The war happens in the wrong Chinese place in Dragon Blade

Dragon Bladeis a rare movie about ancient Chinese war.

Dragon Blade is a 2015 Chinese Hong Kong historical action film written and directed by Daniel Lee. In the film, Jackie Chan plays Huo An, the commander of the Protection Squad of the Western Regions in the Han Dynasty. John Cusack and Adrien Brody also play their parts in the film.

In western China, 48 BC., the Han Dynasty established the Protection Squad of the Western Regions to protect the Silk Road and reconcile 36 nations in the Western Region, and Huo An is the commander. However, the Protection Squad is found corrupt, causing the entire group to be judged to construct the castle at Wild Geese Gate. Not long after, Wild Geese Gate is threatened by a Roman legion led by Lucius in need of water and supplies. Huo An and Lucius succeed in staying in peace. The legion uses its engineering skills to speed up the construction work, and they finish the job together ahead of schedule.

The war happens in the wrong Chinese place in Dragon Blade

To hunt down Lucius, Tiberius, a corrupt consul who murdered his father, approaches with 100,000 soldiers. Lucius is set up and dies and Huo An is trapped. As Huo An’s and Lucius’s soldiers are surrounded, the armies of several other races arrive and fight against Tiberius, including the Indians, Huns, Uighurs, and Turkics, all of whom are determined to preserve the Silk Road’s safety. But their combined forces are unable to gain the upper hand. Finally, the envoys sent earlier return with a massive force of Parthians, who have signed a special treaty with Tiberius’s father. Tiberius’s soldiers lose their will to fight. Huo An challenges Tiberius to a duel and kills him. After the war, the Chinese emperor grants Lucius’s legion the right to establish their own city, which they choose to name Regum. They accept Huo An as their commander.

Dragon Blade is based on a true Chinese history event.

In the Han Dynasty of Chinese history, the Huns were a severe threat in the north to the Han Emperor. During the regnum of the Emperor Yuan (74 BC—33 BC), the Huns separated into two parts, the South Huns and the North Huns. The North Huns, led by the Zhizhi Chanyu who was envious of the preferential treatment of the Emperor for the South Huns, often imprisoned, humiliated or even kill the Han envoy within their territory. Zhizhi Chanyu was worried about the punishment from the Emperor, though. And Zhizhi Chanyu escaped to Kangqu, in what is now the area between Balkhash Lake and Aral Sea, where he built a Zhizhi City.

Chen Tang, Vice-captain of the Protection Squad of the Western Regions, determined to attacked the Zhizhi City, and he reported to the Commander Gan Yanshou. Gan Yanshou agreed the plan, but he insisted that the plan should be proved by the Emperor. Chen Tang was impatient of the long decision procedure and the road to the Emperor was so long. One day, Gan Yanshou was ill, which gave Chen Tang the chance to fabricate the command of the Emperor to call in all army and protectorate army to attack the Zhizhi City. Gan Yanshou was so shocked by Chen Tang, but the attack was on the way, and he had to admit the mistake and reported to the Emperor and followed Chen Tang to lead the war.

In the assault against Zhizhi City, a team of strange soldiers in Zhizhi ‘s army used a “fish-scale formation ”, which is believed by historian and military scientist that the described Testudo formation of overlapping shields was made only by Roman soldiers. The infantrymen used the Testudo formation for defense on the foot of the fortress, and the cavalrymen charged towards Gan Yanshou and Chen Tang army. But the Han united army finally win the war, and Zhizhi Chanyu was killed. A thousand more North Huns army was captured, the team of strange soldiers included. It is believed that the the team of strange soldiers were mercenary army.

The war happens in the wrong Chinese place.

The war is real, and Commander Gan Yanshou, Vice-Captain Chen Tang, and Testudo formation are true in history. In the long long time in history, as an advanced farming culture, the Han-Chinese were self-sufficient. But the nomads, especially the Huns in the Han Dynasty, threatened the Han Dynasty in the way of burning, killing, pillaging, even war, to get necessities. The Han-Chinese regime often fought for the right to survive, but to lose more than to win. The film tells the basic truth but makes some mistakes.

First, the Dragon Bladewar happens in the wrong place. The film people apparently are short of geographical knowledge. Check the Han Dynasty map below, and the black circle part is the Wild Geese Gate fortress in North China, and the red circle part is the Capitol City Chang’an, and the green region is the territory of the Han Dynasty.

The war happens in the wrong Chinese place in Dragon Blade map

The Wild Geese Gate fortress, which is “Yan men guan” in Chinese pinyin, located in Yan Men Mountain, 20km north of Daixian County, Yizhou city, Shanxi Province, North China, is an important pass of the Great Wall. The Wild Geese Gate fortress is famous of its steepness and ruggedness, easy to hold but hard to attack. During the Han Dynasty, the Wild Geese Gate was a significant military base for the Han army to fight against the Huns from the North.

The Protection Squad of the Western Regions, with its administrative office located in nowadays Luntai, Xinjiang Province, China, governed the Western Region, in what is now mostly Xinjiang Province, Qinghai Province, China, and the area located in the east of the Pamirs Plateau, east and south of the Balkhash Lake. If the Roman legion came to China, they would first arrive in the Western Regions in any case.

The distance between the Wild Geese Gate fortress and Western Regions is thousands of miles. The Roman legion would never be able to reach the deep China. So, the Roman legion must arrive in the Western Regions.

Second, the film excessively weakens the operational capability of the Han Dynasty army.

The Roman legion of 100,000 soldiers led by Tiberius couldn’t just silently go to the Wild Geese Gate and pass by the Capitol of the Han Dynasty, Chang’an, which is located in the middle between the Western Regions and the Wild Geese Gate. And during the story, the Han Dynasty army never shows up, which doesn’t make sense. Needless to say, the powerful Han Dynasty army, the army of the Protection Squad of the Western Regions cannot be underestimated. And the Han Dynasty army will never ignore the Roman legion occupying the 36 nations in the Western Region, and will annihilate the Roman legion in minutes.

Third, the film never explains how the Roman legion with 100,000 soldiers supports their logistical ability. In ancient times, the logistic support for the army is rather difficult, because it needs human to transport food, weapons, tents, and forage. In this way, the logistic support troops must be huge, as the 100,000 soldiers’ legion fought thousands of miles deep in China. But in the film, the logistic support troops never show up.

Forth, the Parthians and the 36 nations in the Western Region would never come to the Wild Geese Gate fortress in North China, for the same reasons. The Parthians and the 36 nations armies, which are enormous Operational personnel, would never have the fighting ability to attack to come to the area, and the Han Dynasty army never overlook them.