The cover pciture is the ring marking of a rare “Kuangthsu 29th year made” carbine
In America, collectors call these rifles “Manchu Arisaka Rifles”. In China, it’s simply referred as “Guangxu Year 29 Made” rifle. Qing government never give an official designation for these rifles, Chinese documents referred it as “6.5 m/m Cal five shots repeating rifle/carbine”. Japanese documents named it “Type C Rifle/Carbine” for the first letter of China. (Siamese rifles made by Japan were called “Type S Rifle” )
Existent examples including “Kuangthsu 29th year made”, “Kuangthsu 31st year made” and “Kuangthsu 32th year made”, both 29th Year and 31st Year were purchased by Yuan Shikai, Governor-General of Zhi’li, to arm Imperial Army 1st Division, 2nd Division, 4th Division and 6th Division. “Kuangthsu 32th year made” rifles were purchased by General Liu Yongqing.
The first batch I believed was purchased in July 23rd 1903. Chinese delegations, at Yuan’s behest, signed a contract with Japanese arm broker Takata to buy 3000 Type 30 rifles and 2.5 million cartridges. The Boxer rebellion protocol imposed a two year ban of armaments importation from Aug 25th 1901 to August 25th 1903. Thereby, they agreed to perform the contract within 10 days as the ban had been lifted. Takata signed a contract with Tokyo Artillery Arsenal to buy 1500 “Type C” rifles on behalf of Yuan in November 30th 1903, however, there is not any solid evidence to prove if these 1500 rifles belongs to Takata’s previous China contract (I incline to believe this is half of July 23rd 1903 contract) . Type C rifles ring crest as required by China to have Chinese “Kuangthsu 29th year made” and Imperial dragon instead of original Kanji “30 Year Type” and chrysanthemum.
Three months after signing the Takata contract, Yuan ordered the second batch “Manchu Arisaka”. He reported to the Emperor that he had purchased 12000 rifles, 2000 carbines, 7 million live cartridges and 70000 drill cartridges through two Japanese brokers, Oukua and Mitsh in September. Japan document shows in October 3, Oukua and Mitsh signed contract with Tokyo Artillery Arsenal to acquire 12000 “Type C” rifles, 2000 “Type C” Carbines, 4.5 Million cartridges and 70000 drill cartridges. The quantity of rifles was amended from 12000 to 9000 in October 22. Final contract was singed in October 31 to buy 9000 rifles and 2000 carbines.
Comparing both sides documents, quantities of Takata and Oukua/Mitsh contracts added up are matched with the quantity in Yuan’s report. I personally believe Takata did supply 3000 “Type C” to China in their July contract.
Each “Kuangthsu 29th year made” rifle with bayonet costs 22.275 Yen, carbine with bayonet costs 20.68 Yen. Oukua and Mitsh order the rifle and carbine from Tokyo Artillery Arsenal for 19.75 Yen and 18.3 Yen each respectively.
Exact delivery date of weapons cannot be determined now. Head chief of Hunan Province Military School visited Yuan’s army in April 1904. In his report of visiting, the soldiers armed with Japanese Type 30 rifles. In March 1905 General Xu Shichang reported that 1st Division ( actual in brigade size) and 2nd Division equipped Type 30 rifles and carbines, 4th Division equipped Type 30 carbines.
China did not put any order in 1904 because of Russo-Japanese War. In 1905, China resumed military order of rifles and carbines from Japan.
The first “Kuangthsu 31st year made” Type C rifle order was put on March 1905 for 16000 rifles and 4000 carbines. Okura and Mitsh signed the contract with Tokyo Artillery Arsenal in April 22nd. Having not found relevant Chinese documents for this contract yet.
Okura and Mitsh ordered the second batch of 4000 “Kuangthsu 31st year made” rifles and 1000 carbines from Tokyo Artillery Arsenal for General Yuan on July 6th. Yuan reported on September 12 1905 that he had purchased 4000 rifles and 1000 carbines which Japan brokers agree to deliver in November.
The rifle and carbine itself of “Kuangthsu 31st year made” is exactly as same as “Kuangthsu 29st year made” except changing the Chinese Emperor year marking from 29st to 31st. At least 400 “Kuangthsu 31st year made” rifles kept original Type 30 ladder sight as a Japanese document shows.
The delivery date of 1905 contract also cannot be determined. Imperial Japan Ministry of the Army claimed that up to September 1906, 5600 “Type C” rifles and 11024 “Type C” carbines had been supplied to China (The number seems wrong since China would not buy so many carbines). Until 1907, Japan still was delivering small numbers of “Kuangthsu 31st year made” “Type C” rifles to China.
After 1905, Yuan did not put any order of “Type C” rifles. General Liu Yongqing in 1906 bought 4000 “Kuangthsu 32st year made” Type C rifles which are same to the previous Type C rifles to Yuan except it fitted with Type 30 ladder sight. And have separate serial numbers from “No.1” to “No.4000”.
If you are interested in the rifle itself, please read Mr. Allan’s article published on Banzai magazine, plenty information of the rifle features and pictures. One more thing I have to explain is why Chinese decided to go with Mauser style sight and full-length handguard.
In the early 1903, China conducted comparison tests to determine the caliber and the action for the their future small caliber repeating rifle. The test results featured Japanese Arisaka 6.5 caliber and Mauser Mod.03 bolt action. A Japanese military observer, who attended the test, reported to Ministry of the Army said that China planed to adopt a new rifle which should be in 6.5 or 7 m/m caliber with Mauser 1903 bolt action, rear sight and handguard. This test was not intended for Manchu Arisaka rifle contract, but it must influence Yuan’s preference. Chinese prefer Mauser sight because of the marks on the side walls of the rear sight which the instructor can use to instruct soldiers aiming while in training.
Imperial Japan Ministry of Army Archives, 陸軍省大日記 Meiji Year 36-40
Yuan Shikai Archives
Xu Shichang Archives
Appreciate generous help from Japanese friends Jien @teppoblog, @KiyoKita3 and his sister to translate documents for me.