In Japan, yari (spear) seems inferior to katana. In Shogun: Total War, for example. Spear wielding troops are "cheaper" than Samurai. The spear wielding troops are peasants. Samurai are warior classes.

But the Chinese' general seem to prefer longer reach spears. It seems that all cavalry uses spears.


Why the differences?

It seems that the generals use spears too


It seems that in ancient china, every soldiers mainly uses spears instead of sword


I wonder why.

  • Yari is a weapon, samurai is a class of warrior; the question seems to compare two things in different categories. Can you clarify what you are trying to ask? Are you asking for a comparison of sword to spear, or of soldiers fighting in formation to duelists? of infantry to cavalry? – Mark C. Wallace Oct 6 '15 at 13:19
  • Samurai also fought with spears. For example, Maeda Toshiie, lord of Kaga, was nicknamed Matazaemon of the Spear for his skill in using that weapon. – Semaphore Oct 6 '15 at 13:31
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    This question should be closed. The person is using youtube and a videogame is inferences for what did and did not occur. We should encourage people to do a modicum of research before answering their questions – Stuart Allan Oct 6 '15 at 14:25
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    ALL cavalry used spears (pikes). Hollywood movies is not a valid source for history. – Alex Oct 6 '15 at 21:27
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    youtube and videogames are what initializes people to learn history. There's nothing wrong with asking people whether an inference they drew was incorrect. Also, the answer to this question isn't something you can easily look up on wikipedia. – setobot5000 Oct 6 '15 at 21:58

Spears cheaper to manufacture; I can't supply a reference (there are a few smiths in H:SE and I wonder if they can provide information) but a good smith can crank out spearheads quickly, and attach them to bamboo poles. Techniques for fighting in spear can be taught to formations of peasants quickly and easily. (and green troops derive quite a bit of courage from being in formation). Spears require relatively little metal, cheap wood, and green troops. You can replace a spearhead (and the troops to wield the spear) quickly.

@Greg correctly points out that I should use the term tachi below rather than katana; he is correct. OP used katana and I have used katana other than to acknowledge @Greg's point.

Katana however is an expensive weapon. There are ample references (include a good one on youtube) about the skill, time, and quality of steel required to manufacture a katana. Green troops cannot master a sword; I've been working on sword techniques for years and I am still unable to reliably demonstrate basic skills. Much of the reason for the mystique of the katana is that they were so expensive to make that it wasn't worth making junk katana. If you're going to spend that much money & time, you're going to make everyone as close to perfect as possible. If your weapon costs that much, you're only going to put it in the hands of a very skilled and very well trained warrior.

@Greg argues that I overestimate the cost of the katana; perhaps. I would welcome anyone who can provide better costs. With due respect to Greg, I believe that a katana is going to be a multiple of the price of a spearhead. @Greg also argues that I overestimate the skill of the warrior; I believe we actually agree on this point, but that I've expressed the concept poorly. A samurai is a professional warrior; they are expected to train at a professional level. Formation spear work is for militia troops who are not professional warriors.

(Aside: the Chinese have a relevant proverb - you can give a man a Dao and have a soldier in a 100 days; give a man a jian and it will take one thousand days. Granted a Dao is not a spear, but the theory is the same. You can train foot soldiers in simple cut/thrust/parry formation fighting quickly. You train such troops with weapons that are cheap to produce and effective in the hands of people with limited experience.)

(Second aside: I don't have a reference, but my recollection is that a handful of samurai took out entire formations of shinobi troops in a single day. A handful of men victorious against an entire army, because the quality of troops and weapons were totally different.)

Cavalry is a different problem; I sincerely doubt you'll find peasant troops in a cavalry formation. Cavalry requires extensive training for both horse and rider. Cavalry should be a very expensive troop. I'm not familiar with cavalry tactics at all, and the limited contacts I have in the cavalry world are western cavalry, not Asian cavalry. I freely admit that I'm not competent to discuss the different cavalry tactics with spear, lance, guan dao, etc. I am very dubious that anyone could use an 18kg guan dao from horseback. But as discussed in the comments, I am skeptical that Guan Yu actually used the Green Dragon Crescent; I think this is a signature endowment to assist with storytelling.

I don't have my book present at the time, but Scott Rodell relates that Chinese warfare was shaped by a different dynamic. The Chinese were able to muster enough low skilled/cheaply armed troops to dominate the battlefield. Japanese warfare was shaped by more elite fighters and less mass formations. There are Chinese swordsmen with astonishing skills and wonderful blades, but they had less influence on the battlefield. The battlefield was dominated by skill as a General, not as a swordsman (because raising mass levies were cheap). (Errors are mine, not those of Laoish Rodell.)

  • That's the kind of answer I am looking for. However, in china, at least on that movie, even generals, which are very elite warriors, uses spears mainly, instead of sword. Guan Yu, uses spears. Well, a kind of halberd actually. – Sharen Eayrs Oct 6 '15 at 14:35
  • I've only begun to study Chinese weapon arts; that said, a quick search of wikipedia confirms that most of what we know about Guan Yu is from Romance of the Three Kingdoms, which is not primarily a historical source. Both ROTK & the game find it useful to endow the characters with distinctive weapons. I'm not sure how much historical evidence supports those endowments. I'll ask my teacher about Chinese Glaive. – Mark C. Wallace Oct 6 '15 at 14:39
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    Adding to what has already been said, the naginata is associated with women because it developed into a women's martial arts sport during the Edo era. Prior to the rise of group warfare during the Sengoku Era however, it was a widespread equipment of the Japanese infantry. The weapon attributed to Kan Yu in the RotTK originated only in the 10th century, some 800 years after Kan Yu's lifetime. – Semaphore Oct 6 '15 at 14:53
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    It think this answer would really benefit by some references to back it up. The use of tachi (that is the name of battlefield sword, not katana) was rather common in certain periods of Japan, and it is not true that it would have been too expensive for masses. Also, the samurai class is practically professional soldiers, similar to medieval European nobility, so training was not as big issue as you depict it. – Greg Oct 7 '15 at 21:57
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    @setobot5000 The Song military was "inept" in that it was intentionally designed to be weak on the regional level - the dynastic founder won power in a coup and was wary of emulators. That had little to do with numbers - the Song Empire was never accused of undermanning its defenses. That said, Takeda Shingen did not have 30,000 cavalry. 30k was just about the absolute limit of what he could mobilise for a campaign. – Semaphore Oct 7 '15 at 23:52

European "medieval" cavalry used spears or lances. That is because they were facing infantry with long weapons such as spears or pikes. But the impact of a "spearman" riding a moving horse was a multiple of a spearman standing on the ground, because of the horse.

In the "early modern" era of musketry, European cavalry switched to using swords or sabers. That's probably because it was easier for a horseman to cut off the arms of gun-toting infantry, even with bayonets, than it was to stab them.

Chinese cavalry used spears because they faced few opponents with guns.

  • it was easier to cut off the arms than it was to stab them - actually european cavalrymen practiced both cutting and stabbing with sabers. That is, spear is longer, but saber is more universal. – Matt Oct 6 '15 at 16:24
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    Actually cutting from horse is pretty difficult, and in general causes much less injury than stabbing / throwing. Lance charges are actually more effective than sabre charges against infantry. Cavalry are of different type, and cavalry with lances were common even in XIX th century, see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lancer – Greg Oct 7 '15 at 22:38

Chinese cavalry, like the cavalry of all modern nations, use tanks and other armoured fighting vehicles.

If you mean in the past, all over the world polearms were used heavily by cavalry forces, as well as one handed swords, like sabres.

I serioulsy doubt Japanese cavalry of the era was inferior to samurai. The idea of the invincible samurai who all alone with his katana can defeat entire armies is pure fiction.

  • As you'll see above, I disagree with the final paragraph; I believe that a small handful of samurai were able to defeat entire armies raised by the Shinobi clans. But that was a special case. – Mark C. Wallace Oct 6 '15 at 14:24
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    @MarkC.Wallace it's of course highly situational. In a narrow passage a small number of well trained troops with the right equipment can hold off a far larger force, especially if the larger force is poorly equipped. But in general, on the field of battle, they'd just be bypassed, cut off, surrounded, and cut to pieces. – jwenting Oct 6 '15 at 16:44
  • As I recall, the Shinobi clans fought in formation and refused to break formation (green troops who had been trained to do only one thing, and leadership that simply didn't understand the problem). The Samurai were able to maneuver so that they were constantly on one corner of the formation, fighting only a limited number of opponents. Eventually the formations broke under the pressure and ran. – Mark C. Wallace Oct 6 '15 at 17:10
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    You guys realize that the samurai is referring a cast / large group of people, and "Japanese cavalry" were also samurai, regardless what was on Naruto, right? – Greg Oct 7 '15 at 22:01

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