Tsi Yuen/ Chi Yuen protected cruiser

The Tsi Yuen was a protected cruiser that served with the Chinese navy until 1895 before being taken over by the Japanese,

The Tsi Yuen ('Help in need') was a flush deck cruiser with a 3in armoured deck. In service she had one mast, although for the passage from Germany to China she was given fore- and mizzen- masts and full sails. She was powered by two cylindrical compound engines, powering two screws.

The Tsi Yuen was armed with two 8.3in Krupp breach loading guns that were carried in an armoured barbette located forward.

The Tsi Yuen was built at the Vulcan Yard at Stettin and was completed by August 1884, but this came just at the French were engaged in a short war with China. Three Chinese ships - the battleships Ting Yuen and Chen Yuen and the Tsi Yuen were thus trapped in Germany for then months before they were finally allowed to depart for China. All three ships finally set sail on 3 July 1885, and reached Taku towards the end of October, where they joined the northern Peiyang fleet. In 1890 the new naval dockyard at Port Arthur was completed, and China looked to have a powerful fleet in her northern waters.

In 1884 the first Sino-Japanese War broke out. At the start of the war the Peiyang fleet had two battleships and eight cruisers, including the Tsi Yuen, but the war would end disastrously for the Chinese Navy.

On 25 July the Tsi Yuen and the torpedo gunboat Kuang Yi left Asan, on the western coast of Korea, and sailed west. They ran into three Japanese cruisers and a fight broke out (battle of Asan or Phung-Tao, 25 July 1894). The Tsi Yuen suffered heavy damage in the resulting gun battle. One hit disabled her 8.2in guns, and the superstructure was almost destroyed, but the 3in armoured deck held out and she was able to escape to Wei-Hai-Wei. The Kuang Yi, which had more modern 4.7in quick firing guns, fought on but was eventually forced to run aground. The troopship Kowshing was sunk and the gunboat Ts'ao Chiang was captured later in the day.

The Tsi Yuen reached Wei-Hai-Wei on 26 July. The damage turned out to be fairly superficial and she was operational again on 7 August.  

The two fleets avoided each other until mid-September. This changed when the Chinese decided to transport reinforcements by sea to the Yalu River, to avoid the long overland route to Korea. On 15-16 September Admiral Ting escorted some troop ships to the Yalu, and on the morning of 17 September his fleet, which included the Tsi Yuen, was at anchor close to the river.

When the Japanese learnt that the Chinese were at sea they sent their main fleet in an attempt to catch them. The resulting naval battle of the Yalu River (17 September 1894) was a clear Japanese victory, although they were unwilling to close with the two Japanese battleships. Tsi Yuen was on the far left of the Chinese fleet, which fought in line-abreast as many of their main guns were mounted forward. The Tsi Yuen managed to escape from the battle, although she did collide with the Chao Chao Yung on the way. The Tsi Yuen reached Port Arthur safely, but her captain was disgraced and beheaded for his actions (of the surviving Chinese cruisers she had suffered the least damage).

Early in 1895 the surviving ships of the Chinese fleet, including the Tsi Yuen, were trapped at Wei-Hai-Wei. On 12 February 1895 the Chinese surrendered. The Tsi Yuen was taken into the Japanese fleet, where she served as the Sai-yen. She was finally sunk by mines on 30 November 1904, during the Russo-Japanese war.

Alternative Names

Chi Yuen



Top Speed



2,000nm normally

Armour – deck

3in or 4in

 - barbette

10in or 14in

 - shields

1.5in or 2in

 - CT

1.5in or 2in






Two 8.2in/35 guns
One 5.9in/35 gun
Four 3in guns
Four 15in torpedo tubes

Crew complement


Laid down

16 January 1883


1 December 1883


August 1884

Captured by Japanese

12 February 1895

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (2 July 2013), Tsi Yuen/ Chi Yuen protected cruiser , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_tsi_yuen.html

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