The Design of The Trebuchets Deployed At Xiangyang
Since the Mongols employed Muslim engineers for the designing of the counterweight trebuchets, they were designated in Chinese historiography as the "Muslim" trebuchet (hui-hui pao). However, regarding the exact nature of the trebuchets used by the Mongol armies, recent research by Paul E. Chevedden indicates that the hui-hui pao was actually a European design, a double-counterweight engine that as Cheveddens shows had been introduced to the Levant by Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II (1210–1250) only shortly before. The Muslim historian Rashid al-Din (1247?–1318) refers in his universal history to the Mongol trebuchets used at the Song cities as "Frankish" or "European trebuchets" ("manjaniq ifranji" or "manjaniq firanji"):
Before that there had not been any large Frankish catapult in Cathay, but Talib, a catapult-maker from this land, had gone to Baalbek and Damascus, and his sons Abubakr, Ibrahim, and Muhammad, and his employees made seven large catapults and set out to conquer the city .
The Chinese scholar Zheng Sixiao (1206–83) indicates that, "in the case of the largest ones, the wooden framework stood above a hole in the ground". Chevedden considers this to be clearly a description of the double-counterweight bricola, since, according to him, that was the only counterweight piece of artillery that had a framework capable of being mounted in a hole in the ground and was commonly set up in this fashion. Thus, the fall of the Song cities was testimony to the wide diffusion of military technology which the Mongol conquests brought along.
Another version is given by Marco Polo in his book Il Milione where he claims having been responsible for teaching the Mongols how to build and use catapults during the siege of Xiangyang. However, the names of the Muslim engineers were given by Muslim sources as Talib and his sons Abubakr, Ibrahim, and Muhammad, respectively by Chinese sources as Ala-ud-Din and Isma'il. Moreover, the siege had already ended before Marco Polo's arrival in China.
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“A good scientist is a person with original ideas. A good engineer is a person who makes a design that works with as few original ideas as possible. There are no prima donnas in engineering.”
—Freeman Dyson (b. 1923)