Early Qing army consisted of the Army of Eight Flags, i.e., the 八旗軍. Their fighting spirits and prowess diminished considerably with time. Another army, the 綠營 (the Green Battalion), was then formed. And again, with time, it degenerated into loosely organized units with practically no military leadership that would never have been capable of putting down domestic revolts or defending against foreign invasions. The provincial armies such as the Xiang湘軍 and the Huai淮軍 had subsequently risen to take its place. These were the true fighting forces in the 19th Century China.
The standard uniform of an infantryman at that time had a large circle in front. And within the circle, a letter 兵 (for 綠營) or 勇 (for 防軍) was inscribed; although this might not have been universally true. A good example is the Black Flag Army (黑旗軍 or Pavillons noirs) with such a uniform without the lettering (see photo on the top left). And the reason was probably because this army was neither 兵, nor 勇 of the regular army (see below, also the broad-rimmed hat was probably an adaptation to the local, tropical weather.)
The Guerre Franco-Chinoise of course started out in Tonkin (North Vietnam) and later moved up north (including Danshui) and back. The Black Flag Army was commanded by Liu Yong-Fu (劉永福), as stated above, not as part of the Qing army, but rather as a mercenary force invited in and backed by the Vietnamese Emperor/government. It had fought numerous battles, often victorious, against the French Tonkin Expeditionary Force.
The soldier in the photo above was holding a Flag of Command (令旗) but without carrying any weapons. The French fusiliers marins captured such a flag in the battle of Hoa Moc on March 2, 1885. It is now on display in the the Musée de l'Armée in Paris. A closeup is shown below.
Earlier, in the battle of 南定 Nam Dinh on March 27, 1883, the soldiers of the two sides fought with rather primitive weapons.
Such a hand-to-hand combat scene is depicted below - with one Black Flag soldier using a spear (who was being shot) and another lying on the ground (with a spear next to him), and the French with axes and swords. These were in addition to bayonets, rifles, and pistols. No doubt the same was re-played on the beaches of the Fisherman's Wharf in Danshui a year later, in 1884 - with the French on the receiving end of the onslaught .
The equipment of the Qing soldiers, both the infantry and the artillery, who participated in the Battle of Fisherman's Wharf in Danshui remains unclear. Judging from the command structure, it would have been similar if not identical to that of the Huai淮 Army. The defenders of Keelung were known to the French as "tall and sturdy" and wore dark blue uniforms with loose shirts and baggy pants (down to the calves) , plus leggings and felt-soled slippers. They were equipped with Lee rifles with abundant ammunition.
Even before the Sino-French war, the Qing military was already quite well-equipped. As far as the hardware, there was a mention of [later the Governor of Taiwan] 劉銘傳Liu Ming-Chuan's 7,000+ troops with 4,000 "western rifles" (recorded in June, 1864). Liu was one of the leading commanders of the Huai Army. And by the 1870s, rifles from England, France, Germany and the US had already been imported to replenish the Huai Army arsenal:
淮軍在1864年6月進攻蘇、常太平軍時，郭松林、楊鼎勳、劉士奇、王永勝四軍萬餘人，已有洋槍萬餘枝，劉銘傳部7000多人，有洋槍4000枝。到次年 底與捻軍作戰時，"計出省及留防陸軍5萬餘人，約有洋槍三四萬桿"。其砲兵到1864年也建立了6個開花砲隊，裝備了12磅至108磅不等的火砲。已經基 本上淘汰了冷兵器和土槍、土炮。然而，此時淮軍裝備的尚是前膛槍砲。 70年代以後，西方更為先進的後膛槍砲開始輸入，導致淮軍裝備的又一次更新。英國的馬梯尼[Martini]、士乃德 [Snider or Schneider]、法國的哈乞開司[Hotchkiss]、德國的老毛瑟[Mauser]、美國的林明敦 [Remington] 和黎意 [Lee]等槍種，均進入淮軍部隊。
And by 1884, the artillery was already out-fitted with more than 370 rear-loaded guns of British- and German-made models:
The defenders of Danshui would have enjoyed the same fire power.