Fu Po class transport sloops (1870)

Fu Po class cruisers (1870)

Chinese Imperial Navy Imperial Ming Navy – Transport Gunboats

Fu Po was the lead ship of six armed transports, built by and for the Imperial Chinese Navy, at the Foochow Arsenal shipyard, all between 1870 and 1876. They were an important milestone, as the first home-built Western-style ships, although stil with wooden hulls. The shipyard at the time was under management by the Imperial commissioner Shen Baozhen, assisted by a diverse staff with engineers from Western nations (mostly French) which acted as advisors. They knew full well about the infancy of ship military grade steel production in China and so advised instead to rely on wooden construction, albeit with a metallic framing. Chinese officials would later blame Prosper Giquel, the chief engineer for to allegedly provide out-of-date equipment and a general design.

About the Foochow Arsenal

The Foochow Arsenal (Fuzhou/Mawei Arsenal also) was one of the modern shipyards ordered to be created by the Qing Empire. It was the first of such, with French assistance at the time during the so-called “Self-Strengthening Movement”. Behind this project were Li Hongzhang and Zuo Zongtang, which decided the best spot would be the town of Mamoi (Mawei) part of the province of Fuzhou (“Foochow”), not that afar from the Min River mouth, on the the access point in mainland China.
At the time, also was established the Fuzhou Naval College and various facilities needed to support a regional fleet, the fourth one. Ot was started in 1866 and port installations in 1867, and the warship construction programme was overseen by two French Naval officers on leave from Napoleon III’s fleet, Prosper Giquel and Paul d’Aiguebelle. They recruited a staff of about forty European engineers and mechanics to create a metal-working forge and naval dockyard and started a construction programme of eleven transports and five gunboats, plus setup the navigation and marine engineering training to form officers and specialists over a five-year plan.

Chinese authorities provided labour and funding for the project, and the site, whihc first comprised about 1,600 workers webt to circa 2,500 by 1872 and the total cost was estimated around 3 million taels. What is amazing is that the ship’s maintenance cost was partly funded by opium imports revenues. Ths first vessel which was launched, in June 1969, was the gunboat Qing Forever with a 150 hp steam engine. Guns were all imported from abroad, apparently either French and Prussian. Next in the 1870s came a serie of sloop of war and transports, notably the Fu Po class which had the yard busy from 1969 to 1875.
The paradox that this shipyard, planned and built by retired French Naval officers and personal, was also destroyed by a French squadron ten years later during the Sino-French War.

Design of the Fu-Po class

Fu-Po herself displaced 1,258 long tons (1,278 t) with a 200 feet (61 m) long hull overall, and 32.8 ft (10.0 m) in beam (6/1 ratio), average 11.5 ft (3.5 m) draught (which enabled going up the Yangtze). The hull had elegant lines, with clipper-style entries and flowing lines to the stern. It was designed to be rigged entirely as a permament fixture alongside the steam engine. The reasoning was that range was more important than speed and space free from coal could be used for storage. She was completed as a two-masted schooner, an easy rigging to master for sailors more accustomed to lattice sails.


The propulsion system comprised a compound-expansion steam engine (originl uncertain, some sources states from Vickers), with a single shaft, economical but not great for agility. This engine produced 600 horsepower (450 kilowatts) as indicated. It provided a cruising speed -also her top speed- of 11 knots (20 kph or 13 mph). This was bit weak to act as a commerce raider, more aking to a gunboat and really again underline her role as transport.


Her main armament was the last thing planned and installed on all ships, depending on the supplies. This was eventually a single 16 cm (6.3 in) gun forward, axial, and four 40-pounder guns () installed on the broadsides. However this changed during their carrier, depending on local provincial supplies where assigned. When assigned to Formosa (now Taiwan), Fu Po obtained six 68-pounder guns () instead.

⚙ specifications

Displacement 1,258 long tons (1,278 t)
Dimensions 200 x 32.8 x 11.5 ft (61 x 10 x 3.5 m)
Propulsion One shaft Compound-expansion steam engine
Speed 11 knots (20 km/h; 13 mph)
Range Unknown
Armament 1 x 160mm (6.3 in) gun, 4 x 40-pdr guns
Protection None
Crew 100

Read More


Conway’s all the world’s fighting ships 1865-1904 P.398
Elman, Benjamin A. (2005). On Their Own Terms: Science in China 1550–1900. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.5.
Feuerwerker, Albert; Murphey, Rhoads; Clabaugh Wright, Mary (1967). Approaches to Modern Chinese History. Berkeley
Wright, Richard N.J. (2000). The Chinese Steam Navy. London: Chatham Publishing.



Model Kits

imperial china Fu Po (伏波) (1870)

Fu Po was the 4th vessel launched at the Foochow Arsenal on 22 December 1870, and lead vessel of the class. Which at the time was assimilated to an “armed transport” but was later considered as a gunboat by the Fujian Maritime Administration. She remained in Foochow until 1884, part of the Fujian Fleet like her sisters, under overall command of Zhang Peilun. Thus she was present at the Battle of Fuzhou on 23 August. It was the first major navale engagement of the Sino-French War.

The Chinese fleet were split into a northern and southern squadrons, and faced the French Far East Squadron (Admiral Amédée Courbet). Fu Po was in the northern squadron like her sisters, led by the flagship Yangwu, with three others “cruisers” and several gunboats. The French squadron concentrated on this northern squadron and soon destroyed Yangwu, completely disorganizing the rest of the line. Under fire and without clear direction, Fu Po fled the battle. She steaming up river and went to beach herself, being the only surviving northern squadron ship at the time.

She would be much later re-floated and refitted and was transferred to the Formosa Squadron (Taiwan). In 1890, she became a receiving hulk for sailors which were awaiting an assignment. Due to a regain of piracy int eh Formosa strait, the Viceroy of the Two Guangs requested her, and in 1893, she was reconverted as a transport, making regular missions in the South China Sea, notably to and from Canton (now Guangzhou). It is unclear when she was scrapped, some sources states in 1911-12 (certainly stricken at the time) and broken up after the revolution, some as far as 1930.

imperial china An Lan (安瀾) (1871)

Second transport cruiser built at the Foochow Arsenal, launched a year after her sister Fu Po, in 1871. Identical on all points, her career was short. She was also assigned to the Fujian squadron under Zhang Peilun. However on 26 September 1874 she was sunk in accident, in deep waters and thus, never refloated.

imperial china Fei Yun (飛雲) (1872)

Lie her sisters she was in the Fujian fleet. She was armed with five Prussian breachloader guns. No notable record until the Franco-Chinese war and the Battle of Fuzhou on August 23, 1884. The Chinese flagship “Yang Wu”, was attacked by a torpedo mine boat and ran aground. Fu Xing was attacked and badly burned by gunfire, abandoned and sunk in the middle of the Min River. Zhen Wei was sunk by a single shell (probably hitting the ammo room) from the Ironclad Triomphante, just arrived in the French squadron. Fei Yun was with Chen Hang, Yongbao, Ji’an, Fu Sheng, Jian Sheng all caught and sunk or burned by incendiary shells from Duguay-Trouin, Villars and d’Estaing. So she was eventually sunk that day, and according to Conway Later refloated, but further fate unknown. She is listed as a wreck by wrecksite.eu though.

The Battle showcased one of the first uses of spar torpedo boats. Here N°45 and 46 attacking Chinese ships.

imperial china Chi An (濟安) (1873)

Chi An was also part of the Fujian fleet. She served as a sloop of war and transport until the Battle of Fuzhou.

imperial china Yuan Kai (元凱) (1875)

Assimilated by many authors as part of the Wei Yuen-class. Fujian fleet. Stricken in 1930. Details unknown (so far)

imperial china Teng Ying Chen (1876)

Part of the Fujian fleet, Details unknown (so far), but she was assimilated to the sub-class Wei Yuen, classed as gunboats. She was stricken in 1918 and BU in 1920.

imperial china T’ai An (1876)

Part of another regional fleet (also named “Tai An”), same as the sub-classe Wei Yuen, classified as a gunboat. Part of the Fujian Maritime Administration, 1,258 tonnes. Away during the battle of Fuzhou, sold in 1892 to commercial (unarmed) and in service until stricken in 1915.

Note: The Battle of Fuzhou:

This was the major engagement in which these vessels participated, was also known as the Battle of the Pagoda Anchorage or Battle of Mawei, the opening engagement of the Sino-French War lasting 16 months, from December 1883 to April 1885. This particular battle started on 23 August 1884 off Mawei harbour, some 15 kilometres South East of Fuzhou. The French shelled the Foochow Navy Yard, razing some building and storehourses, cranes and installations, and badly damaged the sloop Heng Hai still under construction.

The Far East squadron commanded by Admiral Amédée Courbet then encountered the Fujian Fleet, part of the four provincial fleets, assigned to defene the south and strait of Formosa. But the Chinese felee lacked training and some ships lacked ammunition and proper maintenance, crippling their speed. As a result, nine of the eleven ships of the Fujian fleet went down, between HE shells which put them afire (most were still wooden-built), notably the Fu Po class transport sloops, and out-range by French gunners. It was saw as a “gunnery exercize” by the French which only had a few casualties, with just two vessels escaping the mayhem, Fu Po and Vi Xin, already damaged and later abandoned in the Min river.

The bombardment of Foochow. A landing party was prepared but eventually abandoned and instead Courbet went into a rampage back down along the Min River. This Chinese accused the French of cheating since the latter went to Foochow though the Min river only because of peacetime. The entry was protected by fortifications. The two Dingyuan class ironclads which were to be delivered to China, built in Germany, were retained there through French pressure until the end of the war. They would certainly had changed the outcome, but the lack of help from other Provincial fleets was also a factor.

Ning hai class cruisers (1931)

Ning Hai class cruisers (1931)

Chinese Republic – Ning Hai, Ping Hai

The Last Chinese Cruisers

The Ning Hai class cruisers were the culmination of many “firsts” and “lasts”: First cruisers of the feldgling Chinese Republic, first built in Japan, and last Chinese cruisers overall (although arguably the new Type 055 missile destroyers of the actual PLAN us locally called Renhai-class cruiser). The Ning Hai were in fact the only cruisers built for the Chinese Navy since the fall of the Empire in 1911, followed by a first repulic, the warlord era, and a more or less stabilized republic again, allowing to plan a modenrization of the fleet. Indeed in 1937, at the time of the start of the second Sino-Japanese war, after a quasi-war in the north since 1932, the Chinese Navy was in dire straits, with on paper a fleet of cruisers and gunboats dating back from twenty years and more.

They had received little modifications between them and were hopelessely obsolete and outmatched by the IJN. Both ships had a very short career under Chinese flag, both were sunk in the Yangtze River on 23 September 1937, by Japanese aviation. They were refloated and later repaired by the Japanese, and pressed into service in the IJN where they spent the rest of their career. Originally planned for transfer to the puppet government of Wang Jing-Wei, they were outfitted as barracks hulks and later the escort ships IJN Ioshima and Yasoshima, in 1944. Both were lost in action to USN torpedoes the same year.

Context in 1930

By 1928, Chiang Kai Chek’s army overthrew the Beiyang government, unifying the entire nation at least nominally. This was the start of the so-called Nanjing Decade. So in 1930, the current government had the will to rebuilt and modernize the navy, based on the existing Beiyang fleet. However, no western yards would accept to built ships for China, not recoignising this government and rebuffed in general by political instability. Things seemed to stabilize and reforms were made by the new overnment however, but war reupted in the Central Plains in 1930, followed by the Japanese aggression in 1931, the Red Army’s Long March in 1934 and Fujian Rebellion of 1933–34.

In 1929, the new Chinese Naval Ministry made a cal for tenders to international shipbuilders, notably Great Britain, USA, Germany and Japan for a tailored small light cruiser. The Japanese “Harima Zosensho” design was eventually chosen and on 5.12.1930 a contract was signed to build the lead vessel, Ning Hai, in Japan. The same contract specified Ping Hai was to be built in China with technical assistance of Japan. In August 1934, some 50 Japanese experts headed by director of “Harima” yard, went in China and overseen the construction between 30.10.1935 and 18.6.1936 of the Ping Hai, later outfitted in Japan at the same yard.

It was a gamble for the Nationlist government to turn to Japan in retrospect, so soon before the aggression.

But at the time the Nationalist givermnent of China had sympathies for Japan, sharing some similar nationalist views. It was also close enough for the cruisers to be outfitted, maintained and repaired. Specifications were submitted for the light coastal cruiser were perfectly met by the proposal from Harima Dock Co., Ltd. which worked on very similar designes for the IJN, and theirs was approved with promises of a quick construction, and a hull laid down on 20 February 1931. The sister ship Ping Hai however suffered fro many issues mostly related to the difficult situation in China and was eventually completed much later. Her career was in fact particularly short. Both were not badly made cruisers and it can be suspected the Japanese already had plans either to create similar small cruisers for policing China in the future (they would not need such thing, just refloating them as seen later).

Author’s rendition


The Chinese Government was in such need of these ships, the Japanese intervention in Mandchuria was not considered an issue, as long as the ship was delivered. Ning Hai was built fast, eventually launched on 10 October 1931 and completed on September 1932. When commissioned in China she gave full satisfaction. However this contract was particular as the Chinese wanted to acquire experience and asked for for her sister ship to be built locally at Kiangnan Dock and Engineering Works at the same time. Worked commenced with parts and tooling arrived from Japan, with assistance of the on 26 June 1931. Ping Hai’s construction was suspended amidst the troubles in mandchuria. After a dispute resolution, construction resumed, and she was eventually launched on 28 September 1935, and on 18 June 1936. The deterioration of relations with Japan in 1933 meant technicians went back to Japan, leaving the yard with an unfinished ship. The Chinese government seeked technical helpabroad to complete the ship and eventually reached agreement with German experts, but the latter imposed some design modifications. Notably they dropped the axial shaft for simplification, retaining the two external ones only. The armament was also modified, as well as the fire control (with two telemeters placed for and aft), the masts and superstructures.


The Ning Hai class were probably the smallest newly built cruisers between world wars. Perhaps the Greek Elli was at its level or even smaller, but actually built before the war. They were thought actually by the Chinese admiralty as large gunboats or sloops, with a shallow draft to keep the capability of being based and operate in the Yang Tse. They however had all the trademarks of a cruiser under international treaties: Besides a very low 2,000t displacement and more than 20kts making it superior to any gunboat, it was given no less than six 130mm main guns in three turrets, like in an average light cruiser tailored to hunt down destroyers.

Chinese cruisers were developed loosely on the basis of IJN Yubari (1923) but with significant differences in appearance, armament and protection.


-Main: Three twin 140mm/50 “type 3” guns: They were similar to those installed on all Japanese light cruisers of the first interwar decade, with identical turrets, loading systems and mounts as seen on IJN Yubari. The turrets were however placed in a classic scheme with one forward on deck, forecastle, and two aft, one on deck level and one on the quartedeck superstructure roof aft.
-Secondary: Six single 8 cm/40 3rd Year Type naval gun (AA guns). These were assimilated to 3-in guns in western literature (76 mm). They were in tandem, a pair forward on the upper deck, two the the quartedeck behind the funnel, two in a raised superstrcuture aft.
-Tertiary: Eight 7.7mm/87 Machine guns, in individual positions.
-Torpedo armament: Two twin 533 mm (21 inches) Toprpedo tubes, Japanese 1923 pattern, placed in recesses in the forecastle at the level of the funnel amidship.
-The design also provided some facilities for two Aichi AB-3 seaplanes, including one in a covered hangar. But only one AB-3 was eventually delivered but no catapult was installed.


The Ning Hai class Machinery comprised four water-tube “Kampon” boilers (working at 15.5atm pressure) plus three vertical 4-cylinder VTEs. They delivered 3500 hp each. The powerplant was provided by Mitsubishi. The choice of VTEs instead of conventional, modern geared steam turbines was a Chinese request actually, due to low crew qualification. It was clearly a step back in comparison with even previous Chinese cruisers of the 1910 program. This also explained a lower speed than average. The Boilers were installed in four separated rooms to enhance ASW protection, two boilers in forward rooms, burning coal, two boilers aft burning oil. The VTE engines were also placed in two rooms. There were side-shaft engines forward and the central-shaft in the aft room. The latter was used for cruising, the two external for fast manoeuvers. On trials, Ning Hai made on 24 May 1932 22.20 knots based on 10,579 horsepower.

Armour protection

ONI sheet about the Ioshima/Ning Hai class

The first line of passive defense was 25 mm (1 in) main belt. It was only covering machinery compartments, running for about 60% of the overall lenght. It was however connected with an upper armoured deck, and went on with a second upper layer 3.35 m in height. Forward and aft there was no protection. The upper belt was limited to a 76 mm strake (3 inches), over 1.52 m in height, protecting the magazines. However its upper edge was above them and the lower edge below than the lower edge of main belt. Armour deck was flat, and over machinery the deck it was higher up, placed at the level of an upper deck, 19 mm (0.7 in) in thickness. Over the magazines there was an upper stray with 25 mm in thickness (1 inch). Turrets and the conning tower were both protected by an uniform 25 mm armour too (so in inches back, top, sides and front). This figures were quite small. Indeed, an average destroyer round at the time was at least 120 mm (4.5-in). Speed was not sufficient here to play any role. At least the armour scheme was multi-layered, allowing to break cinetic energy enough to protect the vitals against rounds up to 100 mm (3 in to 4 in).

Modifications of Ping Hai

Under German expertise, Ping Hai was modified, notably after the defects shown on trials by her sister ship in 1933, further delaying completion. Trials indeed revealed acute problems of stability, peculiar to all Japanese ships of that era. It became clear after the “Tomozuru affair” on 12.3.1934. Revisions were made on all IJN vessels, duly inspected, so the Chinese requested to made some too. During outfitting of Ping Hai, several measures were taken for stability improvements (like ballasting, better counterkeels) but they slowed her down in the process. In particular the superstructures were curtailed and the aft mast removed, the forward tripod lightened as its fire control position tower, hangar and aviation eliminated, 76 mm AA guns and 7.7 mm MGs halved, TTs removed. For the machinery, the central shaft and one boiler were removed, feering space to add lead ballast. On trials, without surprise, Ping Hai only reached 21.256 knots at 7,488hp. This was acceptable for a gunboat, not for a modern cruiser.

Conway profile of Ning Hai as completed

Schematic of the class

Specifications as built

Dimensions 109.7m oa x 11.9m x 3.96m
Displacement 2165 standard, 2500 tons FL
Propulsion 2-3 shafts 2/3 VTE, 4/2 Kampon boilers, 9,000 hp
Speed Top speed 22.2 knots (25 mph; 40 km/h)
Range 5,000 nmi (9000 km) at 12 kn
Armament 3×2 140mm/50 guns, 1x 76mm/88mm AA guns and 2×2 533mm TTs
Armor belt 2-in (25 mm), Deck 2.8 in (19 mm)
Crew 331

Yashoshima class Specifications

Armament 2 x 1 – 120/45 10-shiki, 5 x 3 – 25/60 96-shiki, 2 DCR (18)
Electronics 2-shiki 2-go radar, 93-shiki sonar
Crew 340

Src/Read More

Brown, David (1990). Warship Losses of World War Two. Annapolis
Cressman, Robert (2005). The Official Chronology of the U.S. Navy in World War II. Annapolis
Dull, Paul S. (1978). A Battle History of the Imperial Japanese Navy, 1941-1945. Annapolis
Jentsura, Hansgeorg (1976). Warships of the Imperial Japanese Navy, 1869-1945. Annapolis
Lacroix, Eric & Wells II, Linton (1997). Japanese Cruisers of the Pacific War. Annapolis
Tamura, Toshio (1984). “The Chinese Light Cruisers Ning Hai and Ping Hai (1930–1936)”. Warship International
Whitley, M.J. (1995). Cruisers of World War Two: An International Encyclopedia. Annapolis

About the general situation in China in the 1930s
On navypedia
Ioshima class on navypedia
On alchetron.com
Model kit

Ning Hai in service

In Chinese service 1932-37

Ning Hai 1932

Ning Hai 1931

Ning Hai was laid down at Harima Shipyards in Aioi, Hyogo, Japan on 20 February 1931. She was launched on 10 October 1931, completed 30 July 1932, commissioned on 1 September 1932. She immediately became flagship of the Republic of China Navy (ROCN) until her sister ship Ping Hai was commissioned in turn in April 1937. She was back in Japan in May 1933 for maintenance, fixes and repairs, and again in June 1934, but this time to assist and represent China at the funeral of Japanese Fleet Admiral Tōgō Heihachirō, making afterwards another drydock maintenance before her return to China.

Following the start of the Second Sino-Japanese War she became a target of the Imperial Japanese Navy. She was not present at the Battle of Shanghai, but on 23 September, a Japanese assault on Kiangyin Fortress saw her involved. At the time ths fortress was guarding a segment of Yangtze River, near Nanking. Ning Hai came under attack by bombers, taking four bomb hits. Her nearby sister ship Ping Hai was also hit, but even more severely with eight bombs, and sunk almost immediately (see later).

Ning Hai was crippled but her macinery still was operable and she managed to escape at low speed. But on 25 September, a group of Yokosuka B3Y1 torpedo bombers spotted and attacked her. They scored two direct hits, sinking her in the shallow waters of the Yangtse. IJN Kaga’s pilots shared her loss with those from detached airfields around Shanghai. The Imperial Japanese Navy however still valued a ship buuilt in their own yard, and captured her eventually on 5 December 1937, starting work on a salvage operation.

Ping Hai

Ping Hai launch ceremony 28 Sept. 1935

Ping Hai in 1936

Ping Hai damaged in 1938

In Japanese service: IJN Mikura/Ioshima 1939-44

The first attempt to re-float Ning Hai in April, 1938 was unsuccessful, notably causing the death of two salvage divers. Another was made on 8 May, successful this time. The refloated hulk was towed to Shanghai for basic repairs, peding her return to Japan. Originally thz admiralty planned her to be transferred to the puttet navy of the Nanjing Nationalist Government as flagship. However they changed their mind and wated her to be towed to Sasebo for other uses. On 11 July, she was re-classified as training vessel, static, and later became the coastal defense ship Mikura. She was moored permanently at Sasebo as barracks ship from July 1938, until December 1943, her longest assignation.

By December 1943, Japanese maritime trade in the newly conquered “sphere of co-prosperity” was under attack by a vigorous USN campaign, in particular submarine warfare. IJN Mikura therefore was towed to the Harima Shipyards for a complete rebuilding. She was to be recommissioned as a “Kaibōkan” or “escort ship”, in dire need. However at that stage, lack of materials and workforce had completion dragging until 1 June 1944. At last she became IJN Ioshima on 10 June. After trials she was based at the Yokosuka Naval District, trained in the Seto area and departed for her first escort mission to Iwo Jima from 22–31 July. There, she was attacked, but missed bu an unknown submarine on 26 July but filled her mission and wen home. On 10 September IJN Ioshima departed for her second (al dlast) escort:Underway she was ambushed and torpedoes by USS Shad, on 19 September. She took three hits. She rapidly capisized and sank, south of Cape Omaezaki 85 nm (157 km) from Hachijojima and was later removed the the lits on 10 November 1944.

Under Japanese flag: Design modifications

In late 1937, both sunken cruisers were inspected after capture. On 5 December 1937, both were provisionally commissioned into the IJN to be administratively refloated and repaired, the first named Mikura. In 1938 both were salvaged, helped by the low tide of the river, and after temporary repairs, they were laid up in drydock. Modifications and repairs took however two years due to shortages of materials and manpower. It’s only by 1943 thet these cruisers wete reonfigured and ready for service. Decision was taken in 1941 already to use them as escort flagships, coordinating other smaller vessels like destroyers and sub-hunters. Their armament was completely modified. Their boilers were all converted to oil-firing on Ning Hai while Ping Hai gtot brand new ones (the original were too damaged). Ning Hai was completed in December 1943, Ping Hai in January 1944.

On 1 June 1944, shortly before commission, the lead ship became IJN loshima (ex-Ning Hai) and her sister ship Yasoshima (ex-Ping Hai). They carried two new twin dual-purpose 120mm/45 guns and five triple 25mm AA guns. ASW armament included 2 depht charge throwers and 2 depht charge racks. On September, 25th, 1944, IJN Yasoshima gained the new classification of 2nd class cruiser. Her sister ship received in addition eight single 13.2mm/76 type 3 heavy AA machine guns.

Ping Hai in service (1937)

Ping Hai, freshly commissioned, served as the flagship of the Republic of China Navy (ROCN) for a very short time: Her career started in April 1937, as one of the most powerful surface combatants within the ROCN (Republic of China Navy). However by the end of the year, Shanghao was attacked and Ping Hai was in turn attacked by Imperial Japanese Navy air groups while serviing with her sister off the fortress of Kiangyin. On 23 September, Ping Hai was struck by no less than eight bombs from Kaga and Shanghai airfields. Damage was such that she blew up and sank rapidly in shallow waters, with few survivors. In comparison, Ning Hai managed to sail away (only for a short while).

IJN Mishima/Yasoshima 1938-44

Re-floated in 1938 she was towed to Shanghai to be repaired enough to be towed to Japan. The admiralty at first wanted to have her transferred to the Collaborationist Wang Jing-Wei puppet navy but she was badly needed for other missions and towed to Sasebo. There, she was repaired more exensively but stayed largely inactive as the barracks hulk Mishima, and later a coastal defense ship. Like for her sister ship, in 1943, the admiralry concluded the navy badly needed escort vessels so she was to be converted as such. Work went on at the same time as her sister-ship and she was eventally commissioned as Yasoshima on 10 June 1944. and then as an escort vessel. She received a new received radar sets and standard Japanese dual-purpose artillery plus standard AA 25 mm guns, as well as depht charges.

IJN Yasoshima was first sent in a combat mission as an escort, to reinforce a convoy sent on 25 September 1944. She participated henceforth in the famous, epic Battle of Leyte Gulf, escorting troop convoys. She was eventually spotted by Aircraft from the USS Ticonderoga and Langley. They fell upon her, sank her and the two merchantmen she escorted west of Luzon, on 25 November 1944.

Chao Ho class cruisers

Chao Ho class cruisers (1911)

Chinese Empire – Chao Ho, Ying Swei, Fei Hung

Training cruisers to Brit-US Yards

The Chao Ho class (肇和 or ‘Harmonious Beginnings’) were protected cruisers ordered by the Qing Dynasty in 1910 and later used by the Republic of China Navy. They fought in the Second Zhili–Fengtian War, Northern Expedition, Second Sino-Japanese War 1937 Second Sino-Japanese war, and in ww2. The third ship of the class, resold to the Greeks, fought in the Balkan wars as well.

The origins of the program were found under the supervision of Imperial regent Zaifeng, Prince Chun. He commissioned a very ambitious 7-year plan, asking for the modernization of the Imperial Chinese Navy, notably to compensate for the losses of the First Sino-Japanese war. In response, Prince Zaixun and Admiral Sa Zhenbing started a world tour, heading a purchase commission in the West in October of 1909, from Europe to the United States, before stopping in Japan in 1910. By its end, the Naval Commission had many suggestions, like the creation of a proper, unified Ministry of the Navy. On 4 December 1910, the Commission itself became the Ministry of the Navy, headed by Prince Zaixun (as its first minister). The main suggestion was to unite all three provincial fleets, before being divided again into three separate fleets to serve the Southern, Central, and Northern coasts of China. The modernization program comprised
massive ships such as battleships, cruisers, and of course torpedo boats and submarines.

Contracts for three new training cruisers were submitted internationally and eventually were awarded to two British yards and an American yard in 1910. The lead ship of this new class was to be named Chao Ho reflecting its training nature. She was laid down at the Armstrong Whitworth naval yard, Elswick, on 7 November 1910, and commissioned a year later. The second cruiser was named Ying Rui (應瑞; lit. or “Propitious Promise”) also known on Conways as “Ying Swei”. She was laid down at the Vickers Limited yard at Barrow-in-Furness and launched on 13 July 1911. The last ship ordered was Fei Hong (飛鴻; “Flying Swan”), laid down on 12 May 1912 at the New York Shipbuilding Corporation. She was completed in November 1913, but since the country was in revolution after the abdication of the Emperor, the order was cancelled. The new Chinese republic wanted to get rid of past debts and refused the cruiser.
The yard kept it to be resold, and after negotiation ending successfully on 14 May 1914, Fēi Hóng was sold to the Kingdom of Greece, renamed Elli. At that time, a conflict with Turkey was very likely. Elli was still active in WW2 but was reclassed as a destroyer. She was very different from the other two.

Design of the Chao Ho class

The two British-built Chao Ho-class cruisers were typical protected cruisers of the time, nearly identical to 1900s Vickers cruisers, a general design that had plenty of time to develop and was tried and tested. They had two funnels, two masts, a forecastle and poop decks, two main axial guns on the main decks forward and aft, and secondary guns in sponsons along the lower deck. However, the two British-built cruisers still differed in small ways due to their respective yard’s design alterations. It was the same basic design, as defined by the Chinese, but they varied in size, displacement, armour, and boiler types, as well as in their artillery. This variety was wanted, specifically to have a sample of various ship designs and configurations in order to have three different training vessels, bringing cadets some variety, raising educational effectiveness, and familiarizing the crews with various machinery and weaponry.

Hull design

Chao Ho’s was designed to be larger than her two sisters, 2 feet 6 inches (0.76 m) beamier, for 290 tonnes more. Ying Swei had a different foremast, which was stepped further aft and had more widely spaced funnels. The Chao Ho also had thicker armour, with 2 in (51 mm) for the main deck, versus her sister ship's 0.75 in (19 mm) on the main deck and 3 in (76 mm) and 1.75 in (44 mm) from her conning tower. She was a protected cruiser, so no belt armor was mounted, but an armoured deck was, along with guns shields, and an armoured conning tower. Her sister ship was smaller, 330 feet (100 metres) long by 39.5 ft (12.0 m) in beam, and its draught 13 ft (4.0 m). Displacement was lighter, at 2,460 long tons (2,500 tonnes).
Jing Swei was smaller, displacing 2,115 long tons (2,149 t) standard, and 2,600 long tons (2,642t) fully loaded. The hull was the smallest of the three, 98 m (321 ft 6 in) in length, a 12 m (39 ft 4in) beam, and a draft of 4.3 m (14 ft 1 in).


Chao Ho was fitted with three-shaft Parsons steam turbines, mated with 4 cylindrical and 4 Yarrow boilers which developed a total of 6,000 hp (4,500 kW). Due to this mixed powerplant, the Chao Ho could reach a top speed of 20 knots (23 mph; 37 km/h), for an overall range of 4,500 nautical miles (8,300 km), at 10 knots (12 mph; 19 km/h).
Jing Swei (Jing Rui) was fitted with the same arrangement, three-shaft Parsons steam turbines, two cylindrical, and 4 White-Foster boilers. She developed a total of 6,000 hp (4,500 kW). Her top speed was the same, 20 knots, with a better range of 5,000 nmi (9,300 km) at 10 knots.
The third cruiser, Fei Hung was given three shafts parson turbines, fed by three Thornycroft water-tube Boilers for a total of 6,000 shp. She was the slowest of the three, topping at 18 knots. She carried 400/60 tonnes of coal, and 100 tonnes of oil.

Two view design of the class


Chao Ho’s primary armament consisted of:
-Two Armstrong Pattern NN 6-inch (152 mm)/50 guns, mounted on the forecastle and poop.
-Four 3-inches/50 (76 mm) in hull recesses at the poop and forecastle break.
-Six 3-pdr guns (37 mm) on the sides
-Two 1-pdr gun (20 mm) on the sides
-Two 18-inches torpedo tubes, fixed above water, aft of the bridge.

Ying Swei was armed with different, shorter main guns: the Vickers Mark J, 6-inch (152 mm)/45. Her secondary armament was heavier, made up of four 4-inch (100 mm)/50 guns, four 14pdr QF guns, six 47mm/40 Hotchkiss guns, and two 37 mm (1 in) Maxim guns for light armament (same placement) and the same above water two 18 in (457 mm) torpedo tubes.

The third vessel was also armed differently, with three 6-inch (152 mm) masked guns, one forward, one aft, and one on a platform in between funnels. She was given a lighter secondary armament too with just two 3-inch (76 mm) guns, and three 40 mm (1.6 in) AA guns, though she had larger above-water 19-inch (483 mm) torpedo tubes, being of a rare caliber, seldom used. The decks had the capacity for transporting 100 mines on rails, another difference from the two other vessels.

Author’s illustration of the Chao Ho class

Chao Ho class Specifications

Dimensions 105.5 m (346 ft) Beam 13 m (43 ft) Draught 4-4.3 m (15 ft)
Displacement 2,500-2,750 t (2,707 long tons)
Propulsion Three-shaft Parsons ST, 4 cyl. 4 Yarrow boilers, 6,000 hp (4,500 kW)
Speed Top speed 20 knots (23 mph; 37 km/h)
Range 4,500 nmi (8,300 km) at 10 kn (12 mph; 19 km/h)
Armament 2x 6-in/50, 4x 3 in/50, 2x 3 in, 6x 3-pdr, 2× 1pdr, 2× 18 in TTs aw
Armor Deck: 19-51 in, CT 3 in (7.6 cm)
Crew 331

Conways profiles: Helle as rebuilt in france, and the original Chao Ho class below.

Src/Read More

Rhoads, Edward J.M.. Manchus & Han: Ethnic Relations and Political Power in Late Qing and Early Republican China, 1861-1928.
Wright, Richard N.J.. The Chinese Steam Navy 1862–1945. Chatham Publishing
Gray, Randall. Conway’s All the World’s Fighting Ships, 1906-1921
Friedman, Norman (2011). Naval Weapons of World War One. Barnsley: Seaforth.
Gardiner, Robert (1997). Conway’s All the World’s Fighting Ships, 1906–1921. London: Conway Maritime Press
Rhoads, Edward J.M. (2000). Manchus & Han: Ethnic Relations and Political Power in Late Qing and Early Republican China, 1861–1928. Seattle: University of Washington Press.
Wright, Richard N.J. (2000). The Chinese Steam Navy. London: Chatham Publishing
Gray, Randall. Conway’s All the World’s Fighting Ships, 1906–1921, Volume 2. Conway Maritime Press, 1985, pp. 396–397.

Chao Ho in service

Chao Ho was ordered at Armstrong Whitworth, laid down on the 7th of November 1910, launched about one year later on 23 October 1911, and completed on 21 February 1912. She travelled to China and was commissioned later in 1912 but saw no service until December 1915.
At that time, China was in a virtual civil war. She was briefly captured by Southern Chinese rebels, during the "National Protection War". During the "Warlord Era" of the Republic of China in the 1920s, Chao Ho was often called to shell rebel positions.
In December 1923, the Zhili Clique Warlord, Wu Peifu, took the head of the Beiyang Government, and soon bribed half of the Chinese Navy into his personal service, reconstructing the famous Beiyang fleet of old. This fleet had the Chao Ho at its centerpiece, and it was anchored at the naval base of Qingdao (former German Empire's Kiautschou). It was the most advanced port in China and contained a squadron composed also of the cruisers Hai Chi, Hai Chen, and the gunboats Yung Hsiang and Chu Yu. From 5 January 1924, this squadron officially became the "Northern Fleet".
However, the Zhili Clique was defeated during the Second Zhili–Fengtian War and control of Qingdao passed to the Manchurian warlord Zhang Zuolin (Fengtian clique).

The Northern Fleet was renamed the North East Fleet but suffered greatly from neglect after all these years. Crews were poorly trained, ammunition was found to be lacking, and in general, the ships were in a state of total disrepair with rusty hulls. At best, Chao Ho at the time was barely able to reach 10 knots. Zhang Zuolin, close politically to the Empire of Japan sent Chao Ho and other vessels from the fleet to be refitted in Japan in 1927. The irony would be that ten years later the same nation would also sink them.

In 1927, the Kuomintang Government led by Chiang Kai-shek launched his Northern Expedition and finally brought an end to the Northern Chinese warlords. Even with its newly trained National Revolutionary Army, the Kuomintang still could not put its hands on the Navy, which stayed loyal to Zhang. In 1927, Chao Ho returned from Japan in a perfect state (It seems no significant changes were made to the armament or powerplant, however) and was eventually manned by a new crew. She started offensive sorties to shell Nationalist naval fortifications at Wusong, off the coast of Shanghai. Chao Ho also covered the brief occupation of the island of Kinmen off the Xiamen coast, in May 1928.

The Kuomintang eventually captured Beijing in 1928. Zhang was eventually betrayed by the Japanese, killed when his train he was blown up by Japanese officers of the Kwangtung Army, in retaliation for his failure in defeating Chiang Kai-shek. His son, Zhang Xueliang pledged allegiance to Chiang Kai-shek and former North East Fleet officially integrated the Republic of China Navy. In 1930, the only modification on Chao Ho was the addition of two QF 2 pounder anti-aircraft guns on a platform, at the base of the mainmast. The North East Fleet became the Third Squadron, still based in Qingdao.

Chao Ho in the 1930s.

The Kuomintang eventually captured Beijing in 1928. Zhang was eventually betrayed by the Japanese and killed when the train he was on was blown up by Japanese officers of the Kwangtung Army in retaliation for his failure in defeating Chiang Kai-shek. His son, Zhang Xueliang pledged allegiance to Chiang Kai-shek and the former North East Fleet officially integrated the Republic of China's Navy. In 1930, the only modification on Chao Ho was the addition of two QF 2-pounder anti-aircraft guns on a platform, at the base of the mainmast. The North East Fleet became the Third Squadron, still based in Qingdao.
In July 1933, a lieutenant from the gunboat Chen Hai discontent with poor wages tried to kill Admiral Shen Hung-lieh, who was also the mayor of Qingdao. He was executed but in solidarity, the Third Squadron (ROC Hai Chi, Hai Chen, Chao Ho) mutinied. The crews decided to sail to Guangzhou (under general Chen Jitang). In the wake of the Northern Expedition, the situation was still troubled and cliques reappeared. Mutineers were welcomed by the city and crews were pressed into the Cantonese faction. Still, the fleet remained underpaid and underemployed and mutiny leader Rear-Admiral Kiang Hsi-yuan was forced out and replaced by a local Cantonese commander, triggering a new mutiny. The fleet left Guangzhou on 15 June 1935 but Chao Ho soon hit the bottom and remained for a time stuck in the mud. Meanwhile, Hai Chi and Hai Chen encountered the Nationalist cruiser Ning Hai (admiral Chan Chak on board) and made a stand.
There were warning shots but negotiations started and the situation diffused on 18 July.
Meanwhile, Chao Ho was freed and joined both cruisers, after being informed of the new situation. Until 1937 the fleet was back in their home port and nothing much happened. But this soon changed.
The second Sino-Japanese war saw the capture of Beiping and Tianjin while Chao Ho was stationed at the naval fort in Bocca Tigris, defending Guangzhou and the mouth of the Pearl River. On 14 September 1937, she joined Hai Chi (a former British Arabis-class sloop), and both engaged the IJN Yūbari and destroyers Hayate and Oite. They were forced to retreat, being covered by land-based Chinese artillery on Bocca Tigris. Japan sent the aircraft carriers Ryūjō and Hōshō to launch raids against the forts and also targeted the damaged ships at the entrance of Pearl River. They also launched raids against the whole Pearl River Delta and Guangzhou. On 30 September 1937, Chao Ho was targeted by one such IJN bomber raid. Her poor AA was of no help and she received several hits and eventually sank, though the exact circumstance of her loss are foggy at best. She was later refloated and scrapped by Japanese occupation forces.

Ying Swei (Ying Rui) in service

Ying Swei (or Ying Rui) was laid down at Vickers, Barrow-in-Furness in late 1910, launched on 13 July 1911, and was completed and started her sea trials in the UK by 2 December 1911, barely six months after launch, showing the efficiency of Vickers yards at the time. Her Chinese crews arrived and started training on the River Clyde. The initial crew of British sailors was supplemented by men from the cruiser Hai Chi also in Barrow-in-Furness. Trials were completed successfully by the 9th of December 1911 but still, she was not delivered due to the tense situation in China. After a long loan negotiation, she was eventually delivered to China in April 1913 and designated as a training cruiser of the Republic of China's Navy. In mid-1917, Admiral Sa Zhenbing commanded both Ying Rui and Chao Ho. He was ordered to send his cruisers to shell positions held by rebels of the Manchu Restoration but refused. In 1920 Ying Rui was based in Nanjing.

In July 1923, Ying Rui and Hai Yung departed Shanghai to attack Amoy (Xiamen), preventing navy defections to the Beiyang Government. This was a success and the city was re-taken by a simultaneous land assault. Ying Rui took part in many major operations with the Central Fleet, her crew eventually swearing allegiance to the Kuomintang on 14 March 1927 (during the Northern Expedition). In 1933, Ying Rui returned to her training role with the old Tung Chi and transport Ching A. By late June 1935, Ying Rui was sent to Hong Kong after the mutiny of Chao Ho, Hai Chi, and Hai Chen.
When the Second Sino-Japanese War broke out, Ying Rui was in the Central Fleet with the brand new Ning Hai, Ping Hai, and the older Yat Sen, stationed at Jiangyin, the entrance of the Yangtze. On the 14th of August 1937, the Imperial Japanese Navy started aerial attacks (Battle of Shanghai) and started to target Jiangyin. Air raids were made from Ryūjō, Hōshō, and Kaga, targeting the Chinese fleet. By the end of September, Ying Rui was the last remaining cruiser, surviving a previous attack. It was then decided to send her to safety in Nanjing. By mid-October 1937 the Central Fleet no longer existed and Ying Rui was disarmed, her guns transferred to the army to be used in the defense of Nanking. On the 24th of October 1937, the removal process was ongoing when she was attacked by Japanese dive-bombers and eventually sank, with a large part of her artillery remaining.

The fate of Fei Hong

Cancellation and sale to Greece

Elli in 1940.
Fei Hong was ordered on a similar general layout as her sister ships, but her fate was very different: Originally one of three cruisers, the "Flying Swan" was the only one built in an American Naval Yard: New York Shipbuilding. Started on 14 June 1911, and launched on 4 May 1912 she was completed on November 1913. However the situation in China changed dramatically since her purchase, as the Nationalist revolution in 1912–13 saw the fall of the Imperial government, and the new authorities declined to pay for the cruiser. The purchase was later formally cancelled, leaving the yard with a completed cruiser without a buyer in 1914. The US Government had no use for it, so Fei Hung was available on the market. Due to the degrading situation in the eastern Mediterranean, she was sold eventually to Greece, as part of its naval expansion program after the Balkan Wars. She was renamed Elli and transferred to Greece in 1914. The war broke out but Greece remained neutral initially.

Greek neutrality was not easy though, as Prime Minister Eleftherios Venizelos favoured the Entente and King Constantine favoured the Central Powers. The political conflict grew into a “National Schism”. In November 1916, the French wanted this crisis resolved and Greece was forced to join the Entente. The French threatened Athens with their fleet and sent marine troops to confiscate Greek ships in Piraeus. Elli was captured also, and continued operations, albeit with French crews. She was deployed in convoy escort and patrol duties in the Aegean and was crewed by the Greeks again when at last Athens resolved the question by leaving neutrality and officially joining the entente in June 1917. The Greek Navy took part in the Aegean campaign and deployed Elli with Giorgios Averoff in several operations. During the Asia Minor Expedition, King Paul of Greece was sub-Lieutenant on board Elli and was present in Smyrna in September 1922.

Reconstruction and WW2 service

After the war, she was sent to be reconstructed in France with Georgios Averof. Her aspects changed considerably and she received modern anti-aircraft armament plus mine laying equipment. Her hull was also radically modified, giving her her final look. In WW2, the cruiser Elli was partaking in operations when she was spotted by the Italian submarine Delfino. At that time, Greece was at peace with Italy, but the submarine sank her anyway, at 8:25 am on 15 August 1940, while she sailed off the island of Tinos, participating in celebrations of the Dormition of the Theotokos. One torpedo hit her boiler, which caught fire, and finally, she sank, carrying with her to the bottom 8 petty officers and sailors while 24 others were wounded.

The Greek government later established the Italians were at the origin of this, recovering torpedo fragments, but tried to avoid a confrontation and announced the nationality of the attacking submarine was unknown. The Greco-Italian War would break anyway two months later. After the war, Italy gave as compensation the cruiser Eugenio di Savoia, commissioned under the same name served from 1950 to 1973.

Chao Yung (Chaoyong) class protected cruisers (1880)

Chao Yung (Chaoyong) class protected cruisers (1880)

Chinese Empire – Chao Yung, Yang Wei

The oldest Chinese protected cruisers – The Chao Yung class was part of the rearmament naval program destined to the Beiyang fleet. They were designed by Vickers architect and built at the Mitchell Yard, and completed with British armament all around. Displacement less than a destroyer in WW1, these were typical of the “cruisers” at the end of the 1870s, basically enlarged armored gunboats. With 16.5 knots this ship was just able to follow ironclads of the time. The class comprised two cruisers launched in 1880 and 1881, both sunk 15 years later during the first sino-Japanese war, at the battle of Yalu river in 1894.

Chao Yung as completed
The Chao Yung as completed at Mitchell NyD, in July 1881.

Order context: Ambitions for the Beiyang fleet

The term of “Chinese Navy” is ill-adapted to describe the Imperial Chinese Navy at the end of the XIXth century. There were provincial navies, not unlike the northern, central and southern navies of the PLAN today, but developed of the completely independent way, both in ships orders and command. They were under orders of the local governor as well, and so was the most powerful of these three provincial fleet: The Beiyang fleet, or “northern fleet”, closest to Beijing and the Imperial City, Korea and Japan, a relatively “hot” area, while the Nanyang fleet (or southern fleet) was focused in Western regional ambitions, like the British and French navies.

The Beiyang fleet
The Beiyang fleet at anchor

The best example of this independence was the fact the the Beiyang Fleet took good care of staying out of range of Admiral Amédée Courbet’s Far East Squadron during the Sino-French War (August 1884 – April 1885). This would have been unthinkable any modern C-in-C, and weighted heavily when the Beiyang Fleet had to face the Japanese in 1894, as the reconstructed Nanyang fleet did nothing to support her. Also, Admiral Ding Ruchang at the head of the Beiyang fleet withdrew his ships from Che-foo to Pei-ho to protect them from the French of admiral Sébastien Lespès, commander of the Far East naval division and remained there idle until the end of the Sino-French War.
Anyway, the northern fleet was the strongest and largest of all Chinese regional navies, by far. There was a real will to develop it in the late 1870s and a swarm of orders saw a rapid growth, to British and German yards. The trump card of this fleet was its pair of ironclad, the Dingyuan class, and in 1879 were ordered two protected cruisers in UK (ChaoYung class), one in Germany by 1882 (Chi Yuan), two more in UK by 1885 (Chih Yuan), two German armoured cruisers (King Yuan) in 1886, the Ping Yuen in 1887, and some gunboats. The first class ordered therefore was typical of products designed in Great Britain for export at the time. Relatively fast as they almost reach 17 knots and heavily armed for their small displacement, these protected cruisers had a recent innovation, the protective turtleback armoured deck, placed just at the level of the waterline, protecting the machinery. This first pair of cruisers ordered in 1879 was the Chao Yung class (or Chaoyong).

Chinese diplomat Li Hongzhang was made aware of Rendel’s designs, and following the start of the construction on Arturo Prat, an order was placed on behalf of the Imperial Chinese Navy for two ships of the same type. Chaoyong was laid down on 15 January 1880, and launched on 4 November. She was subsequently worked up, and was announced as completed on 15 July, a day after her sister ship, Yangwei. They were both completed ahead of Arturo Prat, who instead would enter service as the Imperial Japanese Navy’s Tsukushi after Chile cancelled the order following the end of the War of the Pacific”

Design of the Chaoyong class

arturo prat tsukushi
Rendel’s cruiser Arturo Prat for Chile (launched August 1880), later resold to Japan before completion as Tsukushi, and classed as a gunboat.

The Chaoyong class was the brainchild of British naval architect Sir George Wightwick Rendel. It was branded as an example of a low-cost cruiser, able to fight larger ironclads. Experts later saw this small cruiser as an intermediate concept between the Royal Navy distant stations colonial flat-iron gunboats and home fleet protected cruisers. On paper indeed, her small size and higher speed made her more agile and difficult to hit, helped by a low freeboard, while her slightly lighter but higher muzzle velocity main battery were well suited to “dance around” ironclads. But Chaoyong was not originally intended for China. It was not a private venture either, but she preceded by a ship ordered by Chile at first. Her design was directly inspired indeed by the Chilean Arturo Prat, later repurchased by Japan, but Rendel’s changed on the design were significant:
-Increased output with more steam boilers, from four to six.
-Slightly increased draft (disp. 1,380 vs 1,350 long tons)
-Modified armament: No torpedo tubes, but many light guns (depending on the sources)


The design was approved by the Chinese commission and Chaoyong was later followed by a sister ship, Yangwei, which shared the same design, and was also built by the same yard of Charles Mitchell on the River Tyne, near Newcastle Upon Tyne. Mitchell worked with Rendel on several designs which proved popular worldwide. As designed, the Chaoyang was 220 feet or 67 m (210 ft/64 m for Conways) in length overall with a beam of 32 feets (9.75 m) and average draft from 15 to 15.5 feets (4.57-4.7 m). They were compact ship, rather large with a width-to-lenght ratio of 1/6, a single smokestack, and two masts fitted for rigging, in that case a schooner sail plan. They also had a number of technical innovations, notably an hydraulic steering system, and electrical lighting all around. The crew comprised in peacetime 140 officers and ratings.


They were propelled by two HCR or reciprocating steam engine, mater on two shafts, and as said above, fed by the steam produced in (four for Conways) six cylindrical boilers. Both cruisers however diverged in some details: The power output of their reciprocating engines was not the same, Yangwei having an output of 2,580 indicated horsepower (1,920 kilowatts), while Chaoyong’s revendicated 2,677 ihp (1,996 kW). Nominal power (also for Conways) was to be 2,287 ihp but this was the same as the Arturo Prat, so possible confusion here. Yangwei was able to achieve 16 knots (30 km/h; 18 mph) and Chaoyong 16.8 knots (31.1 km/h; 19.3 mph) for a contracted, nominal top speed of 16.5 knots.

The main battery deck of the cruiser Yang Wei
The main battery deck of the cruiser Yang Wei


The ships were entirely constructed with 0.75 inches (1.9 cm) steel plating, with internal waterproof bulkheads 3.5 ft (1.1 m) below the waterline and a reinforced prow for ramming purposed. Her armoured deck was only 0.27 in thick (7 mm), but this was vertical, so shells were likely to bounce above, in near-flat trajectories of the time, and the “turrets” in which the main guns were located had walls of 1 inch (27 mm). These were not turrets but rather revolving turntables protected by walls making the “turret-like” arrangement. There was also a small conning tower at the front, protected by half an inch of armour, or 12.7 mm.

Profile of the Chaoyong class
Profile of the Chaoyong class as built (Conways) in it’s “colonial” livery


Main armament:

Two breech-loading Armstrong Whitworth 10 inches (254 mm) rifled cannons were provided. One was placed forward and one aft, mounted in stationary gun shields, installed for weather proofing reasons. They restricted the angle of fire to four openings for traverse, but also elevation. The guns themselves were mounted on rotative tables. The types of shells, numbers, or characteristics are unknown.
We will tray to extrapolate from the 10″/32 (25.4 cm) Marks I, II, III and IV installed on board the ironclads and battleships of the Victoria, Thunderer, Devastation and Barfleur classes, all being posterior to the ship’s completion. Indeed this model was developed from 1882 and introduced in 1884 for the Mark I, so too late for this type of cruiser. However this was an AP only type shell, weighting 500 lbs. (227 kg), as much as a WW2 light aerial bomb. The gun weight was about 30 tonnes, and the rate of fire about 0.5 rounds per minute.

Secondary Armament:

These cruisers were also armed with four 5.1 inches (130 mm) or 4.7 in (120 mm) guns, two to each side at the end of the “casemate”. These were two lightly armoured walls with openings for the guns, limiting their traverse to a mere 90°. Only possible comparison was the 7″/36 (17.8 cm) Mark I of 1884 made for the Mersey class cruiser, a 7 inches 36 caliber rifled, breech loading gun. But closer to it was the 5″/25 (12.7 cm) BL. This widespread gun was indeed from 1875, in service by 1878 a 25 caliber. It had a Bagged HE shell weighting 50 lbs. (22.7 kg) with a 4.45 lbs. (2.02 kg) Cord 7.5 propellant charge and a muzzle Velocity of 1,750 fps (533 mps). Around 100 were stored per gun. It was commonplace on sloops and cruisers of the 1880s.

The main armament, a turning table protected by partial armoured walls

Light Armament:

Sources are diverging on details. For Conways, they were given two 2.75 inches guns, placed on either side of the front bridge, behind the forward “turret”. No information available.
Other sources are stating this was a mix of two twin Armstrong Whitworth 9-pounders or 57 mm (2.2 in) long guns, and four 11 mm (0.43 in) Gatling guns plus four 37 mm (1.5 in) Hotchkiss guns, and eventually two 4-barrelled Nordenfeldt guns and two torpedo tubes. In addition the ship carried and could unload two pinnaces, armed with spar torpedoes acting as on-board torpedo boats. This figure is copmletely different from Conways however, and it is possible this data was directly taken from the previous Chilean Cruiser, then updated before departing or upgraded once in China. This was a considerable armament for close range fighting, and the only place these guns could have been the front and aft section roof of the main battery deck, as boats were stored on either side, and the decks.


Specifications (as built)

Dimensions 64 m x 9.75 m x 4.57 m draft (210 x 32 x 15 ft)
Displacement 1,380 tonnes standard, circa 1,542 tonnes Fully Loaded
Crew 177
Propulsion 2 shaft HCR, 4 cyl. boilers, 2,887 ihp.
Speed Top speed 16.5 knots, 5000 nm range/8 kts, about 300 tons coal.
Armament 2 x 10-in (254 mm), 4 x 4.7 in (120 mm), 2 x 2.75-in (76 mm)
Armor 0.27 in (6.8 mm) protective deck, 1 in turrets (25 mm), 0.5 in CT (30 mm).

Src/Read More

Robert Gardiner (Hrsg.): Conway’s All the World’s Fighting Ships 1860–1905
Arlington, L. C., Through the Dragon’s Eyes (London, 1931)
Wright, R. The Chinese Steam Navy, 1862–1945 (London, 2001)
Wright, R. “The Chinese Flagship Hai Chi and the Revolution of 1911”.
The Desk Hong List. Shanghai: North China Herald. 1884.
Brassey, T. A., ed. (1895). The Naval Annual. Portsmouth Griffin Co
Friedman, Norman (2012). British Cruisers of the Victorian Era.
Inouye, Jukichi (1895). The Japan-China War: The Naval Battle of Haiyang.
Jacques, William H. (1898). “Torpedo Boats in Modern Warfare”. Cassier’s Magazine.
Van de Ven, Hans (2014). Breaking with the Past: The Maritime Customs Service and the Global Origins of Modernity in China.
Wright, Richard N.J. (2000). The Chinese Steam Navy. Chatham Publishing

The Chao Yung class in service

Chao Yung (Wade–Giles), in chararacters 超勇; and in pinyin: Chāoyǒng meant “Valiant”. This cruiser was launched at Mitchell Yard on 4 November 1880, completed on 14 July 1881 and commissioned on 22 November 1881, so a year after her launch. The second ship ordered, Yangwei was launched on 29 January 1881, completed on 15 July 1881 and commissioned in 22 November 1882.
Both had Chinese crews but Western captains and instructors for their first trip, arrived previously by ship. They sailed out of the Tyne River on 9 August, and stopped in Plymouth Sound. Two days later, Admiral Ding Ruchang took command of them for their departure to China. They arrived on 20 October in Hong Kong and stopped at Canton (now Guangzhou) and Shanghai, and afterwards sailed north to the strategically important Taku Forts (the Yangtze gateway to Beijing). Chaoyong was approached by the Hongzhang, to take on board the diplomat inspecting the dredging of the port at Taku (now Tianjin). At last, both cruisers joined the Beiyang Fleet under Ruchang’s overall command. They served for their whole career with the Beiyang fleet; rotating each year, in Taku during the summer and in Chemulpo in Korea, during the winter. They saw no action during the Sino-French War, but the later Sino-Japanese War. They fought at the critical Battle of Yalu River on 17 September 1894, both sinking the same day.

About completion and the Chinese commission:

On December 18, 1879, China and Britain formally signed a shipbuilding contract and on January 15, 1880, the Elswick (not Mitchell ?) Shipyard started construction of the lead ship, but a the suggestion of Jin Denggan, the cruiser pair was temporarily named “Taurus”, meaning both were built in Europe (from the allusion that Zeus was turned into a Bull when abducting the woman Europa in Greek mythology). On December 6th, the Qing Dynasty created a receiving team of more than 200 notables led by Beiyang coastal defense supervisor, while named admiral Ding Ruchang at its head, and Lin Taizeng as deputy director, Deng Shichang and others. They settled in Tianjin. On December 10, the receiving team took a boat for Shanghai and started training. On the 23, Ding Ruchang, the British attaché Greyson took a French merchant ship which sailed to the UK for acceptance of both cruisers. On December 27, Li Hongzhang officially named both ships.

On February 20, 1881, the receiving team arrived in Shanghai, and Ding Ruchang ordered to sail to UK and the British yard. On the 27 February, the receiving team set off on the Chinese Merchant steamer Haichen and arrived in Newcastle on April 30, anchored in Ellswick to watch over the the construction process. They observed various problems such as material price increase, design modification, strikes and delivery problems, so the construction was repeatedly delayed; The contractor reused parts originally scheduled for the cancelled Chilean warship to gain time, but it was not enough. Construction of the Chaoyung was relatively quicker, but not the Yangwei, so she was not completed before the spring of 1881. Afterwards, first yard trials were delayed by bad weather and Li Hongzhang was quite vocal about the situation. He put pressure on Jin Denggan to urge the progress of sea trials and fixes, and on July 15th, Yangwei was ready to conduct a full sea trial session. She nearly collided with a fishing boat on her way, as the latter accidentally trespassed the test area, but still 2,700 indicated horsepower (2,013 kilowatts) were recorded as well as 16.4 knots (30 kilometers per hour), to the satisfaction of the team.

The difficult journey to China:

On August 2, the team officially took over the ship and at 13:00 on August 9, both cruisers set off from Newcastle to Plymouth. At 04:00 on the 17th, they left Great Britain for the long voyage home. This journey was troublesome: shortly after entering the Mediterranean Sea, Yangwei separated from Chaoyong and drifted 80 nautical miles from Alexandria for two days due to lack of coal. She was found later by her sister ship and eventually resupplied. However when passing through the Suez Canal, the propeller of the Yangwei was damaged to the point it needed repairs, which was done at the nearest facility in drydock. After entering the Indian Ocean, bad luck stroke Yangwei again as she had a mechanical failure. She was stopped for emergency repairs, and during this, a fire broke out in the boiler compartment. After repairs, both cruisers were underway, while on October 15 they encountered a tropical storm off Hong Kong. At 16:00 this day they rescued 4 sailors in distress, trapped on the islands and reefs. The following day, both cruisers headed to Guangzhou and Fuzhou. In Guangzhou, Zhang Shusheng, governor of Guangdong and Guangxi, led officials onboard for an official visit. On November 18, both cruisers arrived in Dagu, Tianjin, joining the Beiyang Fleet. At the time, they were the most advanced warship of the Chinese Navy and became the spearhead of the Beiyang Fleet. Captain Deng Shichang took command of Yangwei and British officers sailed for home.

Chao Yung

The Sino-French war and interwar years:

On 23 June 1884, Chaoyong, Yangwei, the corvette Yangwu and the sloop Kangji, met a French squadron, and a discussion took place between the commanders of each fleet. The French put on a firing demonstration as an argument in between. The Chinese fleet then joined force with Yang-Wu and sailed to Foochow (now Fuzhou), while the two protected cruisers sailed back to Taku later. The Sino-French War broke out, during which the Beiyang fleet saw no action. The two cruisers were at some point scheduled to break the French blockade of Formosa, and for this, she was, in concert with her sister-ship, redirected to Shanghai in November. However the overall command recalled them as there were growing tension with the Japanese about Korea. Chaoyong and Yangwei used to operate always together, out of Taku, frozen during the winter, so they were based during each winter in the Korean port of Chemulpo (now Incheon).

The battle of Foochow in 1884
The battle of Foochow in 1884

The Chaoyong at Yalu:

The First Sino-Japanese War broke out in 1894, and Chaoyong supported troop transports until the fleet made contact with a Japanese on the morning of 17 September. The battle of Yalu started, with the Japanese fleet, mostly made up of cruisers, quickly closing in while the Chinese try to drop their anchors, raise steam and manoeuver to for form up a battle line. But the lack of training of the previous months and years meant it was never achieved, and the ship were not arranged in an optimal way to fire, their views blocked by each others. Chaoyong was one of four behind this disorderly formation. In addition to the lack of training, the ships suffered from poor maintenance over the years, to such point thy could barely make 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph). As they were used to operate together, they manoeuvered to close by. But the battle line was stranger to their initial design, due to their lack of armour. They were meant to operate in distant solo by themselves, preying on smaller ships.

The fight started at 3,000 yards (2,700 m), and several IJN vessels concentrated rapidly on the Chaoyong, which was set ablaze within minutes. Soon, the ship ws completely engulfed in flames for the entire length of the central superstructure, all the wooden partitions layered with flammable varnish feeding the flames. Chaoyong, almost blind by its own smoke, and somewhat hidden, managed to break away to beach herself on a nearby island when she collided with the cruiser Jiyuan. The damage was so extensive that she started to list starboard and sinking in shallow waters. Most of the crew went down with her, and a few survivors were rescued by a Chinese torpedo boat.

The Yang Wei in action

On 23 June 1884, Yangwei teamed up with Chaoyong, corvette Yangwu and sloop Kangji during the pre-Sino-French war meeting. The Chinese headed for Foochow (now Fuzhou) while the YangWei and her sister ship made it for to Taku, under the protection of the fort’s heavy artillery. The Sino-French War ended as a crushing defeat for the Nanyang fleet, which was given no support by the Beiyang fleet despite speculations both cruisers could be sent to break the French blockade of Formosa, but instead they headed to Shanghai in November, and quickly recalled back in the north as tensions grew in Korea. The cruisers were based in Taku in the summer, and Chemulpo in winter (Korea)

A complex situation:

At this time, Japan stepped up its control of North Korea, and in order to contain this expansion, the Qing government decided to convince foreign powers into the Korean Peninsula to counter Japan. On May 7, 1882, Ding Ruchang led the two cruisers escorting the Ma Jianzhong, Qing’s special envoy to North Korea, signing the “North Korea-U.S. Treaty on Trade”. On June 25, 1882, Ding Ruchang participated in the German-North Korean contract negotiations. On July 23, the Renwu Mutiny broke out in North Korea and soldiers and civilians stormed the Zhuyi embassy, which was burned downed and kill the Japanese staff here. King Xuanxuan Dayuan took control of it later, but Japan sent its army to prepare for retaliation. The Qing Dynasty took countermeasures, sending the Chaoyong and Yangwei to Incheon, in full view of the Japanese warships, acting as a deterrent, her main guns surpassing all the Japanese had at that time. The Japanese indeed only had a the old ironclad Fuso there as lead ship. On August 20, the Beiyang Navy escorted the troops ships carrying 4,500 troops from the Huai army (Admiral Wu Changqing) in Korea. On the 26th, the Qing army entered Seoul and arrested the local Korean monarch, and controlled the city. This was only a respite however.

The Sino-French war

In 1884, war erupted between China and France over control of Vietnam. Chaoyong and Yangwei were went to Shanghai, and met there Nanchen, Nanrui, Kaiji, Chengqing, and Yuyuan, preparing to head further south and meet the French fleet. The Qing Dynasty also purchased a batch of 37 mm cannons from the Dias Company, which equipped the Chaoyong and Yangwei (two each). On June 23, the cruisers confronted the French Far East Squadron together with the Nanyang Navy ships Yangwu and Kangji. Japan took advantage of that void in Chinese naval presence in the area, and sent troops to the south to restart their occupation of Korea. Due to the degrading situation, the two cruisers were ordered back north to Taku (Dagu) and missed the naval battle of Majiang.

In November, both cruisers weere ordered south again, anchoring in Shanghai. On December 4, the nationalist party members supported by the Japanese Army Minister launched the Jiashen coup, and the Japanese army occupied the palace in Seoul. The former North Korean minister pleaded Yuan Shikai, special envoy of the Qing Dynasty for support and Ding Ruchang was ordered to send Chaoyong and Yangwei northward again, escorted by the gunboat Weiyuan and carrying troops reinforcements of the Huai army, to be landed in North Korea. Therefore, once again, bth cruisers could not help the Nanyang fleet in the Sino-French war. At the beginning of 1885, tensions between Britain and Russia were increasingly acute and on April 12, the British Asian Fleet occupied North Korea’s Juwen Island, using it as a base to dissuade the Russians to land an army in Korea. On the 16th, Ding Ruchang led Chaoyong and Yangwei to Juwen Island, and started negotiations with the British fleet. In 1887, the ironclads Dingyuan and Zhenyuan joined the Beiyang Navy, and Chaoyong and Yangwei were versed in second line, used from then on mainly for for training.

Chinese Cruiser Yangwei in drydock
Chinese Cruiser Yangwei in drydock, in completion at the yard. Note the “turret” with bad weather protective panels installed.

The Sino-Japanese war

On May 17, 1894, Li Hongzhang inspected the navy in Weihai. Due to theese ten years of intense service without maintenance, both ship’s hull were in poor conditions, and the boiler needed serious cleaning and repairs, or replacement, while most of their powerplant was worn out. Both ships were only capable of maintaining 7 knots (13 kph) in the best conditions, less than lhalf their original figure. The main guns were also obsolescent by now. The Tianjin Machinery Bureau carried out some repairs, but the ships would never be in the same conditions again. Their secondary guns were also worn out and old. The situation in North Korea degraded however still, and on June 6th, Nie Shicheng, general of Taiyuan in Shanxi, led a troops of 910 plus heavy equipment of the Qing army, landing in Baishi Puli in Asan Bay. The Jiyuan, Yangwei, Pingyuan, and Caojiang escorting steamers arrived in North Korea and stationed in in Asan, Incheon, Datongjiang to protect the interests of Chinese citizens there, and evacuate them in case. On July 25, the Japanese sank the protected cruiser Guangyi and transport ship Gaosheng leased at the naval battle of Toshima. They also badly damaged Jiyuan and captured the gunboat Caojiang, which was the start of the war. The Yangwei and Chaoyong participated in several escort and patrol operations before this, and were prepared for war the best they could.


The Battle of Yalu

On September 17, 1894, the Beiyang Navy sailed to Dadonggou, at the mouth of the Yalu River. There, they syarted to cover landings of the Qing army. Some warships had a shallow draft and were moored closer to the coast in Dadonggang to support by artillery gunfire the landing zone. After 12:00 a watch on Zhenyuan saw smoke at the horizon. The Beiyang fleet immediately was prepared to left their anchorage and form a battle line. Chaoyong was to be the ninth and Yangwei the tenth ship of this line, together they formed the fifth combat unit. The fleet started to take a horizontal combat formation, and Chaoyong and Yangwei ened at the end of the right wing. Due to the lack of maintenance, they could not follow and fell behind the main force. At the same time, the IJN flying squadron led by Rear Admiral Tsuboi Kozo, left the squadron, accelerated and turned right to head straight for the Chaoyong and Yangwei, the weakest ships of the Beiyang Fleet.

Meawnhile Dingyuan opened fire while Chaoyong and Yangwei fired their main bow gun. To improve hit rate, the Japanese waited until they were much closer. At 12:55, IJN Yoshino determined that the distance was now 3000 meters, and opened fire with her starboard artillery. Due to the close distance, hits were almost certain. Within a few minutes, the shell plates of Chaoyong and Yangwei were shot through, many officers and soldiers were killed and injured and their secondary guns put out of action. The Japanese ship continued their outflanking manoeuver, and the Chaoyong and Yangwei turned right to present a smaller target, but lacking the speed, they could not made the manoeuver fast enough. Ma Jifen onboard Zhenyuan observed the flying squadron moving to the right of the Beiyang fleet at twice the speed of the best Beiyang warship. They effectively made a crossing fire, causing the Chaoyong and Yangwei to be surrounded, Nelson style.

Around 13:05, the fire broke out in Yangwei and rapidly spread. At 13:08, the cruiser however succeded in sending a 10-inch (254 mm) shell on Yoshino’s rear deck, detonating and killing 2, injuring 9 people, causing a fire. At about 13:20, the ironclad Hiei crossed the Beiyang Fleet in turn and after crossing it, fell on Yangwei. Fire was exchanged point blank, around 400 meters to the starboard. At 14:31, the 1st flying suqadron retreated to protect the hardly battered gunboat Akagi, forming a cross fire and blasted the Yangwei, which catch fire again. Severely damaged, the cruiser was limping back in the direction of Dagushan Bay, trying to beach herself and save the crew. On her way, she crossed the path Jiyuan, running away fro the fight and the latter rammed the Yangwei, but reversed and left after the accident, leaving the Yangwei dead in the water. The Yangwei took heavy flooding and eventually capsized and started to sink, her surviving crew members evacuated but Captain Lin Luzhong went down with his ship. On September 18, the combined fleet found Yangwei not completely sunk, and sent a spar torpedo boat to finish her off.

The first Sino-Japanese War broke out in 1894, Yangwei was covering troop transports, and she spotted, like other ships of Admiral Ding Ruchang, the Japanese fleet approaching on the morning of 17 September. The Chinese fleet was at anchor at the time and prepared to form in line, but it was too late already, and they never achieved the desired formation. The Yangwei and Chaoyong fought together, opening fire at 3,000 yd (2,700 m) and both were quickly engaged by the Japanese. Wooden flammable wooden partitions, with heavily coats of varnish applied over the years feed the flames on board Yangwei, so much so she was rendered blind, her guns disabled. The captain ordered her to be be beached on a reef, a few miles away due south. The majority of her crew was dead, injured or already jumped into the water at that time, without orders. The morning following of the battle, she was approached by the cruiser IJN Chiyoda, which dispatched one of her own spar torpedo boats to finish her off. The Japanese considered her rightly as obsolete and were not interested by a capture. The Japanese fleet was kept at a distance and sent smaller boats to investigate in case the Chinese would use their onboard still functioning torpedo tubes. The spar torpedo did its job and badly damaged the hull, preventing the ship to go anywhere. The fire was still raging in parts completing the destruction. Her wreck was demolished many years later.

Hai Tien class protected cruisers (1898)

Hai Tien class protected cruisers (1898)

Chinese Empire/Republic – Hai Tien, Hai Chi (1898)

The largest Chinese cruisers in 1900 – The Hai Tien class were two 4,300 tons armoured cruisers built in Great Britain, at the Armstrong yard, and on a popular model pioneered by the Esmeralda. Steel-hulled, two funnels, two masts with fighting tops, they were ordered in 1895, right after the Sino-Japanese war, ordered and laid down in 1896 and completed in 1899. Their 8 in guns (152 mm) were mounted in turrets fore and aft with electrical mounts, and the 4.7 in guns (102 mm) placed on the broadside amidships. They also featured a complete protected deck in Harvey steel and had a relatively long career. Hai Tien was sunk in 1904 but Hai Chi would be in service in 1937 when the second Sino-Japanese war started. Hai Chi and Hai Tien were the largest ships in the Chinese navy until after World War II.

Hai Chi
Colorized photo of the Hai chi in 1911 (Library of Congress) by Postales Navales

Hai Chi 1935

Context: 1896 Chinese naval plan

With the end of the first Sino-Japanese War in 1895, the Manchu Qing dynasty was left broken. Her proud, costly foreign built fleet of Beiyang had been annihilated in the hands of the Japanese, and her armies decimated on land. The celestial empire’s weakness has been exposed to all, and foreign powers resumed their habits of carving up China with humiliating treaties under the threat of big guns. Among the treaties signed with the Qing government was in 1896 the Li–Lobanov with the Russian Empire, giving out Northeast China. In 1898 this was Convention for Hong Kong with the United Kingdom, a leasing for 99 years. Same lease with the German Empire for Jiaozhou and in 1899, Guangzhouwan to France. But prior to this, the Qing government made a new, ambitious naval plan to be completed by May 1896, all with western-built, modern cruisers.

For this naval plan, a commission was created by the Marquis of Suyi, Li Hongzhang, appointed by the dowager queen. A veteran diplomat of the Qing, he was the honorary guest at the coronation of Nicholas II Romanov, and paraphed and signed the treaty with Aleksey Lobanov-Rostovsky. He was also a guest in Germany, France, Belgium and the UK, arriving in August 1896. In each country, he left competitive requirements for a variety of cruisers and smaller vessels. He later travelled to the United States to try to revoke the Chinese Exclusion Act. Budgetary constraints however tied his hands down, and in the end, the battleship was dropped of the equation, and he could only ask for five cruisers (three from Vulcan, two from Armstrong Whitworth) and four destroyers (Schichau).

Hai Tien as completed in UK, making her trip to China with a British crew.

The two British-built cruisers were ordered from Armstrong Whitworth. They were named Hai Chi (‘Sea Boundary’) and Hai Tien (‘Heavenly Sea’), ordered in July on plans derived from existing ships and ready in a short notice. Hai Chi was laid down on 11 November 1896. She would be launched on 24 January 1899, commissioned 10 May 1899, so the class was often named after her sister ship, Hai Tien, laid down in February 1897 but launched 25 November 1897 and commissioned earlier, on 28 March 1899.

Hai Chi class design

ARA Buenos Aires
ARA Buenos Aires, the true basis for the design, derived from the Chilean Esmeralda. Colorized photo by Postales Navales

The design for these protected cruisers was closely modelled after the Argentinean ARA Buenos Aires, designed by Philip Watts, the yard’s star naval architect. Armstrong Whitworth had the blueprints in store, and the ship was just one year old. The final cruiser had a displacement of 4,300 tons, up to 4,515 tons fully loaded.

The ships’ armour was made from Harvey steel, the latest and world’s best hardening process at that time. The entire protective deck, with sloped sites, when it joined the belt, was 127 mm (5 in) thick on the slopes but down to 37 mm (1 in) mm for the central horizontal section. The Guns were protected by shields 114-millimetre (4.5 in) thick, and their ammunition hoists were 102 mm (4.0 in) thick. The conning tower had walls 152 mm (6.0 in) in thickness. The lightest 3-pdr Hotchkiss mounted in the fighting tops, had also a shield. The bow formed a spur ram and was also reinforced considerably.

The armament scheme was directly copied fro the previous Watt’s Buenos Aires: The main battery comprised two single 8 inches guns (exactly 203.2-millimetre) of 45 calibre. They were mounted fore and aft, protected by enveloping and placed on the centreline. However contrary to the previous Argentinian cruiser, there was a coherent, uniform secondary battery of ten secondary guns QF 4.7 inch Mk V naval guns, instead of a mix of 6-inch and 4.7-inch guns. As usual, a tertiary armament was install to deal with torpedo boats, and which comprised sixteen QF 3-pounder Hotchkiss. Latter were placed in part behind superstructure’s walls, broadside, and in the fighting tops (two for the lower, one for upper one). Also as most cruisers of the time, the Hai Chi class was carried five 450 mm (18 in) torpedo tubes. They were all fixed above water, one at the bow, four more broadside, one aft, defending any direction at close range.

Propulsion was rather classic, but powerful, as the two propellers shafts were driven by four Hawthorn Leslie vertical triple expansion engines. Steam came from twelve cylindrical boilers, with a mix of double-ended and single-ended models, delivering the total output of 17,000 bhp (12,700 kW). Top speed was up to 24.15 knots (27.79 mph; 44.73 km/h) at forced draught. The Hai Tien class carried 1,000 tons of coal, the range established to 8,000 nmi (15,000 km) at 10 knots. Hai Tien’s sea trials showed she could reach normally 22.6 knots (26.0 mph; 41.9 km/h) at natural draught, which was maintained in pursuit.

Hai Chi in 1910

Hai Tien in 1899, as completed

Conway’s profile of the Hai Tien class. Apart the electrical equipment modernization in 1911, Hai Chi appareance changed little, and she receive no meaningful modernization, so that in 1937, she was completely obsolete, when facing the IJN.



Dimensions 105.5 m x 11.90 m x 4.3 m draft.
Displacement 4,300 tonnes standard -approx. 4,600 tonnes Fully Loaded
Crew 350
Propulsion 2 shaft VTE, 12 cyl. boilers, 17,000 ihp.
Speed Top speed 24.5 knots, 8000 nm range, about 1000 tons coal.
Armament 2 x 6-in (152 mm), 10 x 5.5 in (140 mm), 16 x 3-in (76 mm), 5 x 18in TTs (457mm)
Armor 40 mm deck with 76 mm belt, 120 mm amo hoists, 130 mm shields, 152 mm CT.

Src/Read More

Robert Gardiner (Hrsg.): Conway’s All the World’s Fighting Ships 1860–1905
Arlington, L. C., Through the Dragon’s Eyes (London, 1931)
Wright, R. The Chinese Steam Navy, 1862–1945 (London, 2001)
Wright, R. “The Chinese Flagship Hai Chi and the Revolution of 1911”.
On china-defense.blogspot.com
On chroniclingamerica.loc.gov


Known Model kit: http://nntmodell.com Oceanmoon 1/700

The Hai Chi in service

Hai Chi was built in 1897-99 by Armstrong Whitworth in Newcastle upon Tyne and sailed for China on 22 May 1899 with a British contract crew. She arrived three weeks later. In August 1899, both cruisers were in China in the the reconstituted Beiyang Fleet, anchored at Dàgū (Taku, famous forts which would led to a battle during the Boxer war). Hai Chi was assigned as flagship, carrying the mark of Commodore Sa Zhenbing, CiC of the Beiyang fleet, the largest and most modern, northern Chinese fleet. The second was the Nanyang fleet, based in Shanghai.

Hai Tien 1899
Photos of the Hai Tien in 1899 as completed (Imperial War Museum), on her way to China. typically she had a black hull and canvas bag color and white superstructures. In 1900 or later, 1902-1903, this was changed to overall light grey, as shown by wreck photos of the Hai Tien, unless only her hull was painted white; Most good quality photos of the Hai Chi shows a grey painted vessel.

Hai Chi class profile view (Conways)

The Boxer Rebellion

Capture of the Forts at Taku

Hai Chi was present during the boxer rebellion, when the Beiyang Fleet sailed for the Taku forts on 31 May 1900. They were to face the alliance fleet, composed of 23 warships from nations implicated in the expedition, with guns facing each others. There was a state of high tension until on 16 June 1900 a delegation was sent by the eight-Nation Alliance fleet. As it was refused, the nations of Russia, UK, Japan, Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy prepared to bombard the forts and land Marine troops.

The Battle of the Taku Forts: On June 15, electric mines has been deployed in the Peiho River and commanders of the alliance met the following day to decide that Control of the Taku forts was key to control of northern China. Vice-Admiral Hildebrandt (Russian Navy) sent the ultimatum to the commander of the forts, sending it back by telegraph to the Governor of Zhili Province. Terms were to “occupy provisionally, by consent or by force” the Forts. The deadline was 2 a.m. on June 17. USN Rear Admiral Louis Kempff stated he has no authority to undertake hostilities but agreed to send the gunboat USS Monocacy to take on civilians near the fort out of harm. Only ten ships crossed over the river banks and entered the Hai River 200 yds wide and 900 men were assembled while the Chinese gunners, troops and sailors of gunboats had 2,000 men. In addition of mines torpedo tubes were installed at the forts. The first shots were Chinese, at about 00:45 on June 17. Korietz was heavily damage and Monocacy took a hit and was moved away. HMS Whiting, SMS Iltis, Lion and Giliak were also all hit, and severely damaged. Four modern German-built destroyers alongside the dock at Taku were swiftly captured by men from HMS Whiting and HMS Fame. The artillery duel went on until dawn until the ground assault took place on the Northwest Fort, with 200 Russians and Austrians followed by 380 British and Italians and next 300 Japanese. Fortunately a lucky hit blasted the fort’s powder magazine, opening a breech and causing a massive confusion, helping the the Japanese storming the fort, while the British and Italians assaulted North Fort. Next the fleet bombarded the forts on the south side of the river. Another powder magazine blew up in one, and they were abandoned, captured later with almost no opposition. All this was over at 6:30 a.m.

Hai Chi is evacuated
The remainder of the Beiyang fleet was evacuated southwards. Hai Chi was anchored in Jiangyin, spending the year 1901 with the the Nanyang Fleet until peace was signed. In 1904 both ships were stationed at Zhifu harbor. Her sister ship was moving to Shanghai when she struck a reef and was stuck there and eventually lost, abandoned, leaving Hai Chi the sole ship of her class. The next years were uneventful for Hai Chi, due to limited budget for training. She spent these years mostly at anchor.

In 1911, Hai Chi visited the United Kingdom, representing China at the grand fleet review in honor to George V’s coronation, in Spithead. The British-built cruiser profited from it to make a stop at Newcastle and be equipped with a completely new electrical network and generators, at Armstrong Whitworth. She received a message about the Torreón massacre in Mexico, and soon sailed to visit the United States, Cuba and Mexico, possibly taking on nationals. On 11 September 1911, she became in effect the first Imperial Chinese warship to enter American waters. She soon sailed to Cuba and then Mexico. The country, under the gun’s threat, agreed to Chinese demands for reparations and took action against the rebels. Hai Chi then sailed home, mission accomplished, only to discover the Empire has fallen and that a new government was in place. This was the Republic of China.

Hai Chi therefore changed flag, swapping the old dragon on yellow background of the Empire to the red-blue and sun symbol of the Republic. However, the situation was agitated, civil war was near. In 1917, the cruiser joined the fleet loyal to Sun Yat-sen’s Constitutional Protection Movement. War erupted against the secessionist Beijing government. In 1923, Hai Chi returned in the north, and in 1926 joined the Fengtian clique, headed by Gen. Zhang Zuolin in Manchuria. Manchuria was lost to Japan after the Mukden Incident in 1931, and Hai Chi sailed to Qingdao with other Fengtian ships and carrying troops. Soon after was constituted the ROC Navy’s 3rd Fleet. In 1933 due to the fleet commander fauling to pay the crews, Hai Chi sailed with two other ships south and, to the Guangdong navy. In 1935, the governor of Guangdong province disgruntled the crews, and Hai Chi, and another cruiser, fought heir way through a blockade and reach Hong Kong, and from there, sailed to Nanjing. There, after negociations, a compromise was found, and the ships were now nominally part of the Third Fleet, but under direct command of the ministry of defence.

As the sino-Japanese war erupted two years later, Hai Chi, which by that time has been little modernized, was scuttled as a blockship in the Yangtze River. This decision was taken on 11 August 1937, to obstruct the Japanese advance. It was motivated by simple common sense, as she would have stood little chance against modern Japanese cruisers and battleships, or the aviation. Without any significant modernization she was toothless indeed. However her main guns were still valuable enough to be dismantled before scuttling. Her heavy and secondary guns were later installed in the riverine defences of Wuhan. So the cruiser never had the occasion to fight the Japanese.

Various photos of the Hai Chi and sailors in 1911, now part of the American Congress collection, open source.

The Hai Tien in service

Hai Tien, although laid down 16 February 1897, three months after Hai Chi, launched 25 November 1897, before Hai Chi, was also completed a month ahead, but despite of this many historians still consider this the Hai Chi class. She was handed over to reconstitute China’s Beiyang Fleet by August 1899.
Hai Tien had a brief and uneventful career for Qing, as soon after the start of Boxer Rebellion, as chaos predominated, the Beiyang Fleet sailed to reinforce the Dagu forts on 31 May 1900. There was an uneasy state of high alert as a massive foreign fleet of 23 warships assembled in the area, facing the Chinese fleet. Tensions went a step further but still no ship ever fired a shot, until the deadlock was broken on 16 June 1900: The Eight-Nation Alliance fleet moved for a decisive outcome, anchoring off Dagu and making an ultimatum to the forts, intimating them to surrender or face a heavy shelling. This was in order to relieve International Legations siege in Beijing, the famous “55 days”.

The commanding officer of the forts was named General Luo Rongguang. He refused, and ordered to open fire on the foreign ships, leading to the Battle of Dagu Forts. At the same time, the more prudent governor of Shandong, Yuan Shikai, thought the Boxer rebellion was pointless. He ordered the Beiyang fleet south to preserve her in case of a sea battle where its stood little chance, and tp prevent these ships to be captured. Indeed he remembered what happened to the four newly acquired, German-built Hai Long-class destroyers and torpedo gunboat Fei Ting, captured by alliance during the capture of the docks near the Forts of Dagu (Taku). Off Taku forts, the Beiyang fleet was now limited to the cruisers Hai Tien, Hai Chou, Hai Chen, and the torpedo gunboat Hai Ying. They sailed to Shanghai, and Jiangyin, where they anchored to spend 1901 with the the Nanyang Fleet, until the end of the war, which was signed on 7 September 1901. There, the entire combined Chinese fleet was preserved for better days, which appeared as a wise decision.

Four years later, at 5:30 AM, 25 April 1904, the cruiser Hai Tien sailed under command Liu Guanxiong (future admiral of the Qin fleet), heading for Shanghai, from Zhifu harbour. She crossed hevy fog off Weihai, overshot the entrance to the Yangtze River, and hit a pinnacle rock close to the Shengsi Islands (Hangzhou Bay). The cruiser’s crew could do little as the ship was stuck in such position ot would take a lot to tow her. The captain ordered to abandon her in the evening. The crew was rescued by Chinese customs cruisers. Subsequently, attempts were made to salvage the Ha Tien. But they all failed. Ultimately it was decided to save her 8 inch 45 caliber main guns. She was struck from the Chinese naval register and her hull was left there to rust and being battered by the elements. Its last remains are still buried under the sands of the area.
Two photos of the wreck of Hai Tien in 1904 (cc).

Hai Yung class protected cruisers (1897)

Hai Yung class protected cruisers (1897)

Chinese Beiyang Fleet – Hai Yung, Hai Chou, Hai Chen

The Chinese German-built cruisers – After the crippling losses of the Sino-Japanese war, and ten years after the losses of the Sino-French war, the Chinese Navy needed to be bolstered again. Due to conflicting intererests with the British and French, China once again ordered several warships to Germany. Two serie of cruisers were orered, the Hai Chi and Hai Yung class. They were all protected cruisers intended for the depleted Beiyang fleet (northern fleet). The Small 2nd class protected cruisers were ordered simultaneously with two larger ships of Hai Chi class at the Vulcan shipyards of Stettin.

Hai Chi class
The larger, 1st class protected cruiser Hai Chi for reference (colorized by Irootoko jr. – From Pinterest)

The yard had quite a long history with China and there was mutual trust. Previous ordered also included the first German battleships ever exported, the Dingyuan class ironclads (1881). The Hai Yung class cruisers were launched in 1897-98 and completed in 1898. They served during the 1905 revolution, changing onwers and surviving the war, but fell into disrepair and lack of maintenance. Eventualy they were obsolete in the 1930s and would have been relegated as gunboats, but they were never officially discarded. Insted, they were scuttled on August 1937 like most of the Chinese fleet ships not sunk in the Japanese attack.

Design of the Hai Yung class

The Hai Yin, yet another cruiser design
The Hai Yin, yet another cruiser design of that era.

The Hai Chi and Hai Yung class were basically respectively 2nd and 1st class protected cruisers. The design of the Hai Yung class was relatively classic, and designs influences have been the British Apollo class, Italian Regioni class, but overall a close resemblance to the Dutch Gelderland-class cruisers. But overall, the main inspiration seemed to have been the Gazelle class cruisers then in construction. Germany used the Gazelle class as the basis for all light German cruisers before WW1.

The three-staged hull comprised a forecastle, poop and ram-shaped stem. There was a departure from previous designs of heavy, slow firing guns. For these cruisers, the Chinese government choosed to use lighter, but quick-firing 150mm/40 guns, placed in a characteristic “triangular” scheme: Two guns aside on forecastle, third on poop, and this was completed by 105mm and 47mm guns mostly broadside on the upper deck.

Hull & protection

Hai Yung design scheme

The Hai Yung class was a relatively small protected cruiser, displacing 2680 tons standard for a Length of 328 ft (100.0 m), a beam of 40 ft 9 in (12.4 m) and a draft 19 ft (5.8 m). Protection consisted in an internal deck armour ranging from 2.75 down to 1.5 in (70–38 mm) with sloped sides: The machinery space was protected by 32 mm of deck armour plating with 70 mm slopes which formed a turtleback. At the ship’s ends the armour plating had 25 mm thickness. All gun shields were protected by 2 in (51 mm) and the conning tower was given 1.5 in (38 mm) walls, and for Chinese sources, 50 mm (2 in too). 1.5 in was perhaps the roof.


The cruiser had two a shaft reciprocating VTE steam engine coupled with eight cylindrical boilers which developed 7,500 ihp (5,600 kW). The cruisers carried 200–580 tons coal. Top speed was noted in specifications to be 19.5 knots (22.4 mph; 36.1 km/h). Sea trials in Germany showed the ships could reach the actual figure of 8,400 hp (6,300 kW) on forced heating, and reach 20.75 knots (38.43 km/h). However it could not be maintained long. After arrival, the top speed achieved was 20.25 knots (37.50 kilometers per hour).
Locally, the ships were known as the Hǎiróng class (海容). The crew consisted in 244 officers and sailors.

Hai Chen
Hai Chen, date unknown


The Hai Yung class cruisers were armed with three Krupp 5.9 in (15 cm) QF guns placed on the forecastle (two side by side) and a single on the poop. This arrangement gave them ideal traverse.
The secondary armament comprised eight Krupp 105 mm (4.1 in) QF guns and later six 37-mm-Hotchkiss-Autocannons were added. The 10.5 cm guns were placed in sponsons with recesses at each end, and four more behind the broadside walls. The Hotchkiss were placed mostly on the upper deck, with two behind walls, in between the 10.5 cm guns, and two at the prow behind recesses. Two were placed on platforms behind the bridge, and two on platforms above the rear quartedeck house.
This was completed by three submarine torpedo tubes of 14 in (360 mm) caliber, bow and broadside.
In the 1930s the only modernization consisted in adding a single 40/39 2pdr QF Mk II AA gun.

Author’s pofile of the Hai Tien



Dimensions 100 m x 12.4 m x 5.8 m draft.
Displacement 2,680 tonnes standard -approx. 2,900 tonnes Fully Loaded
Crew 244
Propulsion 2 shaft VTE, 8 cyl. boilers, 7500 ihp.
Speed Top speed 19.5 knots, 2500? nm range, about 580 tons coal.
Armament 3 x 150 mm (5.9 in), 8 x 105 mm (4 in), 12 x 37 mm QF Hotchkiss.
Armor Decks 70–38 mm, gun shields 51 mm, CT 38 mm.

Src/Read More

Robert Gardiner (Hrsg.): Conway’s All the World’s Fighting Ships 1860–1905
Arlington, L. C., Through the Dragon’s Eyes (London, 1931)
Wright, R., The Chinese Steam Navy, 1862–1945 (London, 2001)

Active service of the Hai Yung class 1900-1937

Early service (1898-1903)

On May 4, 1898, the then ambassador to Germany, Lu Haihuan, was present at the sea trial of the Hai Yung, lead ship of the class, showing her reaching more than 20 knots, in fact close to 21 knots, which was excellent. On May 13, the Hai Yung departed for China with a German crew, passed Ceylon on June 28, and arrived in Hong Kong on July 12, then Dagukou on July 27, 1898.

In 1899, the Qing dynasty reorganized the Beiyang naval division, recruiting Beiyang former admirals to replace the commander-in-chief Ye Zugui and choose Sazhen Bing as the commander. The Hai Yung by then was one of the most modern and capable bof the New Beiyang Navy. The Gengzi Incident (The Boxer rebellion) broke out in 1900: Ye Zulun’s fleet was stationed in Tianjin, and the cruiser Hairyung was posted as flagship of the fleet at the Leiyue Wharf in Dagukou. Ye Zulun did not intended to engage the arriving coalition warships, which overwhelmed his forces, so he ordered instead his cruiser to leave Dagukou to comply with the imperative orders of the coalition commander, and drop anchor as the coalition fleet started operations, accepting to be boarded. The “Xin Chou Treaty” was signed avec the rebellion and the the coalition forces released the Hai Yung.

Russo-Japanese war (1904)

When the Russo-Japanese War broke out in 1904, the Beiyang fleet was stationed in Yantai. On August 10, 1904 the Yellow Sea naval battle took place and the Russian Pacific Fleet failed to break through and was trapped in Port Arthur. At 04:15 the following day however a Russian destroyer managed to flee and took refuge in Yantai, surrendering to the Chinese navy. She was disarmed and handed over to the Chinese navy.

The cruiser Hai Chou
The cruiser Hai Chou

Hai Yung sent a steamboat to take care of her. Meanwhile the battle was over. At 19:30, the Japanese Navy IJN Chao Chao and Xia suddenly entered the port. Sa Zhenbing boarded the Japanese ship to start negotiations, and the Japanese ship were convinced to leave the port. However, at 03:30 the following day, IJN Chao Chao sent a small boat to approach the Russian destroyer, requesting the crew to surrender or be engaged by the Japanese. The situation quickly degenerated as the Japanese attempted to take the Russian ship ion tow, violently opposed by the Russian crew.

The incident was watched by the three cruisers present when two IJN destroyers were sent to forcibly capture ships surrendered to the Chinese navy. Pointing guns on the Chinese vessels. This incident caused an uproar in the Chinese public opinion. On the morning of November 16, the Russian destroyer was broke through her captain did not trust the Chinese Navy’s ability to guarantee neutrality, but after an exchange of letter to the Russian consul it was decided to scuttle her. Hai yung departed for Shanghai afterwards.

On the evening of January 1, 1905, five Russian destroyers and several other vessels broke through from Lushun, and they entered Yantai on January 2. The Hai Yung was rushed to Yantai from Shanghai on January 6, 1905, to watch the Russian ships and respect neutrality. When the Second Pacific Fleet was sighted along the souther Chinese coast, the cruisers Hai Chi, Hai Bian, Hai Yung and Hai Chen patrolled Shanghai waters to prevent the detained Russian ships in Yantai to flee and join the Russian fleet, that could be breach of neutrality. The two sides later signed an armistice agreement and the Chinese navy return the Russian warships. As the autumn came, China ordered 7 Marconi radio stations, of which three were used by the Army, and four installed on the four cruisers (of the Hai Chi and Hai Yung), a first in the Chinese Navy.

The 1906 Goodwill tour of asia

In 1906, the Hai Yung sailed alongside the Hai Chi for a six-month trip through Southeast Asia, making a survey of the living conditions of the Chinese communities abroad. The two cruisers left Shanghai on October 27, 1906, visiting Hong Kong, Manila, Saigon, Bangkok, Singapore, Batavia, Semarang, Soerabaya, Muntok, Bangka and Penang. They returned home via Singapore. In 1908, a new commander of the Chinese fleet was appointed, Admiral Sa Zhenbing. He placed his mark onboard the Hai Chi, and sailed to Amoy with Hai Yung, her sister ships Hai Chou and Hai Chen, and other units, where they received the American Great White Fleet. In 1910 there was another cruiser and visit in Amoy, and Sa Zhenbing attended the ceremonies again.

In 1910, Portugal clashed with the Qing Dynasty over a border issue related to Macau. The Portuguese claimed that if China did not agree to expand Macau’s borders there would be naval escalation, Portuguese warships and even likely to shell China’s coastal cities. Hai Yung and Hai Ban were dispatched in the area as a show of strength in Macau, forcing Portugal to return to the negotiating table. The revolution which took place in Portugal that year scrapped any more pretenses on Macau.

The Hai Yung in the 1911 revolution

When the Revolution of 1911 broke out the Navy, mostly loyalist, immediately mobilized to fight the Revolutionary Army. In late October, Hai Yung and Hai Ban arrived at the Yangluo and Sazhen Bing raised his mark on the Hai Yung, while Shen Shoukun, commander of the Yangtze River Fleet, made the Hai Chen his flagship. However, many officers sent radio message propagate revolutionary ideas. On October 26, the three cruisers shelled Revolutionary Army positions near the paper mill, causing serious casualties to a unit which withdrew. The day after Hai Yung, Hai Bian, and Hai Che, shelled the flank of the revolutionary army, forcing troops to retreat to ​​Dazhimen.
At around 06:30 the next day, the cruisers combined with the Yangtze River Fleet shelled positions of the Wuhan Revolutionary Army, but with poor accuracy, while one ship was hit in return by the revolutionary field artillery. After 20 minutes, the Navy withdrew from the sector and at 15:20, fired on the spotted artillery positions on the hillside of Wuchang, opposite Hankow’s jade belt gate area.

However officers of various ships started tp sympathize with the Revolutionary Army and often ordered gunners to fire without taking aiming. As the revolution progressed, propaganda mutinies began on various ships while others refused to fight. The cruisers left Wuhan for Shanghai, but soon after their departure, they lowered the dragon flag of the Qing Dynasty, replaced by a white flag, and at noon on the 13th, they entered Jiujiang.

Wuhan sent Xu Mingda and Li Zuodong to Jiujiang intended to seize the ships for the Revolutionary Army. Meanwhile indeed the war in Wuhan and Anhui needed the ships’s guns for support against Qing troops. The ‘Jiujiang fleet’ was split into two, the first sailed out to later take Huang Zhongying as commander while the second Fleet (Tang Xiangming) was to return to Whuan. It comprised Hai Yung, Hai Chen, and Hue.

They started shelling Qing positions at 11:00 on the 19th, from Qingshan, on positions around Liujiamiao. At 15:pm Hai Yung approached the Yellow Crane Tower and the Qing army mistakenly took the revolutionary flag for a British flag, and failed to fire on her. Subsequently, the cruiser succesfully drove down the river, opening fire almost point-blank on the Qing army as soon as she was out of the concession area to avoid a diplomatic incident. Hai Yung however was only 500 m from Qing guns positions and took some hits. Her commander was killed and three officers were injured. The cruiser’s funnel was riddled with shrapnells and the hull had two hit holes.

On the 22 October, Hai Yung and Hai Chen were ordered by the Governor of the Hubei Army, Li Yuanhong, to attack Qing positions on the Chenjiaji River in Wuhan. They were also to cover the Revolutionary Army’s third division dangerous crossing of the River. Qing Artillery positions near Sandaoqiao fought back however, with 100 mm artillery pieces and others of larger caliber. They hit both cruisers several times, 10 were killed. The starboard, rear mast, funnel of the Hai Yung were damaged, while the Hai Chen’s torpedo room was completely destroyed.

In return, both cruisers”s fire killed around 400. The day after as planned, both cruiser screened the Revolutionary Army crossing, forcing the Qing army to retreat. On the 24th however, the Qing army counterattacked causing heavy casualties, and captured Qingshan. On the 25, the Revolutionary Army covered by the cruiser landed in Yangluo, but failed to make a bridgehead and had to withdraw on the other side of the river. On December 7, as the water level of the Yangtze River dropped both cruisers retreated to Jiujiang and on 18, negotiations forced the ships to return to Shanghai for resupply and maintenance.

Hai Yung circa 1900
Hai Yung circa 1900

Post-revolution service

Hai Yung served after 1911 for the Chinese Republic with most of the Navy, but funds were lacking and the ships needed maintenance. In January 1912, the Provisional Government of the Republic of China ordered the Northern Expedition with the Hai Yung class under Tang Xiangming, commander of the Navy at its head. On January 16, 1912, they sailed to Yantai, which had declared independence.

The second revolution broke out in 1913 and in July the Beiyang Fleet was led by Commander Li Dingxin, assisted by Zheng Rucheng, deputy of the Navy Guard. They were sent to resist Yuan Jun’s attack. In August Zhang Xun and Feng Guozhang attacked Nanjing and Liu Guanxiong dispatched Hai Chi and Hai Yung to shell the Lion Rock Fort while the Beiyang Army launched a general offensive.
After the end of the Second Revolution the Department of the Navy decided to modernize the fleet and adopted the Siemens Telefunken 2.5TK radio which allowed a 1700 km range. Former Marconi systems was installed on the Nan Chen. In addition, the old bow dragon pattern decoration of the class and other ships was removed and the aft battle mast removed to lower the center of gravity while its pedestal bas was reserved for use as a maintenance platform.

The Hai Yung class during WWI

At the end of July 1914, Japan was likely to declare war on Germany and both Hai Chi and Hai Yung were stationed in Yantai. On December 25, 1915, the Yunnan became independent and a new civil war broke out. In April 1916, the Beiyang Army requisitioned the Hai Yan, Xin Ming and Xin Yu to carry the 12th Division to Fujian, while Hai Chi and Hai Yung provided escort. However on April 20, when the fleet passed Wenzhou in heavy fog, Hai Yung collided with Xin Yu. The captain and two electricians survived but the entire crew and more than 700 army officers and soldiers drawn that day as the ship, rammed and broken in two, sank quickly. It happened off Fuchow and the cruiser needed extensive repairs.

On July 1, 1917, Zhang Xun was restored while Hai Chou and Hai Yung, were ordered by Cheng Biguang to sail to Tianjin, planning to return there with Li Yuanhong but the misson failed. In July Cheng Biguang led fleet southwards and Haip Chou, Hai Yung, were persuaded by the Duan Qirui government to remained under the Beijing government authority and not follow Cheng Biguang. In August the Beijing government declared war on Germany so both cruisers participated in the confiscation of German and Austrian ships stranded in China.

Hai Yung

Long after the outbreak of the October Revolution in Russia, civil war was spreading and in 1918, Hai Yung was sent to join the entente intervention in Vladivostok in favor of white Russians and to maintain order. The Beiyang government also upgraded Hai Yung with a Long Wave radio station. The refitted cruisers departed from Shanghai on April 9, 1918, and arrived in Vladisvostock on April 16. in July she assisted the Russian Siberian Provisional Government Army against the Bolshevik assault, even sending sailors ashore to patrol. It was discovered meanwhile that radio range was unsufficient. Messages were relayed by an US warship. At the end of July 1918, Lin Jianzhang, captain of the Hai Yung was appointed navy general.
On May 20, 1919, Hai Chou replaced Hai Yung in Vladivostok and the latter returned to Shanghai, sent in drydock in Jiangnan Shipyard for maintenance. On October 25, Hai Chou returned to Xiamen to monitor the law-enforcement army and was replaced in turn by Hai Yung.

Interwar period


On July 5, 1920, the U.S. Intervention Army held a five-nation military alliance including China in Vladivostok and after the Soviets established the Far East Republic, the intervention forces withdrew one after another, Hai Yung returning in November. In April 1922, civil war broke out again. Commander of the Second Fleet Du Xigui and Lin Jianzhang disputed what line should be protected. Zengzhen Bing ordered Hai Chou, Hai Yung and Yong Ji north to assist the second fleet at Qinhuangdao, supporting an assault against Fengjun. The Northern Expeditionary of Army Xu Chongzhi retreated to the border between Fujian and Jiangxi and later Xu Shuzheng was sent to negociate with with Sun Yat-sen. Later one the government asked the Navy Department to investigate Li Houji and First Fleet Commander Zhou Zhaorui onboard Hai Yung send a Marine Corps to Fujian, while the training fleet (Yang Jingxiu) was sent to capture the Longmen Fortress. In July 1923 Yang Shuzhuang landed Marines to attack Zang Zhiping Department, Xiamen Army in Anhui without success. In June 1923 steamship Shenzhou Maru from the Kobe East Steamship Co., collided with Hai Yung and the Chinese claimed 6,700 yuan denied by the Japanese captain, which appealed to the Japanese Consulate in Fuzhou., which confirmed his position Anti-Japanese sentiment grew on, but to avoid a war, compensation was ultimately paid.

In April 1923, the cruisers had their electrical installation modernized in Shanghai with alternative current. In 1924, the Jiangsu-Zhejiang War broke out and Qi Xieyuan tried to unify the navy by force. Commander Du Xilu tried to led the first and second fleet to cooperate and in September the battle rage near Huangdu, west of Shanghai with the fleet stationed in Fujian confronting the Shanghai navy. The Shanghai fleet was later captured by Du Ximin. In July 1926, the National Revolutionary Army captured Wuchang. Wu Peifu suffered heavy losses and later the Navy began negotiations with the Kuomintang.

After Chiang Kai-shek’s promises, the Central Fujian Navy resigned and in November the First Fleet in Fujian attacked. On February 1927, the Shanghai fleet participated in the second armed uprising of Shanghai workers. The Second Fleet (Chen Shaokuan) led the Hai Yung attacked Wusong Fort, and shelled the Liuhe area. Inn April the Navy was reorganized and the Hai Yung class cruisers formed the basis for the newly formed First Fleet. Its ommander Chen Jiliang, led the fleet to defend Wusong in Jiangyin. In May Hai Yung and Hai Chou went on patrol and forced Hai Chi to withdraw.

In 1928, Hai Yung’s hotchkiss guns were replaced with four Vickers 6-pdr (47mm guns) and four 3-pdr (37mm guns) and later, a single Vickers 40 mm (2-pdr) AA was installed. In 1929, the Jiang Gui War broke out and in May Hai Yung, Ying Rui, and naval gunboats escorted the army troop carrier from Wusong south, followed by landings in Shantou and Humen. In June 1933, the Xuejia Island incident broke out. Hai Chi, Hai Chen, Zhao He, and the three other ships defected from the Northeast Navy and turned to Chen Jitang. In July the Nanjing fleet (Chen Shaokuan) was ordered to sail to intercept three ships in Nantou. In June 1935, Hai Chi and Hai Chen left the Guangdong Army, defecting to join Hong Kong, avoiding an air attack of the Guangdong Army. The Central Navy performed an exercise off the coast of Fujian when Chen Jiliang led the First Fleet blockade Hong Kong. Hai Chi and Hai Chen left Hong Kong, under guns of Ning Hai, which fired warning shots, forcing them back. Ning Hai, Hai Yung, and Hai Chou entered Hong Kong during, asked the two ships to hand over their guns breeches to be disarmed and join the central navy northwards. They refused and the stalemate went on until the end of June, leading to a compromise. The two cruisers would be sent to Shanghai separately.

End of the Hai Yung class: The second Sino-Japanese war

When the Second Sino-Japanese War broke out in 1937, the Hai Yung class was out of date and in poor condition and on september 25, they were sunk as block ships in the Yangtze river.
The Admiralty prior to this mobilized the local fleets to conduct a three-month preparation exercise in Nanjing and in September the Military Commission ordered Hai Chi, Hai Chen, Hai Chou, and Hai Yung to form a blockading lined right in the Yangtze. Due to the hasty order, Hai Yung’s 150 mm were not removed, only one was salvaged but the 105 mm and lighter guns were all removed and put into storage. The AA guns ended on the gunboat Yong Sui. On April 25, 1959, the Shanghai Salvage Engineering Bureau salvaged the Hai Yung and dismantled her for scrap metal.

Dingyuan class ironclads (1881)

Dingyuan class ironclads (1881)

Chinese Beiyang Fleet

The first and last Chinese battleships

The present ironclads had many names, in modern Chinese called 定远, they were known in pinyin as Dìngyǔan and in the Wade–Giles dictionary Ting Yuen or Ting Yuan. With her sister-ship Zhenyuan, Dingyuan was the largest military ship ever to bear the flag of Imperial China, and the largest until the 1990-2000s aircraft carriers of the Chinese PLAN. Both served for a mere ten years before being thrown into battle during the first Sino-Japanese war in 1894. Scuttled at Port Arthur and captured, Zhenyuan changed flag, entered service in the Japanese Imperial Navy as Chin Yen an saw the Russo-Japanese war; became a coastal defense ship, a target ship and eventually was sold for scrap in 1912.

Dingyuan and Zhenyuan leaving Kiel for China
Dingyuan and Zhenyuan leaving Kiel for China.

Context: Chinese Ironclads against foreign Imperialism

In 1880 China was about to meet a storm of new Western ingerence. Already marked by the souvenir of the French-British alliance during the Second Opium War from 1857 to 1860, France, not to be left over for possible spoils of war started to settle permanently in Vietnam under the pretext of protecting Catholic missions here, following the shelling and occupation of Tourane (Danang) and Saigon in 1858. The next step was the constitution of the French colony of Cochinchina by treaty in 1862, and gradually took over other territories through forced protectorates. However this move provoked a reaction from China as Hanoi was annexed in 1882. The war was declared in 1883 and would be lost in 1885, leaving the French in partial control of additional territories, namely Annam, Tonkin, Cochinchina, Cambodia, and Laos. Before that, China saw with growing uncertainty the rise of British and German appetites in the region and ordering modern battleship (at the same time of many other ships) was a sure way to prevent any further advance.

ChinYen class blueprint
Brasseys diagram – IJN Chin yen.

Until 1880, the only modern fighting ships of the whole Chinese Navy was a pair of screw frigates called the Hai An class, also comprising the Yu Yuen. Both wooden-hulled frigates has been ordered at Kianyan yard for the Nanyang fleet, using skills and blueprints from the West. Classic sailing and steam vessels they possessed two deck 9-in guns mounted on rotative cradles and twelve 70-pdr broadside guns, plus one funnel. Launched in 1872-73 they were considered unseaworthy. The Yu Yuen was sank by and was sunk at the end of the war in 1885 by spar-torpedo boats from the cruiser Bayard while Hai An survived the war and was later rearmed by Krupp guns (fate unknown). In 1879 however, the Beiyang fleet’s governor ordered two protected cruisers to British yards, the Chao Yung class, launched in November 1880 and January 1881. Both were sank at Yalu in 1894.

The Beiyang fleet quicky became the largest and most modern of the three Chinese Imperial Fleets, as alongside the new ironclads for the sold year of 1883 as war with France started, the cruiser Chi Yuan was ordered to Vulcan in Germany, followed by the three Kai Che class for the southern fleet (Nanyang) (at Foochow on German plans but with German and British guns), and the three Nan Yang class in 1883, the first two at Howaldt in Germany and the third locally at Foochow, while the Beiyang fleet received in 1886 two British-built protected cruisers (Chih Yuan class) and in 1887 the same fleet ordered in Vulcan, Germany again, two armoured cruisers, the King Yuan class, and at Foochow was built the Ping Yuen, an armoured cruiser launched in 1888, and last major ship accepted before the 1894 war.

Compared to this, the Ting Yuen (Or Dingyuan) class represented certainly the greatest endeavour of China, for the northern (Beiyang) fleet, facing Japan and Russia. The order to German yards was motivated to find an alternative to British yards, which also aggressively pushed their luck in the region, and naturally to a willing enemy of France and Japan, the greatest threat for China at that time. By that time Germany was a rapidly growing industrial superpower, traduced also into a dynamic expansion of its Kaiserliches Marine. Prominent German yards of that time, Vulcan and Kiel Dyd just delivered the first modern (sail only) central citadel ironclads whereas Norddeutsche and Dantzig Dyd delivered the Bismarck and Carola class iron corvettes. The four Sachsen class ironclads (launched 1877-80) carried the DNA of the Chinese ships, which were not modified copies but more conventional ships. But the true reason behind the German order was that if UK has been considered first, diplomatic authorities barred them as unwilling to sell China warships of this size, notably to not offend the Russian Empire, an ally at that time.

Zhenyuan in Lushun dockyard
Zhenyuan in Lushun dockyard – colorized by Irootoko Jr.

design of the Dingyuan class ironclads

Describing the Dingyuan class as a mere copy of the Sachsen, designed earlier in 1874, would be an error. Both were flush-deck ships, with two funnels, about the same displacement at 7600 tons and dimensions, but the similarities stopped there. By their armament, both ships were completely different animals. The Germans choose for their Sachsen class three sets of 26 cm guns, two mounted side by side in a pear-shaped barbette on the forecastle and six in individual positions in a “X” pattern at the rear. The Dingyuan however were designed to carry a very standard combination: Two barbettes of twin 12-in guns (305 mm) in a classic “echelon” -or lozenge- configuration, typical of the time. All four 30.5 cm guns were 20 caliber Krupp pieces. The secondary armament also diverged greatly (see later).

SMS Baden
The SMS Baden, from the Sachsen class which came from the same yards at that time.

On the powerplant side, the Sachsen class opted for two shafts HSE steam engines, about 5000 shp for 13 knots, whereas the Chinese vessels had two shafts connected to two trunk steam engines fed by 8 cylindrical boilers, and were rated for 7200 ihp, reaching 15.4 knots (28.5 km/h; 17.7 mph). These were much better performance at equal tonnage. On the range side, the Chinese ships reached 4,500 nmi (8,300 km; 5,200 mi) at 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph) whereas the Sachsen were limited to 1,940 nmi (3,590 km; 2,230 mi) at the same speed. That’s a paradox that’s these ironclads, comparable in many aspects and coming from the same yards diverged so greatly.

Perhaps we should consider the budget allocated to the Chinese Ships (6.2 million German gold marks, equivalent of around 1 million Chinese silver taels.) far outclassed those consented for the four German ships, in an Empire that existed since a mere ten years, even if Otto Von Bismarck was behind. The Navy at that time, under General Albrecht von Stosch was indeed conceived as a defensive, near-coastal navy, whereas Chinese plans led by the Viceroy of Zhili province, Li Hongzhang, included at first no less than twelve ironclads to face the IJN Fusō and Kongō classes under construction in UK.

Replica of Dingyuan as museum ship

Hull of the Dingyuan-class

Since German yards, contacted by the Chinese, accepted to make a derivation design from the Sachsen, the ships had relatively a similar hull.
Both ironclads measured 308 feet (94 m) in length (between perpendiculars) and overall 298.5 ft (91.0 m), for a beam of 60 ft (18 m) and 20 ft (6.1 m) draft. They displaced 7,144 long tons (7,259 t) on paper, estimated to 7,670 long tons (7,793 t) fully loaded. Their steel hulls from Krupp were well built and strong, ending forward with a pronounced ram bow following the trend of the time.

Steering depending of a single rudder. Differing from the Sachsen, there were two heavy military masts instead of just one, one forwards of the main battery guns and one aft. There was also a hurricane deck which ran over the turrets from the foremast to the funnels. Also customary of the time, both ironclads were motherships for two second-class torpedo boats. They were stored astern of the funnels, moved by, and recovered by derricks to the sea. By default of reports of them in action we can assume they were only useful by very calm sea. The Dingyuan class ships carried 363 officers and enlisted men.

Armament of the Dingyuan class

Both ironclads were given a main battery comprising four 12 in (305 mm) 20-caliber guns in two open barbettes placed in échelon on the forward part of the deck. Barbettes on Dingyuan and Zhenyuan were indeed placed in a very common configuration at that time, compact enough as to allow concentration of armour, forward and rear fire of both barbettes, and side fire of both cpmbined when the angle allowed it. The starboard barbette was indeed placed further forward than the port one. The guns were 31.5-long-ton (32 t) Krupp models but the relatively low hull and configuration caused trim problems and both ships were wet forward.

DingYuan 1884
DingYuan 1884 – The blueprints. Notice the midget torpedo boats installed in the center gangway in between the funnels and mast.

The secondary armament was composed of two 5.9 in (150 mm) guns in single mounted turrets, on the bow’s deck forward and in the stern. This was relatively unusual at the time. Torpedo boats closer defence was assumed by a pair of 3-pdr or 47 mm (1.9 in) Hotchkiss revolver cannon plus eight 2-pdr or 37 mm (1.5 in) Maxim-Nordenfelt QF guns placed in casemates.
At last, there were also three 14 in (356 mm) torpedo tubes, of which one was firing at the stern, and the other two forward of the main battery above water, broadside. There are some conflicting data about 381 mm tubes also.

Powerplant of the Chinese ironclads

Both Ironclads were fitted with two horizontal, three-cylinder trunk steam engines (HTE). They drove each a single bronze 3-meters screw propeller. They were fed by the steam from eight cylindrical boilers, which exhausts passed through truncated tubes emerging into a pair of funnels amidships. The boilers were divided into four boiler rooms for better safety. Total output as indicated was 6,000 horsepower (4,500 kW). Top speed ad designed was 14.5 knots (26.9 km/h; 16.7 mph), exceeded on trials: Zhenyuan for example generated 7,200 ihp (5,400 kW) for 15.4 kn (28.5 km/h; 17.7 mph). For supply, both vessels carried 700 long tons (711 t) of coal and up to 1,000 long tons (1,016 t) in wartime, allowing them to reach their cruising radius of 4,500 nautical miles (8,300 km; 5,200 mi). The reasons they were given two masts also went with the installation of spars carrying sails for the voyage from Germany to China. But after arriving there, it seems decision was taken to remove them as well as the rigging, and the masts later would receive military tops.


It consisted in a central “immune zone” protected by a belt armour 14 in thick, partial whereas a 3 in (76 mm) armoured deck ran the entire length of the ships. The barbettes of the main armament were protected by 12 in (305 mm) thick plating. The conning tower had walls 8 in (20 cm) thick. The 5.9 in guns (150 mm) in turrets were protected by 0.5 to 3 in (13 to 76 mm) thick armour plating.

Career of the DingYuan class ships


Both ships were completed in early 1883 and 1884 and were to sail to China with a German crew. However there were delays as France tried to prevent them to sail, following the outbreak of the Sino-French War in 1884. They were kept in Germany pending the diplomatic resolution of the matter. Menawhile, a German crew fire tested Dingyuan at sea, showing the generous gun blast was enough to caus onboard glass to shatter, and one of the funnels was damaged. Fortunately for both parties, war ended in April 1885, and both ironclads were allowed to sail for China, along with the armoured cruiser Jiyuan, also purchased there.

All three ships arrived in China in October 1885. They were formally commissioned into the Beiyang Fleet and Dingyuan became its the flagship. When the first Sino-Japanese War erupted she was under the command of Commodore Liu Pu-chan and also carried Admiral Ding Ruchang while her sister-ship Zhenyuan was under command of Captain Lin T’ai-tseng. Both would see combat at the Battle of the Yalu River on 17 September 1894. They were captured by the Japanese and entered a new career.


The DingYuan and Zhenyuan in action

Dingyuan was being manned by German crews when she sailed with her sister ship and armoured cruiser ordered by the Chinese government on 3 July 1885, under the German flag. The squadron arrived in Tianjin in November before being were transferred officially to the Chinese Beiyang fleet. Li Hongzhang, Viceroy of Zhili, was also director of China’s naval construction program. He inspected the ships and impressed, gave the greenlight for their commission into the Beiyang Fleet based in Port Arthur. However the squadron soon steamed south, to Shanghai, escaping the harsh northern Chinese winter.

The Beiyang Fleet spent years in a routine of winter training cruises in the South China Sea, operating in coordination with the Nanyang Fleet. The ships often stopped in the Zhejiang, Fujian, and Guangdong provinces, and sometimes in Southeast Asian ports. In the spring and summer they saild back to their homeport, operating the Zhili, Shandong, and Fengtian provinces home waters for more training exercises. They also frequently made long range training cruises to foreign ports, up to the early 1890s. These allowed to validate navigational skills and to show the flag.


However as it was soon noted by foreign observers, discipline onboard was poor, and generally the ships were not in full readiness. Commander of the Beiyang fleet was Admiral Ding Ruchang, which raised his mark on the Dingyuan. Another problem for the yearly maintenance of those ship was China’s lak of facilities, of dry docks large enough to house them. The navy had to send them to Japanese shipyards or in British Hong Kong.

Dingyuan started another training cruise in April 1886, joint manoeuvrers with the Nanyang Fleet, and a naval review in Port Arthur. This was followed by a visit of British vessels at the China Station in May 1886. Dingyuan with her sister ship and four cruisers made an overseas cruise in August 1886, stopping in Hong Kong, but also Busan and Wonsan in Korea, and as far north as Vladivostok and Nagasaki in Japan in August.

When this happened, Chinese crewmen fought apparently with Japanese locals which stroke back, called the police, and killed eight Chinese sailors while two Japanese police died too in the incident, with 44 more Chinese and 21 Japanese injured. The “Nagasaki Incident” was amplified by the Japanese press, leading to calls for a rapid naval expansion notably to counter the Beiyang Fleet. This pushed the government to order three Matsushima-class protected cruisers but also to refuse to the Chinese ironclads to use their shipyards. Therefore the Beiyang Fleet was left to Hong Kong as only possible maintenance yards, and their state degraded.

1887 saw no particular event, both ships operating in the Bohai Sea. Four European-built Chinese cruisers joined the Beiyang fleet this year, strengthening the fleet, and more large scale manoeuvres were needed by 1888 to bond the crews and combine the fleet more efficiently. The Beiyang Fleet ships wre repainted also this year. They had the standard livery of the time, similar to British ships, with a black hull, white superstructures and buff paint (canvas beige) for funnels, masts, air intakes.

Chinese Ironclad 1883

In 1889, the Beiyang fleet was large enough and experienced enough to be separated into two divisions. Dingyuan with several cruisers form the first one. The squadron was sent off Korean waters, stopping at while Zhenyuan and the rest of the fleet remained in the Bohai Sea for exercises. The two divisions rendezvoused in Shanghai in December, thereafter proceeding to Hong Kong for Zhenyuan and Dingyuan to be drydocked. They then cruised off Korea and visited Japan in the summer of 1891, Kobe by 30 June and Yokohama on 14 July, landing there a large Japanese delegation of senior military commanders and members of the imperial family received the ships. Another voyage to Japan took place the following year but fuelled growing tensions between China and Japan, especially after the Hongzhang incident. The Chinese made clear of their naval superiority on Japan every-time, which did not improved the situation. The core of the dispute was Korea, a co-protectorate of China since the Convention of Tientsin of 1884.


The first Sino-Japanese war

Battle of Yalu River
Battle of the Yalu River

In early 1894, the Korean Donghak Peasant Revolution pushed China to send a 28,000 infantry expeditionary corps to suppress the rebellion. Japan saw that move as a violation of the Tientsin Convention and reacting by sending 8,000 troops which soon clashed, leading to a formal declaration of war on 1 August. However the new IJN Combined Fleet wrecked the Chinese Hongzhang support fleet, never updated or properly maintained. Moreover even the Beiyang fleet was crippled. For example the funds for new quick-firing guns destined to upgrade the Zhenyuan and Dingyuan were instead allocated to fund the lavish 60th birthday of the Dowager Empress Cixi. Commanders and crews also lacked training due to lack of funds, preventing the use of live ammunitions. To add to this, Japanese broken the Chinese diplomatic codes in 1888 and tapered into Chinese communication.

The Chinese officers also ordered to remove the gun shields from the main battery turrets fore and aft as experience at the Battle of Pungdo shown these thin shields generated deadly splinters when struck, explaining the casualties on the cruiser Jiyuan during the battle. The crews placed coal bags around the gun batteries as improvised armor instead. They were repainted light grey also for concealment. The Beiyang Fleet steamed to Taku in order to resupply.

Ding Yuen Port Arthur
The Ding Yuen at Port Arthur

The Battle of the Yellow River

Prior to the battle, admiral Ding sent his squadron into the Korea Bay, on 12 September, in order to clear the path of an upcoming convoy of troopships. Receiving faulty reports of IJN ships off the Shandong Peninsula, the squadron rerouted, but finding nothing, was back in Weihaiwei and met with the troop convoy on 15 September. Troops and supplies were landed at the mouth of the Yalu River, the following day while the squadron stayed further back to provide distant support and intercept possible offensives while staying out of harm of possible Japanese TB attacks from the coast. As the operation ended as a success, the squadron made its way back to Port Arthur. But they were intercepted by the IJN Combined Fleet under Vice Admiral Itō Sukeyuki, starting the Yalu river battle.

The battle of the Yellow sea
The battle of the Yellow sea

Immediately the discrepancy in training showed as the Chinese Beiyang Fleet sailed in a disorganized line abreast formation. The IJN approached them from the south in line and quickly had all their guns aligned in an ideal arc of fire. Respective fleets were slow, 6 and 10 knots (for the Japanese), as the Chinese protected troop transports. Then the IJN combined fleet passed in front of the Beiyang fleet, “crossing its T” but did not opened fire. Impatient, the Chinese admiral ordered to the Dingyuan to open fire at 5,300 yd (4,800 m) range, far beyond the capabilities of firing control.

However, unexpectedly the blast effect collapsed the bridge and the admiral and staff were trapped below, curtailing any chances of the fleet for effective control. Each ship had to fend off for itself during the battle. Dingyuan however went on leading the pack, failed to score any hits and five minutes after the Japanese Fleet opened fire in turn, now making two squadrons encircling the Beiyang fleet, now fish in a barrel. The battle degenerated in almost an execution, the Chinese cruisers Yangwei and Chaoyong being sank first, followed by the cruisers Zhiyuan and Jingyuan. The Chinese scored some hits on the ironclad Hiei though, and the only seriously damaged IJN ship by both Chinese ironclads was the auxiliary cruiser Saikyō Maru.

The Battle of Weihaiwei

Japanese troops besieging Weihaiwei
Japanese troops besieging Weihaiwei

The wounded and crippled Chinese Beiyang fleet stayed at Port Arthur to resupply and for repairs while the Japanese reinforced their squadron. However in October, Japanese troops approached Port Arthur, foring the Chinese to sail to safety at Weihaiwei. Admiral Ding ordered the sortie on 20 October, crossing free of harm the Bohai Strait. However since Weihaiwei did not possessed the facilities of Port Arthur, the damaged battleship Zhenyuan had to stay behind to complete repairs and Ding had to return there to cover its move in November. This was successful and both battleships were reunited. But Weihaiwei was soon in January threatened in turn by the advance of the Japanese army. On 30 January, what is called the Battle of Weihaiwei started as a siege by Japanese troops. Despite covering fire from the harbour’s fleet, the Japanese captured the eastern side fortifications. The Japanese then captured the eastern fortifications and turned their guns to the harbour. The fleet moved on the western side, and replicated.

Dingyuan fired and hit one of the 9.4 in (240 mm) guns in the fortress at Luchiehtsui. However the Japanese became more accurate, while the Chinese fleet bombarded the Japanese advance through the remaining fortifications. During the night of 4-5 February, IJN torpedo boats broke into the harbour and launched a successful attack:

The scenario was applied again in the opening hours of the Russo-Japanese war in 1905 inside Port Arthur. Dingyuan was hit with a torpedo on the port side, and started to list as the poorly maintained watertight doors failed to close. The flooding became so bad the captain, after ordering to raise steam, made them beach on flat ground and then use her as a stationary battery. The morning saw admiral Ding raising his mark on the ZhenYuan and the Chinese successfully disabled two TBs during the night. The following night however the Japanese TBs attacked again, sinking a cruiser and an auxiliary cruiser. However by 9 February, the Japanese successfully took the remaining fortifications, and now were able to place their field artillery in range.

A crippled Ting Yuen after the night torpedo attack
A crippled Ting Yuen after the night torpedo attack

They rained down fire on the Beiyang fleet, and crippled the already beached Dingyuan. Soon, the remainder of the ships were also damaged including Zhenyuan, never properly repaired after the Yellow river battle, and no longer seaworthy. Admiral Ding Ruchang knew that with another IJN squadron at sea probably waiting for him to exit the harbour, and a long trip south, his better option was to scuttle the ships. He surrendered on 10 February. It was an humiliation that led most officers to commit suicide, including Liu Buchan, Zhenyuan’s captain. Ding Ruchang committed suicide himself, and the Japanese took possession of the harbour and ships. They decided to blow up the beached Dingyuan as they were unable to salvage her, whereas her sister-ship was captured.
The damaged vessels were inspected after by the Vice Admiral Edmund Fremantle on HMS Edgar.

IJN Chen Yen
IJN Chin yen in 1904

First IJN battleship: Zhenyuan Under Japanese flag as Chin Yen

The badly damaged Zhenyuan was still floating and although damaged, she could be towed to a yard, repaired and reconditioned to IJN service. At first she was formally seized as a war prize, then summarily repaired, and then refloated and later towed by the Saikyō Maru to Port Arthur. This was quite a precious prize which motivated the expenses and energy spent on her. Indeed by that time the IJN had no battleship, only the Hei, an old, barely modernized ironclad and a few armoured cruisers. She was commissioned into the Japanese Navy on 16 March under the Japanese version of her original name. The IJN Chin Yen was dry-docked from April to June for extensive work. A team inspected her closely to assess the battle damage, writing reports for future improvements on IJN ships. They notably concluded that side armor should be further strengthened.

IJN Chin Yen then departed Port Arthur to Nagasaki, arriving for a great victory ceremony, and as the Japanese Navy new flagship. This was the start of a triumph tour of Japan, Hiroshima, Kure, and Kobe. She arrived in Yokohama for further repairs and improvements in the Yokosuka Naval District, gaining new fire-control directors, and a new secondary battery. For the rest of her career there will be a dedicated post in the future. Let’s just say the IJN Chin yen participated in the Boxer Rebellion and battle of Tientsin, Russo-Japanese war as part of the 5th Squadron, 3rd Fleet and flagship of Vice Admiral Kataoka Shichirō, blockading port Arthur and saw action in the second Battle of the Yellow Sea on 10 August 1904. She later covered the landings on Sakhalin and after the war became a coastal defense ship and training ship until decommissioned in 1911. Her anchors were donated back to the Chinese Nationalists on May 1947 and are now in a Peking museum.

As a final note, the Chinese government decided in 2003 to commemorate this war and the Beiyang Fleet, to construct a replica of the battleship Dingyuan at Weihei (former Weihaiwei) on a 1:1 scale, as an anchored museum ship. Its accuracy is debatable. The original was found in 2019 and about 200 artefacts recovered, sent to the museum ship.

depiction and cutaway of the TingYuen
Splendid depiction and cutaway of the TingYuen – credits: http://modelshipwrights.kitmaker.net
Another cutaway at mil.huanqiu.com

Characteristics 1882

Displacement: 7,220 long tons – 7,670 long tons (7,790 t) Fully Loaded
Dimensions: 94 x 18 x 6.1 m (308 x 59 x 20 ft)
Propulsion: 2 shafts CSE*, 8 FT boilers, 7,200 hp, 15.4 knots (28.5 km/h; 17.7 mph)
Armour: Belt 14 in, Deck 3 in, Barbettes 12–14 in, CT 8 in
Crew: 350
Armament: 4 x 305 BL, 2 x 150 BL, 2 x 47, 6 x 37 mm, 3 TT 356 mm sub.

Sources/Read More

Gardiner, Robert, ed. (1979). Conway’s All the World’s Fighting Ships 1860–1905
Feng, Qing. “The Turret Ship Chen Yuen (1882)”.
Taylor, Bruce (ed.). The World of the Battleship: The Lives and Careers of Twenty-One Capital Ships of the World’s Navies, 1880–1990.
Lai, Benjamin (2019). Chinese Battleship vs Japanese Cruiser: Yalu River 1894.
Lardas, Mark (2018). Tsushima 1905: Death of a Russian Fleet.
Leyland, John (1909). Brassey, Thomas A. (ed.). “Naval Manoevres”.
Paine, Lincoln P. (2000). Warships of the World to 1900.
Paine, S.C.M. (2003). The Sino-Japanese War of 1894-1895: Perception, Power, and Primacy.
Schencking, J. Charles (2005). Making Waves: Politics, Propaganda, and the Emergence of the Imperial Japanese Navy, 1868–1922.
Wright, Richard N.J. (2000). The Chinese Steam Navy, 1862–1945.
Google sites – The Chinese ironclads in 1894

Pao Min (1885)

Pao Min (1885)

Chinese Nanyang Fleet

One of the forgotten gunboat-size Chinese cruisers – In 1880 the concept of cruiser was rather new. Not long ago, mixed Frigates were still the norm. This was a time for transition in which Vickers-Armstrong ruled the trade and wrote the book, providing cheap ‘cruisers’ to the world. Countries still with a young shipbuilding industry such as Italy or Japan purchased protected cruisers, and China was no stranger to this as well. Given limited resources at that time, everything was better than the motley collection of sometimes hunded-year old sampans and junks armed with bronze or wooden cannons and firelances.

Nothing could oppose aggressive Western trade backed by the fleet of the British and French especially in 1840-57. Concessions were obtained by force, and in 1860 Russia annexation north of the Amur, USA’s ‘punitive expedition’ against Korea in 1870, Britain’s war to gain Burma the next year, all contributed to raise the Imperial court’s concerns about their fleet.

The change started when the Foochow and Kiangnan shipyards, reorganized and helped by Westerners started to deliver the first Chinese armed steamers. In 1869 already, the Foochow fleet was created. From 1875, the Empress authorized a global naval budget for all maritime provinces. Minister Li Hung Chang later started to reorganize the disparate fleet and started to create a modern navy in 1880, purchasing ships abroad. The most impressive was the order of two ironclad to German shipyards. The fleet was now slowly reorganized by British Officers.

Context: The Sino-French war

In 1882 however France had views on Indochina, at the time considered as China’s backyard. The process started by the attack on Tourane in 1858 by Rigault de Genouilly’s combined French-Spanish forces, which deposed the hostile (to catholic missionaries especially) Nguyễn dynasty. A new compaign started which ended in 1862 with the Treaty of Saigon granting new concessions to the French, and additional provinces fell under French control until 1867, soon called the French colony of Cochinchina while in 1863 the Cambodian king Norodom requested French protectorate. Further extensions camed with the Tonkin campaign in 1883–86 generally called also the “Sino-French war”. Until 1894, Indochina was formed by the addition of Annam, Tonkin and the Kingdom of Cambodia and Laos.

But in 1881, already Henri Rivière’s expedition in Tonkin and Battle of Paper Bridge in 1883 accelerated the degradation of relations between France and China, since in 1882 the Vietnamese Government seeked help from Liu Yongfu, leader of the elite black flags troops, backed by China. Rivière was beaten but the Black Flags were beaten in turn in two more battles whereas a protectorate over the Tonkin took place. Negociations to avoid war and attempts to the German government to delay the delivery of two ironclads for the Beiyang Fleet did not succeed.

The 1880 Chinese cruiser Chaoyong, British-built for the Beiyang fleet.

Order of the Pao Min at Shanghai

In this context, the Pao Min was ordered for the southern fleet (Nanyang), the most likely to clash with the French, in October 1883. Also called Baomin (保民), this vessel was single of her class, and a “cruiser”, receiving at least some protection. She was not however a “protected cruiser”. The latter received and armoured deck over the engines and magzaines, and gun shields. The Pao Min was launche din January 1884 and completed in October, so relatively quickly.

The Nanyang fleet would comprise the screw frigates Hai-an and Yu-yuan (delivered 1872), the unprotected cruisers K’ai Chi and Kai Che (delivered 1884), Nan Shui, Nan Shuin, and Nan-jui of the same type (1884), the cruisers Nan Ch’en and Nan Chin (1884), and the Paomin. The next year, the unprotected cruisers Ching Ch’ing and King Ch’ing were ordered and the Hian T’ai and Huan Tai in 1887. The Pao Min was ordered locally to the Kiangnan DYd in late 1883.

Seeing various sources, Pao Min is described sometimes as a “cruiser”, therefore receiving some limited protection, while others, among which the respected Conway’s books, classed this ship and an unprotected cruiser.
Any case, this vessel was small, displacing 1477 to 1480 tons standard for dimensions of 64,9m (oa) by 11m wide and 4,27 m in draught. Her steam reciprocating engine was rated for 1900 KW and this power was backed by schooner rigged sailing. Zdditional sails were customary of the time. Her armament was mostly German, two 150/35 mm Krupp guns (6 in) and six 120/35 mm (5 in) plus four QF 47/20 mm guns.

Design of the Pao Min

Pao Min photo
After crawling the internet this is the only photo i found of the Pao Min. It is contradictory to the usual description of a two-masted ship but the hull, unique funnel and superstuctures are coherent. According to battleship-scruiser.uk, the photo relates to the pao Min in 1889, so after the Sino-French war. A close examination of the bridge superstructure shows what its seems interesting woodwork.

The locally-built Paomin was laid down in Kiangnan shipyards. This was part of the Kiangnan Arsenal complex and General Bureau of Machine Manufacture of Jiangnan. Now the yard is called Jiangnan and is still the main southern Chinese naval yard today. The arsenal became the largest in Asia, procuring most of Chinese 1870-90s weaponry, but also the yard produced the first Chinese steam boat (the Huiji) in 1868 and the first domestically produced steel in 1891.

Baomin cruiser HD

This ship was a Schooner-rigged, steel-hulled cruiser. Information is scarce to say the least about this obscure cruiser, but since no data could be found about her armour protection, if any, the designation given by Conway, page 399, must be closest to the truth. What was an unprotected cruiser ? A ‘cruiser’ in general was supposed to be a gun-armed vessel, faster and more heavily armed than a gunboat, at least in the 1880s. The fact that she was not given any protection at the time some received limited armour over the magazines and engines, plus gun shields, make it more vulnerable but also cheaper. There is just one known photo of the vessel, which makes this post less bare.

The two profiles allegedly attributed to the Pao Min/Baomin. The first is from navalhistory.flixco.info and shows a ship with two large sponsons guns, but the right three masts also in the photos but it’s unlikely the Pao Min. The second one if more faithful to Conway’s description.

As shown by the photo, and the reconstitution made and displayed in navypedia (no profile in Conway’s), the Pao Min was a conventional three-masted vessel. The steel hull had a straight bow which extended with a ram underwater. The stern was raked and looked like schooner sterns of the time, probably well decorated and housing the officers quarter. The hull, painted black, was not flush deck as there was a small break in the forward deck, then walls pierced by three ports either side, and the walls ended at the rear on the quarterdeck to left the aft Krupp main gun the best traverse opening. What was unusual was the forward gun was placed in a closed trap in the bow not on the main forward deck above. Therefore, despite its absence of shieding, it was protected by the hull itself.

This design feature was rare at the time for main guns (but not unusual for lighter guns in traversing barbettes). The hull, 64.9m pp and 69.4m overall was low on the water, therefore, this opening was probably very wet in anything but calm seas. The 4.27 m draught was important nonetheless so her use on rivers was limited to the Yangtze. Appearance as built apparently changed in the 1890s. The photo attributed to the Paomin shows three masts and a raked stern. In the 1890s and according to Conway’s short description, she was two-masted and there is no mention of a raked stern. It is likely that Pao Min lost her mizzen mast. A simple pole is shown on the 1890s appearance where the mizzen should have been.

Sources are diverging a bit about the precise caliber of the various guns carried by the cruiser. Conway’s is less precise with 5.9 in guns (150 mm) and 5-in guns (127 mm), two 3-pdr, while Navypedia is clearer by giving the calibers in millimetres: 149 mm or since its a German nomenclature 14.9 cm/32 RK L/35 C/80. This meant these main Krupp guns were 32 caliber long, rifled, and rear-loaded. The two guns, called 15 cm Schnelladekanone Länge 35 were brand new in 1883 as the arsenal just proposed them for export. These became very popular guns, rivalling Vickers products worlwide. In addition to China, which purchased many of these for their ships, fortesses and land troops, the gun was also used by Austria-Hungary, Denmark, Japan, The Netherlands, The Ottoman Empire, Romania and Spain.

Widespread among Chinese cruisers, these guns had separate loading cased charge and projectile, firing a 45.6 kg (101 lb) projectile of a 149.1 mm (5.87 in) 35 caliber. The 5.8 tonnes loading system was a horizontal sliding breech block. The gun elevation was -7° to +20° and rate of fire about 4-5 rpm for a well trained crew. Muzzle velocity was 650 m/s (2,100 ft/s) and maximum firing range 10 km (6.2 mi) at +19°. One was placed as said above in the bow port. The gun was on rails and tracted forward to fire and the port was closed when not in use. The opening allowed some limited traverse, about 60-70° only. Certainly less than in a standard deck position. As said also, it could only perform well in calm weather. Splashed would have obscured it completely.

Hotchkiss 3 pdr
A Royal Navy Hotchkiss QF 3-pdr (47 mm)

The secondary armament comprised six Krupp (presumably) 12cm/32 RK L/35 C/80 guns, all placed in side ports on the main deck. Traverse was also limited. The first pair was just abreast the foremast, the second behindd the funnel and the third between the main and mizzen masts. In addition, the ship were equipped to deal with early torpedo boats and other close threats with two French Hotchkiss ‘3-pdr’ also 47mm/40 Hotchkiss guns. The latter were unprotected but its is difficult to locate them on the ship, most probably in a high position, possibly either side of the main bridge. Note: Another reference give the cruiser a top speed of 16 knots, two 200-lb and six 70-lb guns.

Information is scarce about it. There was a steam reciprocating engine, driving one shaft and single propeller, rated for 1900 ihp. Navypedia is diverging completely, stating there were two HC engines instead, fed by 6 cylindrical boilers. It is perhaps related to an hypothetic refit, or an error from one source. Both agrees about the ratings, 1,900 ihp. Whatever the case, top speed was noted as nine knots also. This could seems laughable for a cruiser especially today, but that that time the ship was considered as a glorified gunboat. Conway’s itself classifies the Pao Min not along the cruisers, but the gunboats and sloops, which is telling. Sources agrees the cruiser carried 300-360 tons of coal. Range was estimated 3360 nautical miles at 10 knots. Complement was 200 men.

Active service of the Pao Min: 1884-1903

The Chinese cruiser was completed in October 1884 too late to be thrown in to the furnace of the Sino-French war. She was part of the Nanyang Fleet (南洋水師), one of the four modernised provincial Chinese navies in the late Qing Dynasty (1870s). This feet was crippled during the Sino-French War. Later the remainder escaped intact in the Sino-Japanese War, but the Pao Min did not survived enough to see the fleet formally abolished in 1909. When the Pao Min entered service, the star of the fleet and only really ship feared by the French was the semi-experimental tiny ironclad called Jinou, made at Foochow.

Admiral Li Chengmou (李成謀), a veteran of the Fujian fleet and traditional Yangtze water forces commanded the fleet. He decided to stay safely in Shanghai and Nanking from August 1884. They were closely watched at a distance from July 1884 by the French ironclad Triomphante, which maintained de facto a “blocus”. Pao Min was still fitting-out in Shanghai during the war. French Admiral Amédée Courbet asked to lead an attack, which was denied by PM Jules Ferry. The ironclad therefore departed with the cruiser d’Estaing for the Min River, concentrating the squadron for an attack against the Fujian Fleet and Foochow Navy Yard. The “blocus” was maintained by the cruiser Perceval which replaced both ships in station.

Courbet attack on the Fujian Fleet on 23 August 1884 (Battle of Fuzhou) was the starting point of the war. Therefore Admiral Li Chengmou decided to split the fleet to protected both Shanghai and the arsenal and Nankin. Staying at Shnaghai were the Longxiang, Feiting, Cedian and Huwei. The cruisers Nanrui and Nanchen, and other ships including the Pao Min sailed out for Nanking. French cruiser Perceval did not opposed them and departed in turn. In February 1885, trying to break the French blockade of Formosa the Chinese squadron suffered defeat in the Battle of Shipu while Kaiji, Nanrui, Nanchen, Chaowu, Yuankai were trapped and blockaded in Zhenhai Bay until the end of the war. Pao Min was delivered as the war ended.

Operational records are not known directly, she is only mentioned a few times and her known fater is a hulk in 1903. Afterwards she could have survived many more years in this state, one source telling 1920 as her scrapping date. Entering service shortly after the war ended, she somewhat compensated in the declining Nanyang fleet for the losses of the Yuyuan and Chengqing soon joined by the Foochow built composite cruisers Jingqing and Huantai in 1886-87.

Interwar years (before 1894) did not saw much as actions or records, and the Baomin, now a third-rank cruiser, was assigned to the Chinese Nanyang gunboat fleet and acted the same way. The Beiyang Fleet was rebuilt in the end of the 1890s with five brand new steel cruisers made in British & German shipyards. These were second rank protected cruisers but nevertheless, this placed China on the level of the Chilean Navy, certainly at thet time the elite naval power of South America.

Nanyang fleet Frigate Dengyingzhou in construction
Nanyang fleet’s Frigate Dengyingzhou in construction

In 1894 during the first Sino-Japanese war, the Pao Min is absent from the Battle of Pungdo in July as only the Chinese cruiser Tsi-yuan and gunboat Kwang-yi are mentioned, plus the transport Kow-shing. During the Battle of the Yalu River (1894), the Paomin was not involved as this affair concerned the Beiyang fleet. Record after the battle are not known either and the ship is supposed to have been hulked in 1910, but probably existed as a hul in WW1. All in all, the Pao Min is just anecdotical in the Chinese naval history, missing two wars, but she was important nevertheless as one of the first domestically-built Chinese cruisers, in what is now probably the largest PLAN shipyard and arsenal.



Dimensions 64.92 m x 10.97 m x 4.27 m draft (213 x 36 x 14 ft).
Displacement 1,480 tonnes standard -approx. 1,590 tonnes Fully Loaded
Crew 200
Propulsion 1 shaft reciprocating, 2 boilers, 1900 ihp.
Speed Top speed 9 knots, 3000? nm range, about 300 tons coal.
Armament 2 x 249 mm (5.9 in), 6 x 120 mm (5 in), 2 x 47 mm QF (3 pdr).
Armor None.

Src/Read More

Google Books the Sino Japanese wars 1894-95
Arlington, L. C., Through the Dragon’s Eyes (London, 1931)
Duboc, E., Trente cinq mois de campagne en Chine, au Tonkin (Paris, 1899)
Loir, M., L’escadre de l’amiral Courbet (Paris, 1886)
Lung Chang [龍章], Yueh-nan yu Chung-fa chan-cheng [越南與中法戰爭, Vietnam and the Sino-French War] (Taipei, 1993)
Rawlinson, J., China’s Struggle for Naval Development, 1839–1895 (Harvard, 1967)
Wright, R., The Chinese Steam Navy, 1862–1945 (London, 2001)