Period Chinese Armor

Discussion of Chinese historical swordsmanship from all styles.

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David R
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Re: Period Chinese Armor

Post by David R » Tue Apr 12, 2011 3:05 pm

Just done a day of data inputting at the Armouries, so I am not going to be long on this. I went and had a look at a some of the Chinese armour in the reserve collection, one piece fairly early ie 17th or early 18th C, and others later, 19th C.
The early pieces were under arm gussets, rather like Japanese wakabiki, blue silk outer, embroidered with floss and gold thread. Metal plates, steel or iron, tin plated and rivetted to the face cloth which was lined/backed with blue, fine hemp or rami, and a lining of the same tacked over the plates. The rivetts were corroded and very like upholstery nails, possibly copper headed and iron shanked. The embroidery was quite inferior to the later examples, lower class, or just not expected to survive contact with the enemy.
The other , later pieces were also blue, edged with black velvet and with fine gold embroidery in the mountain scale pattern. No padding at all, and the "rivett heads" were lightweight gilded copper domes, each with three equidistant holes in the edge through which they were sewn to the cloth. These were the divided skirt and the fork cover associated with a jacket in one of the display cases. Provinance, loot from the Taku forts.
I shall see if I can get photo's to post of these, but no promises. Leaving it here 'cause I am cream crackered but wanted to post this while it was fresh in my mind.

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Re: Period Chinese Armor

Post by Scott M. Rodell » Sun Apr 17, 2011 8:54 am

David R wrote:This garment is a Coat Armour.. most likely worn over mail body armour... There is one over Prince Edward's (the Black Prince) tomb in Canterbury. This and the others is of the layered cotton wool and linen cloth construction...
I'm curious as to why these were worn over mail & not under? Is that to prevent the mail from being broken by Bodkin arrow points? In the cases where Qing officers are depicted wearing mail shirts, they are worn over padded jackets, see: http://www.battle-of-qurman.com.cn/e/list.htm

For example, Saral ( 萨 拉 尔 sa la er )-

Image

David R
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Re: Period Chinese Armor

Post by David R » Mon Apr 18, 2011 7:49 am

During a test shoot against mail, some years ago with a variety of arrows, they found that mail over padding was regularly penetrated by by bodkins. Then while trying out other options they found that putting the padding over the mail greatly increased it's resistance way beyond the other options, padding alone, mail without padding. In fact the arrows bounced off.
The many images in Europe portraying this option then made more sense than they had before. Many 14thC tomb carvings in Germany depict knights with long sleeved quilted pourpoints/coat armours, steel gauntlets and breastplates, and plate leg armour. Also previously mentioned Italian depicions of quilted garments over mail in place of plate cuirasses worn with plate limb defences. It is a particularly good defence against arrows and swords, again, Burgundian ordinances of the later 15thC make this same point. An advantage of the padding + mail body armour is you keep the flexibility in the torso to deliver powerfull attacks, something you lose with a solid cuirass.
There is here in England something of a "cult of the longbow" so test shooting of full draw-weight bows(up to 150 lb) is popular, a bit like tamageshira? test cutting, is with Japanese sword practitioners elsewhere. Myself, with my hunting weight and reenactment (40 lb) longbow, I have easily shot through mail lacking the outer layer of fabric armour, against a bodkin, mail is poor armour. Padding under mail is a good option against sword cuts though.

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Mail & Padding...

Post by Scott M. Rodell » Mon Apr 18, 2011 9:32 am

David R wrote:... a test shoot against mail... mail over padding was regularly penetrated by by bodkins. Then while trying out other options they found that putting the padding over the mail greatly increased it's resistance way beyond the other options, padding alone, mail without padding. In fact the arrows bounced off...
Your answer is just what I expected, but I wonder what was under the mail when the padded jacket was worn on the outside. Certainly, more than a simple shirt? But how many layers can one put on & still expect to move well enough to fight? As mentioned above, cloth is quite effective at resisting cuts, but it does slowly get chewed up, thus the need for mail over the padded jacket (when economically possible) when facing a sword.

David R
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Re: Period Chinese Armor

Post by David R » Mon Apr 18, 2011 10:14 am

Here we come to what is largely a question of function rather than construction. In the West what went under the armour after 1100 was either an arming doublet, or a gambeson -haqueton-wambaise... All these latter being different spellings of the same word. The Gambeson seems to have been little differentiated whether under or over the mail armour, or worn as armour on its own. There is evidence that it could be either layered woven fabric or wadded fibre ( cotton , wool, or a bast fibre like hemp or flax) between fabric. The Makiejowski bible illuminations show 2 or possibly more of these worn at once, as stand alone armour. Maximum build up...one German source indicates up to 4ins total, but this was for a joust or tourney, training and competition rather than battle. This was the garment used before the development of shaped plates in the mid to late 14thC. When tailored-to-fit plate came in you get the arming doublet, functionaly and constructionaly different to the outer layer, and then you get the different terms, Jack..the armour, and arming doublet..the undergarment.
The arming doublet is not armour, it is the base garment that went over a shirt, or in some cases the bare skin (satin lined in this case) and was made by a member of the "Guild of Linen Armourers and Tailors"(still extant in England). It fitted like a second skin and was lightly padded, faced with fustian, linen or in posh cases silk damask (Edward the IV) and could be reenforced with strips of silk tablet woven braid. The plate armour laced to this, a piece at a time, and it was sewn with panels of mail to cover those bits bare of plate. Or you could wear over it any of the combinations of mail, plate and brigandine used in the 14th and 15th C.
Hope this is helpfull, and not too wordy, I am aware that I can go on a bit when I get going.

David R
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Re: Period Chinese Armor

Post by David R » Wed Apr 20, 2011 6:01 pm

I just thought I would post a couple of pictures, late 13thC from the Maciejowski Bible, showing 2 gambesons worn at once, with a painted metal helmet on the head. These guys in my opinion, are not peasants but pro foot soldiers, possibly even sergeants, ie foot or light horse holding land as fee for their miltary service.
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