europe: the footman, or as the Japanese would call him, the Ashigaru.


In Japanese, Ashigaru means “light foot”, implying that soldiers of this type were little more than lightly armed peasants who were slaughtered by the thousands by the mighty and legendary Samurai. At first, this was the case. Eventually, though, the Ashigaru became professional soldiers themselves, who at first wielding polearms and then turning to matchlock guns, became the primary component of the warring armies of the generals and later of the forces of the Shogun. Unlike the individualistic Samurai, they fought as a unit and for war booty as opposed to honor or prestige.



 The Ashigaru are largely forgotten today by all but students of Japanese history, but without them the unification of the Islands under one Shogun would have never been possible. Their success in battles such as Nagashino and at Sekigahara in 1600 showed the Japanese people that glory in battle was not restricted to the Samurai; rather, by skill and luck in war an average person could amass wealth and prestige. This was a big deal in the rigid class system of feudal Japan, when a Samurai could theoretically kill a peasant in cold blood and not be charged with a crime. Japanese unification finally came under the warlords Toyatomi Hideioshi, Oda Nobunaga, and Tokugawa Ieiasu, with the latter becoming the first Shogun of all of Japan in the early 17th century. The late period Ashigaru was a highly trained, cunning, and thoroughly professional soldier that symbolized the death of feudal Samurai culture and the emergence of a new Japanese national character. 




The Ashigaru in this matchup will be elite mercenaries from the year 1550, just when Japan was starting to be united under strong leaders. This was the period of the hottest warfare, as several powerful generals were fighting massive campaigns to determine who would rule Japan in the Emperor’s name. This period also saw the zenith of Japanese weapon and light armor development, as well as the emergence of the arquebus as a pivotal tool in warfare.



Next up is contender 2, perhaps the best ancient warrior the world has ever seen, and a worthy opponent to the Ashigaru, the Tang Warrior!

Contender 2: The Chinese Imperial Tang Warrior


Overview: China has always been the cultural hearth of East Asia, and as its oldest and largest civilization has the largest empires to its credit. The Tang period of China was the nation’s first golden age, a time of cultural flowering brought about by the establishment of the first stable Chinese empire in over 400 years. After the decline of the classical Han Empire, China saw another feudal period of instability and warring states not unlike what was taking place simultaneously in Western Europe. Finally, in the year 580 a military strongman named Yang Chien united the Chinese lands and took the imperial name of Wen Ti. Though they introduced several important advances to Chinese law, Wen Ti and his son were brutal, ostentatious rulers and were overthrown by a court official, Li Yuan.




Yuan, who would become Emperor Taizong, was arguably China’s greatest emperor. He introduced a new, professional army made of two branches, the aristocrats and the peasants. This united force succeeded in controlling most of present-day China (except Tibet), from Beijing to present-day Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan. It also defeated the mighty horse archers of the Gokturk Empires and protected the eastern outposts of the Silk Road. Taizong saw himself become the second most powerful man on earth (besides the Islamic Caliph), and China prospered for another century.




One of the few military failures of the Tang armies was at the Battle of the Talas River (751 A.D.) versus the equally mighty Abbassid Caliphate, and this loss marked the start of a slow decline for the Tang. China was inching farther west in control of trade routes, and it was only a matter of time until it faced the forces of Islam. After a five-day-long battle, the Chinese were betrayed by their own men and almost all were slaughtered or taken prisoner. Beaten for control of Central Asia, the Chinese began to bicker amongst themselves as the rising Tibetan and Manchurian states nibbled away at the empire’s borders. The end of the Tang finally came with the Ahn Shi Rebellion of 859, when a peasant usurper took the throne and attempted to form a new dynasty. The Tang rulers returned to power and stayed on until 909 A.D., but widespread civil war meant that they ruled only in name. After that, China experienced a period of warfare known as the Five Dynasties, and stability would not return for half a century.




As mentioned, the Tang army was among the mightiest in the world at the time and it was divided into upper and lower classes. The Tang representatives in this matchup will be warrior aristocrats from the year 750, just after Taizong’s reign and when the empire was at its greatest extent. This period comes right before the advent of gunpowder, so this warrior will represent the pinnacle of the classical Chinese soldier. Any ethnic group in China could have been at this rank, and it was common for Turks and Koreans to hold such positions based on their ability. Tang soldiers were equipped with powerful, mass-produced crossbows, halberds, swords, and the finest armor in the world at that time. They were adept at martial arts, and even had a few innovative weapons such as the flamethrower. They were battle-hardened, and had experience against such enemies as Turkish horse archers, Korean heavy cavalry, Tibetan warrior-monks, and of course the chosen fighters of the Caliph himself. The cultural advances of the Tang Empire were assured and secured with the blood of the its Warriors.











Tang warriors were a match for anybody in the world in 750, but how will they fare against musket-equipped mercenaries from eight hundred years in the future, who have everything to gain from war-loot and conquest? In the coming weeks, find out as another episode of Deadliest Warrior Showdown nears completion!