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Dingyuan (simplified Chinese: 定远; traditional Chinese: 定遠; pinyin: Dìngyǔan; Wade–Giles: Ting Yuen or Ting Yuan) was an ironclad battleship and the flagship of the Chinese Beiyang Fleet. Her sister ship was Zhenyuan.

Dingyuan/Ting Yuen photographed in 1884 in Germany, waiting for delivery
Name: Dingyuan
Ordered: 1881
Builder: Stettiner AG Vulcan, Stettin, Germany
Laid down: 31 March 1881
Launched: 28 December 1881
Completed: 1884
Commissioned: 29 October 1885
Fate: Scuttled, 10 February 1895
General characteristics
Class and type: Dingyuan-class ironclad
Displacement: 7,670 long tons (7,793 t) (deep load)
Length: 93.9 m (308 ft)
Beam: 18.3 m (60 ft)
Draught: 6.1 m (20 ft)
Installed power:
Speed: 15.4 knots (28.5 km/h; 17.7 mph)
Range: 4,500 nmi (8,300 km; 5,200 mi) at 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph)
Complement: 363


As part of his drive to create a modern navy, Viceroy Li Hongzhang turned to shipbuilders in Great Britain and Germany for the latest technology. After extensive negotiations, a contract valued at 1.7 million taels of silver (6.2 million German Goldmark) was signed with the German Vulcan shipyards in Stettin to build an enlarged version of their Sachsen-class armoured frigates, which in terms of displacement, armour and armament would raise the Beiyang Fleet to an equal status with the fleets of the European powers stationed in the Far East.

The keel was laid on 31 March 1881, and the ship launched on 28 December 1881, under the supervision of the Qing Envoy to Germany, Xu Jingcheng. Sea trials began on 2 May 1883.


Dingyuan was an "armoured turret ship" design, with a length of 94.5 metres (310 ft), width of 18.4 metres (60 ft) and draught of 5.94 metres (19.5 ft). She was protected by an armoured belt 30 centimetres (12 in) thick, which was considered[who?] to be able to resist any naval artillery available at the time.

Dingyuan was powered by a coal-fired reciprocating steam engine, with four cylindrical boilers, and with a rating of 6,000 hp (4,500 kW), which gave a speed of 14.5 nautical miles (27 km) per hour, and a range of around 4,500 nautical miles (8,330 km) at 10 knots (19 km/h).

Her main armament was four 305 mm (12.0 in) Krupp guns paired in two barbettes. These barbettes were mounted asymmetrically, or en echelon, forward of amidships – the starboard barbette was mounted further forward than the port barbette.[a] The en echelon arrangement was intended to allow all four main guns to fire dead ahead, dead astern, or together on a limited broadside arc, although in practice there were potential risks of blast damage to decks & superstructure when firing the main battery in this manner. The main guns had a range of 7.8 kilometres (4.2 nmi), firing with a muzzle velocity of 500 metres per second.

Another two 150 mm (5.9 in) Krupp guns were installed in turrets at the extreme bow and stern. These guns had a range of 11.0 kilometres (5.9 nmi). The armament also included six 37 mm guns and three above the waterline torpedo tubes. Two torpedo boats were also carried on board, enlarging Dingyuan's striking distance and battle effectiveness.

The complement was around 363 officers and ratings. To meet the demands on ship, 20 desalinators were installed which could serve 300 people fresh water daily.

Service recordEdit

Dingyuan side view

The delivery of Dingyuan, sailed by a German crew, scheduled for 1884, but was stopped following a request from the French who were in the middle of a conflict with China which culminated with the Sino-French War (1884–1885). Dingyuan was a very powerful ship and would have drastically altered the balance of power in China’s favor had it and her sister ship been available at the time of the conflict.[1]

After peace was concluded on 3 July 1885, and Dingyuan, Zhenyuan and the cruiser Jiyuan finally received permission to transit the Suez Canal under a German merchant flag and arrived in Tianjin in China on 29 October 1885.

Dingyuan was based in Lüshunkou, the chief naval station of the Beiyang Fleet. In 1886, she participated in show of force, touring Hong Kong, the Japanese port of Nagasaki, Korean ports of Busan and Wonsan, and the Russian naval base of Vladivostok together with Zhenyuan and four cruisers. While in Nagasaki on 13 August 1886, a number of drunken sailors from Zhenyuan became involved in a brawl in a local brothel, during which a Japanese police officer was fatally stabbed. Attributing the issue to lax discipline, Qing Admiral Ding Ruchang suspended shore leave for a day, but allowed 450 sailors to go ashore on 15 August. Contrary to an agreement with local authorities, many were armed. Anticipating trouble due to increasing anti-Chinese sentiment by the local population, the Japanese police deployed additional men, but were unable to prevent a riot from erupting between stone-throwing locals and the men from Zhenyuan. In what came to be called the Nagasaki Incident, 6 sailors were killed and 45 wounded, along with five Japanese policemen killed and 16 wounded. In handling the diplomatic incident, the British military advisor to the Qing military, Captain William M. Lang took a hard line against Japanese authorities, refusing to make any apologies or reparations, and reminding the Japanese of the overwhelming firepower of his fleet and threatening war. However, the incident was resolved through diplomatic efforts.

Dingyuan served as Admiral Ding Ruchang's flagship from the start of the First Sino-Japanese War. At the Battle of the Yalu River on 17 September 1894, refused orders from Admiral Ding which would have exposed the ship to fire from the Japanese squadron, and opened fire from an extreme range. Due to a design defect, Dingyuan was unable to fire its main battery directly forward without destroying its flying bridge – a fact that the captain was well aware of. Admiral Ding and most of his staff were incapacitated by this incident.[2] Japanese fire also damaged Dingyuan’s ability to signal other ships in the fleet.[clarification needed] Although Dingyuan was more powerful than any ship in the Japanese fleet at the time, ammunition for her main guns was in short supply, of the wrong size, or defective due to years of internal corruption, lack of funding, and incompetence. At the end of the battle, Dingyuan was able to escape to Lüshunkou. She was then ordered to Weihaiwei when Lüshunkou was threatened during the Battle of Lushunkou.

In early 1895, the remnants of the Beiyang Fleet was based at Liugong Island within Weihaiwei. During the Battle of Weihaiwei, the Imperial Japanese Army seized the landward fortifications of the naval base, the Japanese navy attacked from seaward. On 5 February 1895, Dingyuan was seriously damaged after being hit by a Japanese torpedo and later cannon fire. Captain Liu Buchan ordered the ship scuttled, before committing suicide on the surrender of the Beiyang Fleet by Admiral Ding Ruchang.

Replica and rediscoveryEdit

The replica of battleship Dingyuan as a museum ship.

To commemorate this period of history, the Weihai Port Bureau and local Weigao Group invested 50 million yuan (approximately US$6 million) to construct a replica Dingyuan. The replica's construction began on a scale of 1:1 on 20 December 2003. The duplicate Dingyuan is now a floating museum. Aboard her are records of Dingyuan, the Beiyang Fleet, the First Sino-Japanese War, and life-at-sea exhibits.

On 2 September 2019 it was announced that the remains of Dingyuan had been located and over 150 artefacts recovered.[3]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ It is suggested in Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1860–1905 that Dingyuan's barbettes were arranged with the port further ahead of starboard; however, this is not borne out by plan drawings or photographs of the actual ship, and the modern full-scale reconstruction has the starboard barbette positioned furthest forward.

A Chinese company Bronco makes a plastic kit of this ship in 1/350 scale and a Chinese company named Zilipoo makes a 3D paper puzzle of this ship.



  1. ^ Source Archived 2006-06-29 at the Wayback Machine (in Japanese)
  2. ^ Paine, S.C.M (2002). The Sino-Japanese War of 1894–1895: Perceptions, Power, and Primacy. London: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-81714-5. pages 180-1
  3. ^ "China confirms wreck site of battleship from First Sino-Japanese War". Xinhuanet. 2 September 2019. Retrieved 3 September 2019.


  • Wright, Richard N. J., The Chinese Steam Navy 1862-1945, Chatham Publishing, London, 2000, ISBN 1-86176-144-9
  • Chesneau, Roger and Eugene M. Kolesnik (editors), All The World's Fighting Ships 1860-1905, Conway Maritime Press, 1979 reprinted 2002, ISBN 0-85177-133-5

External linksEdit