Ming dynasty weapon reproductions

Sword typology and Edge Weapons forms of the Chinese Empire and related cultures with an emphasis on their relationship to Swordsmanship.

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kg6cig
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Ming dynasty weapon reproductions

Post by kg6cig » Mon Nov 15, 2010 9:56 pm

Hey all-

I have a question regarding Ming Dynasty weapons. I was recently watching an episode of "Deadliest Warrior"- it's a guilty pleasure- and they had a Ming warrior v. a Musketeer. Now, what's important in this is that the Ming dynasty sits astride the 15th Century- the time period from which Kunst des Fechtens comes to us.

I've always been interested in comparative martial arts. And I've often wondered what techniques a German Fechtmeister might find effective against a Chinese master or Samurai. So, in this case, I'd be most interested in the weapons and armor of a 15th Century equivalent of a knight. What equipment did he carry? What armor did he wear? What weapons would have been a priority in addition to the sword? Which sword- jian or dao- would he probably have carried?

Please note: I am not interested in responses that state "there's no comparison, the European knights were big clunking tanks that any Asian warrior would have chopped to pieces." We now know that's simply not true, and I won't even dignify such a post with a response. Sorry- not wanting to be rude, I've just had that conversation before.

Also: Ming dynasty jian specifically: is there an adequate facsimile in terms of weight, balance, etc? I don't care about pretty, just that it feels right in the hand. I am wondering about Scott's cutting jian and the Arms and Armor jian- would either handle appropriately? Is the difference even important? I ask because there is a significant difference between a type XVa and a type XVIIIa, even though they're only 100 years apart even if you're pretty generous with your dating.

Thanks in advance!

Regards,

Joseph

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Re: Ming dynasty weapon reproductions

Post by Nik » Tue Nov 16, 2010 9:26 am

Depends on the circumstances. Generally, the guy with the shorter weapon needs to avoid the launch and get more inside, finishing there. With same sized weapons, the guy with the better technique, athletics and reflexes wins. Special problems if one fighter uses two weapons, e.g. one-handed sword and long knife. What always applies is that you want to attack the limb, not the body, since this greatly changes the distance of your potentially successful move.

E.g., a two-handed sword which is almost a foot longer than a jian forces you to avoid long-distance fighting, and to get inside. Against a two-handed dao of equal or even more length, this equals out the way of fighting.

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Re: Ming dynasty weapon reproductions

Post by kg6cig » Tue Nov 16, 2010 10:48 pm

Nik wrote:Depends on the circumstances. Generally, the guy with the shorter weapon needs to avoid the launch and get more inside, finishing there. With same sized weapons, the guy with the better technique, athletics and reflexes wins. Special problems if one fighter uses two weapons, e.g. one-handed sword and long knife. What always applies is that you want to attack the limb, not the body, since this greatly changes the distance of your potentially successful move.

E.g., a two-handed sword which is almost a foot longer than a jian forces you to avoid long-distance fighting, and to get inside. Against a two-handed dao of equal or even more length, this equals out the way of fighting.
I appreciate the insights, Nik. However, I asked the question that I did or a specific reason. I asked about armor and equipment because, on the battlefield, the Ming "knight" or whatever he's called is going to be in armor- as is the European.

A 15th C. knight is nearly invulnerable to the kind of fighting you describe- attacking the limb is useless against a plate-armored opponent. The knight is enclosed "cap-a-pied" or head-to-toe in case hardened still. You can't cut through it, you can't thrust through it. Your only option is to find the gaps- and there aren't many. The vulnerable points of a man in 15th C. armor are:

The face, if his visor is up
Under the tail of the sallet helm, if that's the type worn- which was pretty common
the armpit (covered by mail)
the inside of the elbow (also covered by mail)
the back of the hand through the cuff of the gauntlet
The palm of the hand
The groin (covered by mail and tassets or faulds)
the back of the knee
The foot (if he's not wearing sabatons)

Even these are pretty well-protected- the palm of the hand, for instance, is typically holding the weapon and rather hard to get to; the foot is a larger target but you open yourself for an strike to the head.

The reason for all of this diatribe is that I know what the limitations and capabilities of the European knight are. I know his equipment and how he uses it. I want to know the same of his Ming counterpart- not the footsoldier, cannon fodder, etc- I want to know about the equivalent of the knight. What was his armor? What weapons did he carry, and- probably most importantly- how did he employ them against his enemies? This is important because attacks that will work against more lightly armored opponents won't work against a knight. This will make a difference in the final analysis.

I have experience in evaluating weapons against armor- need to know what the armor and equipment is so I can do that evaluation for myself.

Regards,

Joseph

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Re: Ming dynasty weapon reproductions

Post by kg6cig » Wed Nov 17, 2010 9:50 am

Hey all-

I noted I didn't specify this earlier- I am also wanting to know which jian out there would adequately represent the handling of a Ming jian. I don't care if it looks right- I need it to handle correctly. The design and handling characteristics could change quite a bit over a hundred-year period in Europe. I don't see that much difference in the blade geometry from those listed as Ming-style swords- and have no idea if they are actually good representations of Ming-era jian- but there may be subtle differences that make significant changes in the performance of the weapon, and I just wouldn't see them.

I'm also interested in the same for a dao. Please understand, I don't know all the specific terms, so if there's a particular name for a Ming-era dao or jian, I have no idea what it is. Mea maxima culpa.

Also- if the answer is "nobody really knows", that's fine. I'd be surprised, though- I was under the impression that we have a lot of information from that era.

Regards,

Joseph

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Re: Ming dynasty weapon reproductions

Post by Nik » Wed Nov 17, 2010 11:39 am

From the top of my head, a combination of leather, wood / steel chips and silk that would need quite some heavy stab to penetrate, possibly combined with an occasional chain mail. Basically everything BUT plate, in varying combinations depending on the goal / task. Vulnerable points being the face (I'd venture a guess that there was an additional cover for that which is just never depicted on drawings showing the person), and of course every opening below and in between of pads. Your best guess would always be stabs in between them with enough blunt force, as managing to cut clean through such pads with a single cut is like hitting the lottery. But on the other hand, your main point of concern wasn't to beat a general 1 vs. 1, but dealing with the 10.000 spear and bow carrying foot soldiers in front of him.

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Re: Ming dynasty weapon reproductions

Post by Aidan O'Brien » Fri Nov 19, 2010 12:32 am

Well the image of the big clunking knight who was like a turtle on his back is simply an anachronism. The weight of a full set of plate armour for the battlefield was roughly equivilent to the weight carried by modern soldiers into battle, plus it was evenly distributed across the whole body.

Honestly, the full plate armour was the height of an arms race prior to effective implementation of gunpowder. The reason why the east never developed it was due to the limitations of their resources. Europe was simply better stocked with ore to be made into armour, while the rest of the world in contrast was (comparitively) starved for resources. Indeed, the only reason why a Katana took so much effort to make, was simply because there was hardly any steel and that which they did have was of such low quality that it had to be treated by folding.

As for techniques, I hold a belief that the less armour a person wore, the more refined their swordsmanship had to be. It also reflects in the size of the guard for a sword, especially in the West. Ancient swords often had very little in the way of guards, relying instead upon swordsmanship rather than the guard to protect, as armour improved, the weapons consequently evolved to do damage to them, until the only melee weapons capable of punching through plate were specialised hammers and swords were purely designed for lesser troops. Often resulting in knights carrying multiple weapons upon their horse into battle with them.

The specific techniques that needed to be used to penetrate various types of armour were highly dependant upon the specifics of the armour. For example, a General had far different armour to his conscripted soldiers. As for Ming era, their Jian were of similar parameters to the Qing dynasty. Their armour, probably closer to half-plate in effectiveness.

Honestly, one-on-one in full battle regalia, the Western Knight (assuming full resources and training) was a brutally effective weapon on the battlefield and very nearly without equal. Unfortunately his hey-day was comparitively short. Earlier centuries of knights were far more equivilent to the higher armoured Chinese.

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Re: Ming dynasty weapon reproductions

Post by kg6cig » Sat Nov 20, 2010 2:27 pm

Aidan O'Brien wrote:Well the image of the big clunking knight who was like a turtle on his back is simply an anachronism. The weight of a full set of plate armour for the battlefield was roughly equivilent to the weight carried by modern soldiers into battle, plus it was evenly distributed across the whole body.
Absolutely. I once had to be reminded to remove my armor before getting in he car. And my armor was heavier than a medieval knights armor, because it was thicker in order to stand up to percussive blows of reenactment combat (SCA) without being dented beyond all recognition and utility. The medieval knight didn't care about that; he'd just get it fixed.
Aidan O'Brien wrote:Honestly, the full plate armour was the height of an arms race prior to effective implementation of gunpowder. The reason why the east never developed it was due to the limitations of their resources. Europe was simply better stocked with ore to be made into armour, while the rest of the world in contrast was (comparitively) starved for resources. Indeed, the only reason why a Katana took so much effort to make, was simply because there was hardly any steel and that which they did have was of such low quality that it had to be treated by folding.
Yeah, there continues to be a love affair with folded steel that just isn't warranted. Folding steel was an attempt to achieve the same effect as monosteel. OTOH, folding was still used in the west, because the foundries apparently could only turn out small amounts- as in, a few ounces, I guess- so they has to beat several pieces together to form, say, a sword.

And WRT gunpowder, I'd clarify slightly- in that it was the development of effective firearms that could be used by a man with not a lot of time spent training. A knight- or man-at-arms, more properly- took _years_ to train. A "rifleman"- though that's not really accurate, but I didn't want to use "musketeer" because that conjures images of the King's musketeers. Which of course were a select group, noble lineage, etc.
Aidan O'Brien wrote:As for techniques, I hold a belief that the less armour a person wore, the more refined their swordsmanship had to be. It also reflects in the size of the guard for a sword, especially in the West. Ancient swords often had very little in the way of guards, relying instead upon swordsmanship rather than the guard to protect, as armour improved, the weapons consequently evolved to do damage to them, until the only melee weapons capable of punching through plate were specialised hammers and swords were purely designed for lesser troops. Often resulting in knights carrying multiple weapons upon their horse into battle with them.
Here I don't agree. Halfswording- the type of fighting you do in armor, at least European armor- is quite refined. You have to get into a limited number of gaps in the armor. If an opponent is facing you, you're limited to about 4- the face (_if_ his visor is up, which was pretty common), his armpit, his groin, and his feet- if he's not wearing sabatons (foot armor). Whacking away at him is useless, unless you use the pommel to strike articulated points in the armor.

Also, you don't punch through plate. Not with a hammer, not with a sword, not with a lance, couched, on horseback. There's many a demonstration of these on Youtube- look up "Weapons that made Britain" for examples. Maybe with a lucky blow. You have to get into the gaps. Pulling a knight of his horse, dogpiling him, and sticking a dagger into him will work. Trying to stab _through_ his breastplate will not.
Aidan O'Brien wrote:The specific techniques that needed to be used to penetrate various types of armour were highly dependant upon the specifics of the armour. For example, a General had far different armour to his conscripted soldiers. As for Ming era, their Jian were of similar parameters to the Qing dynasty. Their armour, probably closer to half-plate in effectiveness.
I'm assuming that when we're talking about penetration, you're talking about penetrating the lamellar armors and things like that. You don't penetrate plate. Not even with a pole weapon or spear, or a couched lance. You have to get into the gaps.
Aidan O'Brien wrote:Honestly, one-on-one in full battle regalia, the Western Knight (assuming full resources and training) was a brutally effective weapon on the battlefield and very nearly without equal. Unfortunately his hey-day was comparitively short. Earlier centuries of knights were far more equivilent to the higher armoured Chinese.
That's sort of my point, Aidan. We don't study battlefield combat in our school- there's no way to replicate it. We study judicial combat or dueling- one on one fighting. The question is, what kinds of things is the man-at-arms likely to have to overcome when he's flattened the cannon fodder. He's now confronted with, if not the general, at least one of his bodyguard. What is the European man-at-arms, in plate armor and equipped with a type XVIIIa longsword, a pollaxe, and a roundel dagger going to face at that moment?A man like the knight/man-at-arms- young (somewhat), fit, highly trained, and outfitted in the state-of-the-art in terms of weapons and armor. And just as dedicated to keeping his general alive as the knight is to killing him. _Those_ are the guys you have to take out before you can capture/kill the general. And this might come down to several one-on-one fights.

Thanks, guys, it's been helpful. It seems- from the picture you posted, Nik, and what Aidan describes- that much like the Japanese armor, there are more gaps into which the man-at-arms can thrust; I've not heard or seen any suggestion of mail in the vulnerable areas. So if the knight can hit the target, that point's going in. OTOH, the knight has to hit a probably somewhat more mobile target- the armor seems heavy, but less restrictive. So the Ming "knight" is going to have to work a little harder to get into the "juicy chivalric goodness" underneath.

Any other thoughts, of course, are welcome- but I think I have a good understanding. Thanks again.

Regards,

Joseph

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Best Book on Chinese Armor

Post by Scott M. Rodell » Thu Jan 20, 2011 1:44 pm

The first thing I think you'll want to do is get a copy of this book:
http://www.amazon.com/Zhongguo-dai-jun- ... 7532520331

It is in Chinese, but not to worry if you don't read Chinese. Each chapter begins with a composite illustration of men-at-arms of the dynasty being discussed. The following pages are full of photos & diagrams showing just what the illustration is based on. Every dynasty is covered. You can't find a better book on Chinese armor. The only problem is a copy won't come cheap. It has been out of print for some time now...
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Re: Ming dynasty weapon reproductions

Post by Scott M. Rodell » Thu Jan 20, 2011 2:30 pm

kg6cig wrote:... wanting to know which jian out there would adequately represent the handling of a Ming jian... I don't see that much difference in the blade geometry from those listed as Ming-style swords- and have no idea if they are actually good representations of Ming-era jian...
The short answer, we is there aren't many, really just a hand full of Ming jian, around that we can examine. So most assumptions are made by examining art work. With that caveat, it appears that there is no significant different between Ming & Qing era jian so far as blade length, weight, or balance. )There are differences in how they are mounted). So either the Cutting Jian I designed from Hanwei: http://sevenstarstrading.com/site/hanwei/cuttingjian/ or the Huanuo Royal Peony Jian would be good examples to choose from: http://sevenstarstrading.com/site/huanu ... eonyzitan/

Note that there is not one standard balance for jian, but that two different balances are encountered handling period jian. One is balance with the weight slightly forward so that it can deliver a slightly more robust cut. This might have been so that it could deliver heavier blows to a man in armor, but that is conjecture. We have nothing from primarily source material one way or another.
kg6cig wrote:... also interested in the same for a dao...
The above comments also go pretty much for dao, but we do, however, have more Ming dao that jian to examine. So any stout, historically accurate Qing type dao will handle in essentially the same manner as a Ming dao would. The one exception to this would be the Fengshi dao or "Phoenix Wing Saber" as they are referred to today (no term for this style of saber has been found in a period text to my knowledge). You can find more information about the Fengshi dao in the thread:
viewtopic.php?f=15&t=524&hilit=Phoenix+WIng+Saber

Ming Battle Scene-
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Re: Ming dynasty weapon reproductions

Post by kg6cig » Tue Feb 22, 2011 10:09 pm

Scott M. Rodell wrote: The short answer, we is there aren't many, really just a hand full of Ming jian, around that we can examine. So most assumptions are made by examining art work. With that caveat, it appears that there is no significant different between Ming & Qing era jian so far as blade length, weight, or balance. )There are differences in how they are mounted). So either the Cutting Jian I designed from Hanwei: http://sevenstarstrading.com/site/hanwei/cuttingjian/ or the Huanuo Royal Peony Jian would be good examples to choose from: http://sevenstarstrading.com/site/huanu ... eonyzitan/
And I note, apropos of nothing in particular, that the Hanwei Jian is decdidedly cheaper through your site. :-)
Scott M. Rodell wrote:Note that there is not one standard balance for jian, but that two different balances are encountered handling period jian. One is balance with the weight slightly forward so that it can deliver a slightly more robust cut. This might have been so that it could deliver heavier blows to a man in armor, but that is conjecture. We have nothing from primarily source material one way or another.
I suppose that's possible... but we know that even leather armor is very effective against very heavy blows. Armor makes you _very_ safe; nearly invulnerable to a cut on the covered area. And that's against Western swords and axes; at least with regards to cutting- a heavy blow could still break bones or cause other trauma. Plate armor pretty much ends that problem.

Take a look at this video:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QLGwNY3xMjM

I do think that a stronger forward presence is for a more robust cut. I'm just not sure if it's for use against armor. To be fair, from what you've said, most armor was a flexible type, so whacking away to break something inside isn't unreasonable.

Regards,

Joseph

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Re: Ming dynasty weapon reproductions

Post by Scott M. Rodell » Wed Feb 23, 2011 9:17 am

kg6cig wrote:... I note, apropos of nothing in particular, that the Hanwei Jian is decdidedly cheaper through your site. :-)
Yes, thanks for the plug... As the designer of this jian, I recently negotiated a lower price with CAS so that we could offer it lower than anyone else. Those interested please see: http://sevenstarstrading.com/site/hanwei/cuttingjian/
kg6cig wrote:
Scott M. Rodell wrote:... there is not one standard balance for jian... One is balance with the weight slightly forward so that it can deliver a slightly more robust cut. This might have been so that it could deliver heavier blows to a man in armor, but that is conjecture...
... we know that even leather armor is very effective against very heavy blows. Armor makes you _very_ safe; nearly invulnerable to a cut on the covered area. And that's against Western swords and axes; at least with regards to cutting- a heavy blow could still break bones or cause other trauma. Plate armor pretty much ends that problem.
That's a good series of videos, I posted them elsewhere in this forum some time back. One of these days, I'd like to do similar tests on an upright target with Chinese blades. My good friend Paul Champagne was going to make me some sections of plate, but unfortunately we lost him (still miss that guy).

Concerning cuts/sword blows to a man in armor, I fully agree with you, that is not going to me much cutting going on, or even much damage to the man stuck. That is the point after all. No one is going to wear armor, particularly the way it makes one over heat, if it is not extremely effective.

Having studied some Chinese forms carefully, with historical situations in mind, it is my conjecture that the cuts of both single handed & two-handed dao forms are not designed to cut at all, but to bludgeon & are aimed at areas of the body where there are specific striking points the take the duifang off balance and/or cause a dislocation. We should also note that solid iron rods (pronounced jian in Mandarin, but being a different character & tone than the one for straight sword) were used (see above Ming era illustration) as well as chui (literally meaning hammer & being a mace comprised of a ball on a short iron shaft fitted with a grip).

Any other thoughts?

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Paper vs. Metal Armor on Mythbusters

Post by Scott M. Rodell » Wed Feb 23, 2011 10:50 am

BTW, a couple of weeks ago I was consulted by Mythbusters about how to make paper. In an up coming show, they will test paper armor they make in comparison to a steel laminar armor made by Armstreet. The historical record speaks of paper arm being able to stop arrows & in some cases a musket shot from 100 paces. Should be an interesting show...

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Re: Ming dynasty weapon reproductions

Post by josh stout » Thu Mar 03, 2011 11:57 am

When I look at Ming illustrations of jian, I notice some variation in blades from later Qing designs. There seems to be one style with shorter wider blades like those on the Ming statues near Beijing, and another seen in period illustrations with a very long slim blade. The shorter wider blade appears similar to some Koean jian (gum?), while the slim blades are similar to the Vietnamese kiem. The shorter jian with wider blades are carried by generals wearing "mirrors" (four round breast back and side plates) over steel lamellar armor. I would like to know more about the slim long jian.
Josh
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Ming dynasty woodblock print of Song Jiang in Combat

Post by Scott M. Rodell » Mon Mar 21, 2011 1:33 pm

This woodblock print, Combat in Kunling County, from 1589 will give you some idea of Ming weapons. It is a oeriod illustration from the Shuihu Zhan. Reprinted from, Zhonggua Gudai Muke Hua Xunji, Zheng ZhenDuo editor, (Chinese Ancient Woodblock Painting Collection), published by People's Arts Publishing Co., Beijing
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Ming dynasty Dandao (1621)

Post by Scott M. Rodell » Mon Mar 21, 2011 2:29 pm

Here's a page from the Dandao Manual of 1621 that should give you a good idea of the two-handed saber of the day, from the same collection mentioned above-
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