Up Contents Timeline and Maps


By the Sui-Tang period, catapults were used by both attackers and defenders, in both siege warfare and field operations.

A catapult is a device for hurling stones or other objects. The basic principle in a catapult's operation is a central lever mounted in counterpoise, like a see-saw. Song catapults could throw objects several hundred feet. Deploying catapults required a large number of soldiers, but could cause serious damage. The Essentials of the Military Arts lists 18 types of catapults, including both movable and fixed ones. 



On this page are three different types of catapults.  

Which type do you think would be best for use by defenders on top of city walls, and which seem more likely to have been used by an assaulting army?

Counterweighted catapult           source 

Above is a counterweighted catapult. The arm extends in front at the left, and the wide ring around the bottom of the arm is probably a sliding weight. The large box is the counterweight and could be removed from the rear supports.

What might have been some ways to counteract the damage caused by catapults?


Below are two variations on a fixed catapult. 

Can you figure out what the different parts are and how they worked?

To the left is a "one-lever" catapult, to the right a "seven-lever" one (seven lengths of wood tied together). The thicker lever is stronger, and so had a greater range.




"One-lever" catapult            source

"Seven-lever" catapult           source

Below are two different types of "whirlwind" catapults from The Essentials of Military Arts. With these, projectiles could be hurled in any direction.

Can you figure out why they were called "whirlwind" catapults?    

"Whirlwind" catapults   



Against what kinds of structures do you think catapults would be most effective?       


The enemy's approach to city walls was often severely restricted by the many items raining down on them from above. Underground warfare was therefore a significant part of siege warfare, and is one of several reasons for moats. 

One of the methods to push back invading miners was to set up fans, such as that shown at left, which would propel smoke (sometimes poisonous), fireballs, and various types of shrapnel forward into tunnels.


"Fan cart"                                source


Move on to Warships