Ottoman Musket in Ming China

Giray Fidan

 

The Emerging of China as an important political power in the international stage has attracted the scholarly attention from all fields of knowledge and science including history. China’s relation with the West and neighboring countries has been focused on the other hand relations between the Near East particularly with the Ottoman Empire have been on the periphery of research. The 16th century witnessed the zenith of the power of the Ottoman Empire. Ottoman power established on three major continents Europe, Asia, and Africa. Thanks to the firearms Ottomans throw out the powerful empires and dynasties of Europe, Middle East, and North Africa. Ottomans adopted the firearms for an offensive strategy, on the other hand, Chinese were trying to adopt the firearms namely musket to be able to cope with the threat of Nomads from North - West and Japanese Pirates in the East. Although the boundaries of geography two empires were in contact.

For Ottomans Portuguese was the most significant rival especially was possessing a threat to Ottoman domination of the Mediterranean. Ottomans were inferior to the Portuguese in the Navy, especially in the oceans. So Ottoman Empire sent military experts and equipment to the places far from the empire’s core. Hoping the natives by adopting this new weapons and expertise weaken the Portuguese. In Asia, Chinese more than willing to take this newly advanced expertise to reach the capacity to keep the Mongols and Japanese at bay.

Especially 16th century is a crucial period for both Ottoman and Ming Empires. Ottoman Empire was at its limits of power and expansion and became an Empire of controlling almost three continents. Thanks to the development of firearms in Ottoman Empire, Ottoman armies manage to defeat some of the most powerful armies of the age. Ming China had two major concerns one is the threat coming from the north by the Mongol – Jurchen nomadic warriors and the Japanese Wo Kou. Especially Japanese Wo Kou’s equipped with the advanced Portuguese muskets. So for the writer of Shen Qi Pu, Zhao Shi Zhen as a native of Wo Kou attacked Eastern Coast of China it was inevitable to adopt this new military technology to the Chinese Army. So he decided to collect firearms and compile a book of this comparatively new kind of military technology. In Beijing, he acquainted with two brothers from Rumi (Ottoman - Turkish) and got into contact with Dou Si Ma. Who was an Ottoman officer who resided in Beijing and served the Chinese emperor for more than forty years. They get together, and Duo Si Ma told everything about the Ottoman musket to Zhao Shi Zhen. It is fortunate that Zhao Shi Zhen compiled a book chapter about the musket and also told the story of getting the musket.

For 16th century world one of the most significant rivals of Ottomans was Portuguese. Especially in the Mediterranean sea and the domination of the trade in Near East and Europe. Therefore, Ottoman Empire and Portuguese were against each other. As we know, Ottoman Navy was not in the capacity of cope with the Portuguese Navy in the Oceans. Therefore, Ottomans tried another way to stop or at least harass Portuguese in distant lands in the far east such as Indonesia and China. So Ottomans sent military and embassy envoys and some military specialists to support and assist them with their advanced firearm technology. So firearms including the Ottoman Musket which described by Zhao Shi Zhen the most advanced musket for its time was also becoming an essential instrument of the new warfare and competition.