Chao Yung protected cruiser

The Chao Yung was a protected cruiser built for China by Armstrongs, and that was sunk at the battle of the Yalu River of 1894. She was the sister ship of the Yang Wei¸ also lost at the Yalu.

The two ships were designed by George Rendel. He had previously designed successful gunboats, and in 1879 had produced an enlarged, faster, version of these ships for the Chilean Navy. This was a 1,350ton cruiser, the Arturo Prat, delivered in 1883.

In 1877 the Chinese opened legations in London and Berlin. One of their tasks was to order larger warships for the Chinese navy. The Rendel cruiser was exactly what they had in mind, and so an order for two cruisers, eventually named Chao Yung and Yang Wei, was placed with Armstrong's. They were built by Mitchell & Co.

The two ships were steel hulled, two-masted and with a single funnel. They had very thin deck armour, which covered the boilers, engine rooms and machinery, and 1in armour around the turrets. Coal bunkers were built into the sides of the ships to provide extra protection. They carried two 10in breach loading Armstrong guns, carried fore and aft on revolving turntables mounted in fixed turrets. The four secondary guns were 4.7in/ 40pdr Armstrong guns and were mounted at the four corners of the superstructure. The 10in guns were some of the most powerful guns afloat in 1881, but their arcs of fire were limited by their fixed turrets. They could only fire out of open windows, which allowed them a range of 70 degrees to port or starboard and only 44 degrees ahead.

They were very lightly built, and could reach 16kts when new. They were designed to use their high speed and large gun to chase down less powerful opposition, but the speed with which warships improved in the years after they were built meant that they were soon outdated. They had been ordered with the Russian Pacific fleet in mind, but eventually saw action against the more modern Japanese fleet.

The two ships sailed from the Tyne on 9 August 1881. Admiral Ting Ju-ch'ang joined them at Plymouth, and took command for the sea passage to China. They only had 6in of freeboard forward, and had to have temporary superstructures added fore and aft for the passage to China. They arrived in October.

The two ships were part of the Peiyang squadron at the start of the Sino-French War of 1884-85. On 23 June 1884, before the fighting broke out, they had been present at a meeting between Viceroy Li Hung-chang and the French Rear Admiral Lespés. After this meeting most of the Chinese ships involved sailed away to the north. They didn't play any further part in the war with France, staying in the north to deal with a Japanese threat in Korea.

The Chao Yung was sunk at the battle of the Yalu River (17 September 1894), early in the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-95. At the start of the battle the Chinese fleet was arranged in line-abreast, as many of their heavier guns were mounted forward. The Chao Yung was second from right, with her sister Yang Wei to the right. Their worn-out engines combined with a delay in getting under way to mean that both ships were slightly behind the main part of the line.

At the start of the battle the Japanese fleet attacked the Chinese right, meaning that the Chao Yung was one of the first ships to come under heavy fire. She was soon on fire and listed to starboard. Her steering gear was disabled. Early in the battle the cruiser Tsi Yuen fled from the scene, despite being at the opposite end of the line from the first Japanese attack. On her way through the fleet she collided with the Chao Yung (some early sources say that the collision with the Yang Wei). Eventually she sank in shallow water, although many of her crew were seen to be rescued by the Chinese torpedo boats. In mid-October when the British warship HMS Alacrity visited the scene the tops of her masts were still visible.

Displacement (standard)


Displacement (loaded)


Top Speed



5,000nm at 8kts

Armour – deck


 - turrets


 - CT







Two 10in BL guns
Four 4.7in guns
Two 2.75in
Two 30ft steam pinnaces armed with spar torpedoes.

Crew complement


Laid down

15 January 1880


4 November 1880


15 July 1881


17 September 1894

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (25 June 2013), Chao Yung protected cruiser ,

Help - F.A.Q. - Contact Us - Search - Recent - About Us -  Subscribe in a reader - Join our Google Group - Cookies