Period Chinese Armor

Discussion of Chinese historical swordsmanship from all styles.

Moderator: Scott M. Rodell

kg6cig
Rank: Frequent Contributor
Posts: 23
Joined: Sun Jun 13, 2010 12:32 pm

Re: Period Chinese Armor

Post by kg6cig » Sat Dec 25, 2010 11:27 am

That's very helpful, Scott. Western brig is similar. Any ideas on how thick the cloth is? I don't think it will matter, but it's probably still best to be accurate. I will probably just use speed rivets to hold it together, unless we end up with a high failure rate on the rivets.

I think the advantage of mail is that it prevents movement in both X and Y axis simultaneously, where the brig only protects in one axis at a time. My guess is that a very vertical or very horizontal angle on the sword will have a good chance of penetrating with a thrust. What I'd like to do is make two pieces, and take my Albion Talhoffer- which is a type XV, a nasty thrusting sword designed just for getting into mail (and possibly brig, it was still around)- to one, and you take an equivalent to the other.

NB: I'll be using a half-swording technique appropriate to medieval fencing in armor (aka Harnischfechten). I don't know if there's an equivalent in Chinese swordsmanship. There doesn't seem to be as much mention made of armor-specific techniques. OTOH, I didn't understand the difference myself until three years ago.

Regards,

Joseph

Scott M. Rodell
Site Admin
Site Admin
Posts: 1364
Joined: Wed Jan 28, 2004 4:50 pm
Location: Virginia
Contact:

Re: Period Chinese Armor

Post by Scott M. Rodell » Tue Jan 04, 2011 9:17 am

kg6cig wrote:... Western brig is similar. Any ideas on how thick the cloth is? ...
A normal thick cloth thickness, not like a heavy canvas.
kg6cig wrote:... I'd like to do is make two pieces, and take my... nasty thrusting sword ... to one, and you take an equivalent to the other.
Sound good.
kg6cig wrote:... I don't know if there's an equivalent in Chinese swordsmanship...
There are no Chinese half-swording techniques that I am aware of.

Here another late 19th c. armor that recently sold at Bonhams. The way it is all laid out gives a good idea of the shape of the various pieces. The pieces just above the collar, & below the sleeves, are the the helmet flaps.

A Manchu cloth and metal partial suit of ceremonial armor, Late 19th Century. photo Bonhams

Including a coat of dark blue silk lined with cotton, paper and pale blue silk, mounted with gilt metal studs and embroidered in the couching technique with gilt-wrapped threads forming a dragon roundel that repeats on the back of the coat, on the skirt and the pair of shoulder guards; the shoulder guards attached with gilt metal plates chased with dragons, fish and waves on a delicately pounced ground; the larger pieces of the costume as well as three subsidiary flaps (possibly part of a metal helmet that is no longer with the armor) further ornamented with narrow blue and white brocade ribbons and black velvet edging; together with a pair of black satin boots marked in ink on the interior with possible tailor's marks surrounding the red seal reading Jingdu (Beijing) over the shop name Buying jai (Ocean of Infantry Studio).
27 1/2in (70cm) length of coat; 39 1/4in (99.5cm) length of skirt.

Provenance: The family of General Dmitri Horvath (Late 19th/Early 20th Century)

A similar suit of dark blue silk ceremonial armor, also embroidered with dragons, is preserved in the collection of The Minneapolis Institute of Arts, identified as late 19th century. The armor has been identified with that worn by the Cavalry Brigade Banner, responsible for protecting the imperial capitol of Beijing. See Imperial Silks: Ch'ing Dynasty Textiles in The Minneapolis Institute of Arts (The Minneapolis Institute of Arts, 2000) volume I, cat. #136, pp. 344-345 and illustrated.
Attachments
LateQingGeneralsArmor.jpg
LateQingGeneralsArmor.jpg (72.52 KiB) Viewed 6766 times

David R
Rank: Yang Chenfu
Rank: Yang Chenfu
Posts: 30
Joined: Sun Jan 02, 2011 7:59 pm

Re: Period Chinese Armor

Post by David R » Sun Mar 20, 2011 5:44 pm

Textile armour is surprisingly effective, and there are surviving examples from Europe, Asia and Africa. There are written descriptions of it's use construction and effectiveness not only from these three continents, but South America as well.
I made up samples of the three most common types for a talk I gave to the Royal Armouries Support Group, layered fine linen, cotton wool stuffed, and eyelet stitched canvas. No tests done on them yet, they were pass arounds to illustrate methods of fabrication, but I could barely get a needle through the wadded cotton sample piece, and that was just three layers thick. This one also stopped an electric drill* by wrapping round the bit, (long story) and so would have been especialy effective against arrows.
The conclusions we came too was that most modern tests were not selective enough of the quality of materials to give an accurate result, and that something so widespread in use must have been effective enough to continue in use as long at it was.
I can go into more detail if people want, but am wary of going on at length on a subject that might be of limited interest to others.
Last edited by David R on Mon Mar 21, 2011 4:57 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Scott M. Rodell
Site Admin
Site Admin
Posts: 1364
Joined: Wed Jan 28, 2004 4:50 pm
Location: Virginia
Contact:

Re: Period Chinese Armor

Post by Scott M. Rodell » Mon Mar 21, 2011 2:33 pm

David R wrote:Textile armour is surprisingly effective... I can go into more detail if people want...
Please do...

David R
Rank: Yang Chenfu
Rank: Yang Chenfu
Posts: 30
Joined: Sun Jan 02, 2011 7:59 pm

Re: Period Chinese Armor

Post by David R » Mon Mar 21, 2011 4:50 pm

It is probably best if I do this as two or three seperate posts as otherwise I'll end up writing a book here. Of the three main types I know of, the wadded cotton was the biggest surprise to me, examples exist from 15thC Europe, and Mogul period India, and written acounts from 9thC Byzantium, and Spanish accounts of the Colonisation of South America.
The existing samples share the same constuction, a layer of cotton fibre, cotton wool in other words, held between 2 layers of woven fabric , cotton or linen, and then plied up with other layers of the same make up. Thickness and number of layers varies. These are then held together, in all surviving Euro examples and some Indian examples by stitching, in other Indian armours by "nails", nb we would call them rivits, but the old term is actually closer to the form these take. In India these are called coats of ten thousand nails, often faced with a rich fabric, velvet or brocade, and lined with silk or "kincob" a cheap cloth of gold type fabric. These are not peasant armours, Tipoo Sahib's personal armour was made like this and he was a V wealthy Maharaja.
I made up samples of both types of fixing. Initially I could not get a needle through a 3 layer piece, made using drug store pure cotton wool, one layer of this for each ply. It was only when the cotton wool had relaxed and expanded that I was able to get a needle through, and after compressing it with the stitching it was all but impenatrable again. In fact I "nailed" the first sample as being easier than stitching, I used a leather punch, an awl and an electric drill* in succession trying to find the most effective way of making the holes. In the end I found upholstery nails to be the best, working the pointed shank through the layers with some effort. Punching the hole through the brass sheet roving for the other side was easier. The roving worked as a "washer" to peen the inside point of the nail over, in originals it seems it is more a "clench nail" the shank just bent over to prevent withdrawal. Original Mogul armours are often a combination of this construction, and the multi layer woven fabric. More on this latter in another post, I don't want to spend all night on the keyboard, or figurativly speaking gnaw the ear off my readers. The nailing seems to possibly have been used in 15th C Europe as well, but the evidence is inferred rather than explicit and is a personal theory of mine.

Scott M. Rodell
Site Admin
Site Admin
Posts: 1364
Joined: Wed Jan 28, 2004 4:50 pm
Location: Virginia
Contact:

Re: Period Chinese Armor

Post by Scott M. Rodell » Tue Mar 22, 2011 8:48 am

Scott M. Rodell wrote:... There are no Chinese half-swording techniques that I am aware of...
I wrote that above, but I might have been mistaken, depending on how you define "half-swording techniques." And I should start by admitting I know very little about the proper nomenclature of European swordsmanship & have little direct experience with these arts. So this could be a good example of the dangers of a little but of knowledge...

In any case, a student wrote me:
"Dear Laoshi,
In a GRTC forum post I recently read... you mentioned there are no Chinese half swording techniques... I may have understood the terminology and would like some clarification. My understanding is that any technique with one or more hands on the blade itself, guiding or supporting the strike, is half swording... The dao form has a number of strikes and deflections with the hand on the back of the blade, and so does the miaodao form. I would've called all of these Chinese half sword techniques. So where am I misunderstander, please?"

I understand half-swording to be where the front part of the blade is actually grasped but the left hand so that the tip of the sword can be used to jab & thrust like a short spear. There is no technique I know of where the blade is grabbed in that fashion. There certainly are many Chinese dao technique where the second hand is place on the back of the blade (with the fingers running parallel with the blade edge) to add strength to a cut or to back up a deflect.

Scott M. Rodell
Site Admin
Site Admin
Posts: 1364
Joined: Wed Jan 28, 2004 4:50 pm
Location: Virginia
Contact:

Qianlong Period Helmet

Post by Scott M. Rodell » Fri Mar 25, 2011 3:46 pm

A particularly spectacular piece coming up for auction at Sotheby's-

HK0372 LOT 2820

CATALOGUE NOTE
The present piece was made for the emperor, whose helmets were often made of iron with a silver gilt inlay design of dragons topped by a tall spike with silk fringing and sometimes embellished with a large pearl. See a painting depicting the Qianlong emperor wearing a silver and gilt helmet, by Giuseppe Castiglione (Lang Shining), The Qianlong Emperor in Ceremonial Armour on Horseback, dated to 1739 or 1758 (fig.1), in the Palace Museum, Beijing, and included in the exhibition China. The Three Emperors 1662-1795, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 2005, cat. no. 65. For the possible Ming inspiration for the shaped front of this helmet, see one in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, published in 'Recent Acquisitions: A Selection, 1996-1997,' The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, vol. 55, no. 2 (Fall, 1997), p. 90.
By the Qianlong period the Qing army discontinued the use of armour due to the introduction and proliferation of firearms. Henceforth, the only armour commonly seen was ceremonial types which the emperors wore to the triennial reviews of troops, during which they inspected the armies to assess their strength and witnessed demonstrations of cavalry, archery and combat techniques. While these inspections did not take place on a regular basis after the reign of the Qianlong emperor, ceremonial suits of armour continued to be made, if never worn.

MEASUREMENTS
overall 41 cm., 16 1/8 in.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION
thinly cast in iron in a dome shape, the exterior decorated in parcel-gilt with an en face five-clawed dragon and four other dragons in profile encircling the sides, the scales and other details finely incised through the sheets of applied gilt, all surrounded by 'flaming pearls', clouds and auspicious emblems above an attached band with a single-bracket lobe in the front similarly decorated with a pair of gilt dragons centred on a 'flaming pearl', the sides studded with evenly spaced nail heads for attaching a piece of cloth or leather around the base of the helmet, the front securing a reticulated gilt brim containing a pair of confronting dragons bordered by lobed and beaded edges, surmounted by a reticulated domed cap with further dragons covering the open top of the helmet, attached to a tall hollow tube securing a removable iron trident finial encircled by red-dyed horse hair, the iron surface oxidized to dark brown, stand
Attachments
QIanlongEraGoldHelmet.jpeg
QIanlongEraGoldHelmet.jpeg (25.16 KiB) Viewed 6661 times

kg6cig
Rank: Frequent Contributor
Posts: 23
Joined: Sun Jun 13, 2010 12:32 pm

Re: Period Chinese Armor

Post by kg6cig » Sat Apr 02, 2011 11:53 pm

Scott M. Rodell wrote:
Scott M. Rodell wrote:... There are no Chinese half-swording techniques that I am aware of...
I wrote that above, but I might have been mistaken, depending on how you define "half-swording techniques." And I should start by admitting I know very little about the proper nomenclature of European swordsmanship & have little direct experience with these arts. So this could be a good example of the dangers of a little but of knowledge...

In any case, a student wrote me:
"Dear Laoshi,
In a GRTC forum post I recently read... you mentioned there are no Chinese half swording techniques... I may have understood the terminology and would like some clarification. My understanding is that any technique with one or more hands on the blade itself, guiding or supporting the strike, is half swording... The dao form has a number of strikes and deflections with the hand on the back of the blade, and so does the miaodao form. I would've called all of these Chinese half sword techniques. So where am I misunderstander, please?"

I understand half-swording to be where the front part of the blade is actually grasped but the left hand so that the tip of the sword can be used to jab & thrust like a short spear. There is no technique I know of where the blade is grabbed in that fashion. There certainly are many Chinese dao technique where the second hand is place on the back of the blade (with the fingers running parallel with the blade edge) to add strength to a cut or to back up a deflect.
Yes, you understand the term "halfsword"- or "halbschwert"- correctly. And truthfully, I've never seen such a technique in any other system. Many people have used this to justify their belief that European swords were not sharp. This is not true- halfswording can be done with a _very_ sharp blade; I've done it myself.

I suspect that in other cultures the technique never developed because it was never needed. In all other armors that I have seen, there are gaps into which you can cut or thrust without impediment (well, little impediment, anyway). In 15th c. armor, those gaps are covered with mail. The _only_ way to hurt the man within is to set the point into the links of mail and start shoving into the gushy bits beneath. Halfswording solves that problem neatly.

It's important to rememeber that when halfswording, the left hand does nothing more than guide the point- the right hand does the thrust, always. This is what makes the technique work. It does involve some danger, though, and if it wasn't necessary I'm guessing there was just no need for its development in other cultures.

Regards,

Joseph

David R
Rank: Yang Chenfu
Rank: Yang Chenfu
Posts: 30
Joined: Sun Jan 02, 2011 7:59 pm

Re: Period Chinese Armor

Post by David R » Sun Apr 03, 2011 9:33 am

Textile armour part 2. Sorry to be gone so long, life catches up and needs to be dealt with sometimes.
The other type of textile armour you see a lot of is the multiple layers of woven textile type. This was used in Western Europe, India, North Africa and Pre Columbian America and probably anywhere there was sufficient spare cloth. The number of layers varies from a minimum of 12, up to 30 which is a number that turns up as a maximum in a number of places.
A French ordinance of the 1420's specifies a maximum of 20 layers for the limbs, and 30 for the body and goes on to recommend old washed linen or new cotton cloth. Interestingly English archers of the late 15thC are on record as saying the older, softer and more supple the linen the better the protection. A 12 layer "jack" as these were called was considered enough to arrow proof a mail shirt, if worn over the top of the mail, this appears in the ordinances of the Burgundian army of the 15thC. A 30 layer jack was specified by the same as stand alone armour. Intriguingly the Ducal body guard replaced their brigandines with jacks later in the century as being the more servicable armour.
Mesoamerican warriors wore cotton armour which resisted arrows better than the Conquisterdores mail, and Cortes' men adopted the local armour in place of their metal gear.
Tipu again had an armour of 30 layers, , but not sure of the material, though cotton was the norm in India. This was found to be made of 30 older garments layered and sewn together. And this brings up a point about these cloth armours, they were not cheap, even Tipu used recycled fabric, though the point about old washed fabric may be relevant here. A 30 layer jack used as much cloth as 30 shirts, and a poor man can not afford 30 shirts, so not a peasant armour.
Another point is the spec. for soft worn and washed fabric, not as a economic measure, but for superior performance. I made a sample of 12 and of 30 layers using the softest finest washed linen I had in store, a very different thing to the layers of stiff canvas or coarse burlap often used in replicas.
The only original armours of this type I have been able to physicaly get my hands on were Indian and North African, non of them were more than 12 mill thick, so not the wadded eiderdowns so often seen in reenactment, all were hand stitched, but some to maximise flexability, and some to max stiffness. I suspect the role demanded by the garment was a factor here. Indian shoulder and neckguards very stiff, body armour, Indian and African more flexible.
Again I am producing a long document here, and so will finish. There is more, but I will await some sort of response before boring everyone to death with my burbleing.

kg6cig
Rank: Frequent Contributor
Posts: 23
Joined: Sun Jun 13, 2010 12:32 pm

Re: Period Chinese Armor

Post by kg6cig » Fri Apr 08, 2011 9:30 am

David-

You said you made some samples; have you tried any cutting or thrusting techniques on them?

A note: I don't do "test cutting". Our school does not practice it because, in virtually every instance one can see, the desire for a clean cut overrides the importance of an accurate cut. In german swordsmanship, you do not perform the big cuts that go down to the ground. (There is a time- the Wechselhau- but that's a fake-out to lure him in.)

However, I am interested in how the material performs. In studying FMA, there's a huge reliance on slicing. Sadly, even a t-shirt provides surprisingly good resistance vs. a knife slice. I am curious, therefore, about how much protection these cloth armors provided.

Oh, and BTW, I find your burbling pretty interesting and useful.

Regards,

Joseph

David R
Rank: Yang Chenfu
Rank: Yang Chenfu
Posts: 30
Joined: Sun Jan 02, 2011 7:59 pm

Re: Period Chinese Armor

Post by David R » Mon Apr 11, 2011 1:33 pm

This garment is a Coat Armour, or a Jupon and current thinking is that this and the other surviving examples were light armours, most likely worn over mail body armour. They appear in "low threat level" situations, and the Italian knights seemed to like them as shipboard armour where you would get a lot of arrow strikes, but the chance of a horsed lance attack was ...very slight. 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. Often, always with a rich textile cover, silk, satin, brocade or embroidery.
Attachments
jupon.jpg
jupon or coat armour
jupon.jpg (46.19 KiB) Viewed 6561 times

David R
Rank: Yang Chenfu
Rank: Yang Chenfu
Posts: 30
Joined: Sun Jan 02, 2011 7:59 pm

Re: Period Chinese Armor

Post by David R » Mon Apr 11, 2011 1:41 pm

These are Indian coats of ten thousand nails. They can be of either construction, wadded cotton wool, or layered woven textile. Pieces like the shoulder guards can have a wooden lath incorporated to give rigidity.
Attachments
mughul_coat_of_1000_nails.jpg
Another coat of 10,000 nails.
mughul_coat_of_1000_nails.jpg (180.11 KiB) Viewed 6560 times
ahm_0011_500h.jpg
I am informed that the "nails" can be glued or sewn on, for cosmetic reasons only. But I imagine the larger bosses would be functional.
ahm_0011_500h.jpg (57.54 KiB) Viewed 6560 times
rajput.jpg
NB exterior reenforcement plates.
rajput.jpg (27.12 KiB) Viewed 6560 times

David R
Rank: Yang Chenfu
Rank: Yang Chenfu
Posts: 30
Joined: Sun Jan 02, 2011 7:59 pm

Re: Period Chinese Armor

Post by David R » Mon Apr 11, 2011 1:47 pm

A North African, Sudanese layered fabric armour, the one I axamined up close, (handled) was little more if any thicker than 1cm thick, and was made as serious use armour.
Attachments
sudanese_armour_plan.gif
plan
sudanese_armour_plan.gif (15.06 KiB) Viewed 6560 times
sudanese_armour_collar.jpg
Detail
sudanese_armour_collar.jpg (21.48 KiB) Viewed 6560 times
sudanese_quilted_armour.jpg
Patchwork exterior
sudanese_quilted_armour.jpg (118.88 KiB) Viewed 6560 times

David R
Rank: Yang Chenfu
Rank: Yang Chenfu
Posts: 30
Joined: Sun Jan 02, 2011 7:59 pm

Re: Period Chinese Armor

Post by David R » Mon Apr 11, 2011 2:01 pm

Sorry for the image heavy posts, but at a certain point, one picture is worth.....These pics are of a couple of the few surviving Euro Jacks, and are of the wadded cotton wool layered with woven textile type. As you can see the are homongousley thick, but as a contemperary illustration shows they are a substitute for a plate cuirass.
I will leave it here for now, and pick up my thread (he he) later.Regarding testing the samples I made, no, not yet, and I am not too sure that there would be any point to it. We know this stuff was used all over the world for centuries, tested on the battlefield by men whose lives depended on it. What would we prove or find out that was not already in the Historical record.
Attachments
ReneJack5.jpg
Possibly worn over mail, but not necc'ry
ReneJack5.jpg (21.45 KiB) Viewed 6559 times
DSCN0399.jpg
thick!
DSCN0399.jpg (9.72 KiB) Viewed 6559 times
WaffenF6cke.jpg
European jacks in a German Museum.
WaffenF6cke.jpg (9.92 KiB) Viewed 6559 times

David R
Rank: Yang Chenfu
Rank: Yang Chenfu
Posts: 30
Joined: Sun Jan 02, 2011 7:59 pm

Re: Period Chinese Armor

Post by David R » Mon Apr 11, 2011 4:55 pm

A note: I don't do "test cutting". Our school does not practice it because, in virtually every instance one can see, the desire for a clean cut overrides the importance of an accurate cut. In german swordsmanship, you do not perform the big cuts that go down to the ground. (There is a time- the Wechselhau- but that's a fake-out to lure him in.)
Interesting thing you said there. Many, many years ago I worked with a man I knew only as "Max" who had been an"assistant district comissioner" in the Sudan in the 1920s. Amongst other anecdotes he described the swordsmanship of the locality. A feint, of an overhand cut to the ground, followed by a backhand slice to the inside thigh, was a standard tech. He sat in on the native trial following such a combat, the loser had lost his left leg at the knee , and the winner had to pay a blood price of nine black camels in compensation.

These men are gone now, and I feel priveliged to have met one of them. Max had many stories of his time as an officer of the Empire, now all gone with him to the grave.

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 4 guests