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Green Standard Army

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Title: Green Standard Army  
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Subject: Sino-Burmese War (1765–69), Military of the Qing dynasty, Yong Ying, Jiangnan Daying, Battle of Jiangnan (1856)
Collection: Military of the Qing Dynasty, Military Units and Formations of China
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Green Standard Army

The Green Standard Army (Chinese: 綠營兵; pinyin: Lùyíngbīng; Manchu: niowanggiyan turun i kūwaran) was the name of a category of military units under the control of Qing dynasty China. It was made up mostly of ethnic Han soldiers and operated concurrently with the Manchu-Mongol-Han Eight Banner armies. In areas with a high concentration of Hui people, Muslims served as soldiers in the Green Standard Army.[1]

The original Green Standard troops were the soldiers of the Ming commanders who surrendered to the Qing in 1644 and after. Their troops enlisted voluntarily and for long terms of service; they usually came from the socially disadvantaged, and remained segregated from Chinese society, partly because of the latter's deep anti-military bias during the late Ming period, and partly because they were paid too poorly and irregularly to marry and support a family.

During the Revolt of the Three Feudatories Manchu Generals and Bannermen were initially put to shame by the better performance of the Han Chinese Green Standard Army, who fought better than them against the rebels and this was noted by the Kangxi Emperor, leading him to task Generals Sun Sike, Wang Jinbao, and Zhao Liangdong to lead Green Standard Soldiers to crush the rebels.[2] The Qing thought that Han Chinese were superior at battling other Han people and so used the Green Standard Army as the dominant and majority army in crushing the rebels instead of Bannermen.[3] In northwestern China against Wang Fuchen, the Qing put Bannermen in the rear as reserves while they used Han Chinese Green Standard Army soldiers and Han Chinese Generals like Zhang Liangdong, Wang Jinbao, and Zhang Yong as the primary military forces, considering Han troops as better at fighting other Han people, and these Han generals achieved victory over the rebels.[4] Sichuan and southern Shaanxi were retaken by the Han Chinese Green Standard Army under Wang Jinbao and Zhao Liangdong in 1680, with Manchus only participating in dealing with logistics and provisions.[5] 400,000 Green Standard Army soldiers and 150,000 Bannermen served on the Qing side during the war.[6] 213 Han Chinese Banner companies, and 527 companies of Mongol and Manchu Banners were mobilized by the Qing during the revolt.[7]

Reform of the Qing military system by the Kangxi Emperor during the last years of the War of the Three Feudatories (1673-1681) led to a fundamental division of military administration and function between two branches of the Qing Army. The Eight Banners of the old Banner system were retained as a guard force of the dynasty, out of which Chinese and Mongol troops were progressively transferred during the 18th Century until most Banner troops were once again ethnic Manchus.[8]

From the 18th century onwards, the Green Standard Army served primarily as a gendarmerie or constabulary force, designed to maintain local law and order and quell small-scale disturbances.[9] However, it also contributed the bulk of forces dispatched in major campaigns. The Green Standard Army was extremely fragmented, with literally thousands of large and small outposts throughout the empire, many with as few as twelve men. It was divided into garrisons of battalion size, reporting through regional brigade generals to commanders-in-chief (提督; Tídū) in each province. Governors and governor-generals each had a battalion of Green Standard troops under their personal command, but their primary duties lay in the judicial and revenue areas rather than coping with invasion or rebellion. During peacetime, it was rare for one officer to command more than 5,000 men.

Strictly speaking, the Green Standard Army was not a hereditary force, although the dynasty directed its recruiting efforts primarily at sons and other relatives of serving soldiers. Enlistment was considered a lifetime occupation, but it was generally very simple to be reclassified as a civilian.

A system of rotation was used for Green Standard troops in frontier areas. In Kashgaria, troops of the Green Standard from Shaanxi and Gansu had to serve for three-year tours of duty, later increased to five years, then returned home.[10]

By 1800 both the Banner forces and the Green Standard armies had declined to a low level of military effectiveness, as was shown during the First and Second Opium Wars and the Taiping Rebellion.

Ma Zhan'ao, a former Muslim rebel, defected to the Qing side during the Dungan revolt (1862–1877) and his Muslim forces were then recruited into the Green Standard Army of the Qing military after the war ended.[11]


  1. ^ Jonathan D. Spence (1991). The search for modern China. W. W. Norton & Company. p. 191.  
  2. ^ Di Cosmo 2007, p. 24.
  3. ^ Di Cosmo 2007, pp. 24-25.
  4. ^ Di Cosmo 2007, p. 15.
  5. ^ Di Cosmo 2007, p. 17.
  6. ^ Di Cosmo 2007, p. 17.
  7. ^ Di Cosmo 2007, p. 23.
  8. ^ Cathal J. Nolan (2008). Wars of the Age of Louis XIV, 1650-1715. ABC-CLIO. p. 123.  
  9. ^ Frederic Wakeman Jr. (1986). The Great Enterprise: The Manchu Reconstruction of Order in Seventeenth-Century China. UC Press. p. 480.  
  10. ^ Robert J. Antony, Jane Kate Leonard (2002). Dragons, tigers, and dogs: Qing crisis management and the boundaries of state power in late imperial China. East Asia Program, Cornell University. p. 282.  
  11. ^ John King Fairbank, Kwang-ching Liu, Denis Crispin Twitchett (1980). Late Ch'ing, 1800-1911. Cambridge University Press. p. 234.  


  • Mayers, William Frederick. The Chinese Government: A Manual of Chinese Titles, Categorically Arranged and Explained, with an Appendix. 3rd edition revised by G.M.H. Playfair ed. Shanghai: Kelly & Walsh, 1897; reprint, Taibei: Ch'eng-Wen Pub. Co., 1966.
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