At the border posts, shed blood becomes a sea,
The martial emperor's dream of expansion has no end.
— Du Fu, Tang poet
At first glance, Shenbinu Infantry look rather much like normal crossbowmen. However, once they begin winding up and firing, then those at the receiving end will understand why the Chinese dubbed their weapon as the "Heavenly-Arm Crossbow". Unlike other crossbowmen, this remarkable feat of Chinese mechanical engineering possesses an ingenious reloading mechanism that makes reloading far easier than it normally would be with a normal crossbow, resulting in added ammo per shot.
Nevertheless, the Shenbinu poses many problems for its users. The first is its mediocre attack and range, which makes it highly useful for attacking cavalry archers, but little else. The second is that because of the complicated nature of this weapon, it takes a bit longer for the Chinese to create enough of these killer weapons for nation-wide use. China, however, does not have a full monopoly on these lethal one-man weapons of destruction — a renegade variant, the Repeating Crossbowman, is available for recruitment to Arab and Mongol potentates in the Imperial Era.
Reputedly first introduced in the Warring States period before the Common Era, the magazine crossbow was a ranged weapon unique to China, and consisted of a magazine linked by a contraption to the crossbow stock which functioned as a reloading mechanism. Whenever this magazine was pulled down, a bolt would fall into the stock and the crossbow would cock itself, speeding up the rate of fire. While this weapon was limited in range (the size of a crossbow limited its ability to be readily cocked using this manner), the magazine crossbow proved to be a cheap yet effective weapon, allowing for volley firing through its fast rate of fire. So highly prized were repeating crossbows in Chinese eyes that at the Yihe Uprising of 1900, Chinese militias were still using magazine crossbows as defensive weapons against European cannon, machine guns and rifles.
- Archery unit that sacrifices the range of the crossbow for added shot, causing more damage per volley, but with poorer range and higher research time.
- Up In Arms — Shenbinu Infantry are known for their prolific shots. Use these units to tear apart melee infantry and cavalry archers — against which the hail of missiles that they can send will be extremely devastating — but beware of melee cavalry.
- Closing-in Time — Shenbinu are effective at taking out most archer units. To defeat western crossbow infantry, just move in closer with your Shenbinu Infantry, accompanied by cavalry for a breakthrough.
- Repeating Crossbowman — This mercenary unit has 33% less hitpoints but 50% added training time, and is recruitable to Saracens and Mongols in the Imperial Era, thanks to the diffusion of Chinese peoples and technology across the Steppes.