----- Original Message -----
Sent: 31 December, 1999 9:25 AM
Subject: Fw: Need Chu Ko Nu Research
----- Original Message -----
Sent: 30 December, 1999 9:59 AM
Subject: Re: Need Chu Ko Nu Research
Now I have reviewed the material I have got on the Chu Ko Nu. It is quite
extensive. As you are researching for a novel, pehaps you don't need
documentation and all the technical details. But I will be happy to supply them
if you do.
The "Chu Ko Nu" existed. It was named after the famous Chinese military
strategist Zhuge Liang (AD 181 - 234) who is credited with having invented it.
(Note that in the standard transliteration of Chinese we use here, it would be
spelled 'Zhuge Nu'. It is the same word, though.) But in fact, well-developed
examples of this crossbow design were excavated from a Chu culture tomb dating
from about 250 BC, showing that it had already been invented well before the
time of Zhuge Liang. I think it would be safe to put it into the hands of a
Chinese fictional characted dating any time from 300 BC onwards.
The Zhuge Nu belonged to a group of crossbows which could fire a succession
of darts from a reservoir without the user having to handle the individual
darts. In some versions, it could fire two darts simultaneously, as the
reservoir had two channels of arrows which would fall onto a pair of arrow
guides on the top of the crossbow stock. The attached picture was drawn in the
Ming Dynasty (1368 - 1644) and shows a single-loading, multiple shot Zhuge
After the darts had been loaded into the reservoir (which in the Ming
Dynasty held up to ten darts), an iron lever was drawn back and this
allowed the next dart to fall into the arrow-guide and at the same time drew
back the reservoir with the string caught underneath, over the guide below the
dart to where the string was held in a small trough in the top of the
stock. After the lever was drawn back to the fullest point, the string was
released with a trigger made of deer-antler, propelling the dart along the arrow
guide towards the target. The lever was then pushed forward and drawn back again
repeatedly, and the trigger released until all the darts had been fired.
The Ming Dynasty text says, "The Zhuge Nu is a handy little weapon that
even the Confucian scholar (i.e. a weakling) or palace women can use in
self-defence. It fires weakly so you have to tip the darts with poison. Once the
darts are tipped with 'tiger-killing poison', you can fire it at a horse or a
man and as long as you draw blood, your adversary will die immediately. The
draw-back to the weapon is its very limited range."
From this, I would assume that the draw-weight is about 25 pounds, no more.
The darts were quite small (8 inches.) The body of the crossbow and the
prods were made of mulberry. Although the only part of the illustration
for which a measurement is given is the arrow, we can interpolate from that that
the overall length was 30.7 inches.
The string was subjected to the friction of the mechanism, so the centre
part of the string was reinforced with goose-feather quills which had been split
and sanded down and tightly bound on.
From these notes, you will see that you can put the weapon into the hands
of either a man or a woman; that the weapon was defensive, not offensive, and
the attacker would have to be quite close in. The poisons were probably based on
Aconitum Carmichaeli .
Sent: 28 December, 1999 12:32 PM
Subject: Need Chu Ko Nu Research
To Stephen Selby,
I am looking for research and especially pictures of a
Chinese repeater crossbow called the "Chu Ko Nu". I read about it initially in
a role-playing game book and I wish to incorporate it in a novel I am writing.
However, all of my research has proved fruitless and I was really hoping you
could help me out.
Does the Chu Ko Nu exist at all? Is that the proper
name? Was it used extensively or was it merely a fluke invention.
I deeply appreciate any help you can give me on this
Gwen Lorraine Huskins