Period Chinese Armor

Discussion of Chinese historical swordsmanship from all styles.

Moderator: Scott M. Rodell

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

Period Chinese Armor

Post by Scott M. Rodell » Fri Apr 01, 2005 9:02 am

The increasing interest in Chinese Historical Swordssmanship has not unexpectedly lead to an interest in Chinese armor & its relationship to swordsmanship. During the Late Qing dynasty, the period when the Yang Family was actively training members of the Chinese military, little, if any, proper body armor was in use. (See: Historical Illustrations of the Qing Military http://www.sevenstarstrading.com/articl ... 20Military) That is to say, there is no evidence of dingjia (nail armor), Chinese brigindine armor, in use even in the late 18th c., on the battlefield. This is not to say that there was no armor in use at all.



Judging from examination of period photos & paintings, one can assume that the Bannermen wore heavy padded tunics. I haven't preformed test cuts on a wad of thick cloth or an old coat, but I have the feeling that it is a lot more difficult to cut through thick fabric that moves & slips, than bamboo or other stiff material often used for test cutting.



Paper also makes excellent armor. Koreans made use of paper armor. I recall that this armor was strong enough to stop balls fired by matchlocks at the time. I have not come across any mention of the Chinese using paper armor (paper was not the cheap comodity it is today in the 19th c.). However, its hard to imagine that some old books weren't stuffed inside the jackets of those who had them. Also one has to expect that the peasants who were on the front lines in the various militia of the late Qing, didn't do something to armor themselves, afterall, these guys were use to making things with their hands everyday. For example, boiled pig skin is very tough stuff. It was often used as the leather to cover dao sheaths. I can not imagine that these farmers turned militiamen did not use whatever animal skin they could get hold of to make gaunlets & greaves. Test cutting has shown that a layer of pig skin alone will not stop a heavy sword cut, however, in the heat of battle, not every cut lands as nicely as a well timed test cut.



Where does this leave us? Probably just about where the average Joe was during the Taiping Rebellion... making armor out of what we can.

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

Wicker Helmets

Post by Scott M. Rodell » Fri Apr 01, 2005 9:12 am

Speaking of peasants being use to making things with their hands, there are writen period reports from the Taiping Rebellion (1860's) of the rebels making use of wicker helmets. When you realize that these guys were farmers who made baskets all the time, its not such a surprise that that wove a basket the size of their head & used it as a helmet. The rebels were called "chang mao" (long hair) by the Qing side because they did not shave their forehead in Manchu fashion which was required by the Qing state of its subjects. These "long hairs" braided their hair & wrapped it around their heads. Over this plait of hair, they used the wicker helmets. Reports from the battlefield at the time said that soldiers were unable to cut thru these helmets.* Unfortunately, no examples of these helmets or drawing of them have survived to our time.



*So Mimic, maybe you should just grow your hair really long, perhaps you'll start a new style amongst swordmen?[/i]

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

Not Body Armor, Shields

Post by Scott M. Rodell » Fri Apr 01, 2005 9:25 am

While little proper body armor was in use throughout most of the Qing period, another kind of armor was in widespread use: tengpai (rattan shields). These shields were little more than big baskets. Not only are they easy to make, they are cheap & can easily stop a blow from a sword & stop arrows, though not musket balls. So its no surpirse that the cast straped Qing government made use of tengpai. They also have an advantage over body armor, they do not cause your body to over heat the way armor does.



I've been studying the use of dao & tengpai from General Qi Jiguang's manuals. The use of the dao & tengpai are part of my next book on Chinese swordsmanship. These manuals were popular amongst the literati who lead the militia during the Taiping Rebellion. (I own one old Qing era tengpai. When I was in China last month, I gave detailed photos & measurements to a manufacture I know to make me a sample, hopefully he can produce them at an affordable price. Then we can try them out ourselves...).

User avatar
Linda Heenan
Rank: Chang San feng
Rank: Chang San feng
Posts: 617
Joined: Tue Nov 23, 2004 3:58 am
Location: Australia
Contact:

Post by Linda Heenan » Fri Apr 01, 2005 3:45 pm

http://www.cnwushu.com/bingqi/duanbq/img/tengpai.jpg



This was the only picture I could find that was named tengpai. Were they as flat as this appears to be? I have two shields made of similar material and they have been tested in combat many times agaist blunt steel swords. I made one of mine from a wicker laundry basket lid and the other from a shallow woven basket. Mine have boiled leather stretched over the outside though. However, even with an extra hardened dome of boiled leather fixed to the outside, my son was able to drive the tip of a sharp wooden jian, straight through the leather. It did not go through the basket weave underneath though.



Fighting with a shield in one hand and a sword in the other is very fast. Jian training is an advantage against any other style I've seen so far. The way we use counter balance and circling back into position for the next strike, are perfect for use with a light round shield. As the shield circles off the attack, the other hand comes in with a sword strike. The shield does the deflecting. Because jian training teaches us to use both hands at the same time in different, but united action, it makes shield work simple. Having done nothing with dao yet (only European type sabres), I can't speak about that.



I also have a padded tunic, called a gambersen. Although it was not made to any Chinese style, but is early 12th century European, perhaps it is a similar idea to the ones the bannermen wore. Again, this article is good protection against a slash, since hitting it is a bit similar to pushing against a sheet pegged on a line. With a body behind it though, it would not stop an accurate thrust from a sword or spear, and couldn't stop an arrow. It would mask the shape of the body to make finding a lethal target more difficult, and it may prevent a weapon penetrating deeply enough to kill. Incidentally, this was made from less than $20 worth of materials bought from the op shop. I hate sewing but wasn't going to pay $300 for someone else to make it.



*pokes Hendrick* If we get to meet in the future, how about some fun with Chinese swords and rattan shields :wink:

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

Links to Chinese Armor Sites

Post by Scott M. Rodell » Fri Feb 03, 2006 3:32 pm

http://www3.uakron.edu/worldciv/china/ch-armor.html

http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Olympus/3505/page6.html

The painting of officers from the Battle of Quram site shows many in dingjia & as well as maile shirt armor-
http://www.battle-of-qurman.com.cn/e/list.htm

Image

Fude ( 富 德 fu de )

User avatar
Tashi James
Rank: Chang San feng
Rank: Chang San feng
Posts: 184
Joined: Thu Jun 30, 2005 8:40 pm
Location: 2012 Sydney
Contact:

armour

Post by Tashi James » Sat Feb 04, 2006 9:21 pm

In a previous style I studied we would have freehanging newspaper and try and pierce it with differing hand strikes adding another sheet each time we were successful. After about twenty sheets it gets quite tough to do.



Perhaps with many layers of paper or linen even with some kind of lamination one could produce a cheaper [though rather arduous process] for armour production
"There is nothing that does not become easier through familiarity" (Santideva).

"We become what we do repeatedly. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit" (Aristotle).

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

Re: armour

Post by Scott M. Rodell » Sun Feb 05, 2006 8:14 am

Tashi James wrote:...Perhaps with many layers of paper or linen even with some kind of lamination one could produce a cheaper... armour production


As mentioned above, Koreans did use paer to make an inexpensive (in comparison to brigindine armor with metal plates or chain mail) type of armor. Existing examples are quite rare. This is probably because they either rotted away, or more likely, were taken apart again to use the layer of paper as writing paper. In our time, paper is cheap. In earlier times, it was a luxury item. To my knowledge, the Chinese never made paper armor.



As for layers of cloth, heavy clothing does break the speed, & thus effectiveness, of a cut considerably. Silk, though expensive, is quite tough. During the Mongol Yuan dynasty, a silk robe was worn under their armor. This was so that when a barbed arrow pierced their armor would not penetrate the silk, which would instead be dragged into the wound. With the silk robe wrapping the barbed arrow head, it could be pulled out, instead of having the barbs catch & having to be cut out.



Peasants during the Qing dynasty would not have have enough copper to purchase a silk under garment, but I bet they wrapped the most vulnerable areas of their bodies, such as the forearm & neck, with whatever pieces of cloth they could find. I also imagine that they made guanlets out of boiled pig skin, which is quite tough.

josh stout
Rank: Chang San feng
Rank: Chang San feng
Posts: 339
Joined: Wed Jun 30, 2004 10:17 am
Location: maplewood NJ
Contact:

Post by josh stout » Mon Feb 06, 2006 2:12 pm

Before everything got watered down in contemporary wushu, the old kung fu sashes were ten meters or longer. We still use ones like that. The ones we use are cotton, or cotton and wool. The main use is like a weight belt, but they also give good protection to the kidneys. At one point in Indonesia the people at my school thought a fight was going to start. The standard weapon used by Indonesians in that region is the golok, a short chopping sword. As a precaution, the people at the school wrapped my teacher from waist to armpits with rolls of sashes. The idea was to block any less than perfect chops, and to give support to muscles that might get shallow cuts. Sort of like a bandage already in place. I would guess that wrapping with cloth would be a standard precaution if you thought you might get cut.

Josh
hidup itu silat, silat itu hidup

-Suhu

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

Qing Period Chinese Armor

Post by Scott M. Rodell » Thu Dec 02, 2010 9:21 am

This QIng dynasty dingjia (bringindine) armor was recently actioned in China. Described as being from the Kangxi period, & actually having being worn by the Emperor himself (though no documentation is supplied) it is the style that the Qianlong period regulations would described as being for the Qin Wang or princely rank.
Attachments
U806P1081T2D1618F6DT20101116162805.jpg
U806P1081T2D1618F6DT20101116162805.jpg (76.49 KiB) Viewed 15336 times

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

Re: Period Chinese Armor

Post by kg6cig » Mon Dec 06, 2010 12:06 am

I think it's important to remember how a little armor can be effective protection against a sword. Boiled leather can pretty effectively stop a sword blow. Like mail, it's somewhat vulnerable to thrusts. I suspect that the brigandine you showed would protect against any cut that could be delivered. Brig is relatively flexible, so you could still get your arm/ribs/etc broken by a hard blow.

I'm curious as to how well it resists a thrust. In European tradition, you halfsword- gripping the blade midway with the left hand- to guide it to vulnerable areas (armpit, groin, etc) and to help set it into the mail there in order to shove it deeper. It's not easy. But, it's more effective than stabbing a breastplate, which is a complete waste of time. Would stabbing the brigandine you showed be effective? Or do you still need to aim for the gaps?

Also, were the gaps- and I'm thinking the armpit specifically, here, because it's a prime target for us- covered with mail or anything similar?

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 » Fri Dec 10, 2010 2:18 pm

kg6cig wrote:... remember how a little armor can be effective protection against a sword... I suspect that the brigandine you showed would protect against any cut that could be delivered. Brig is relatively flexible, so you could still get your arm/ribs/etc broken by a hard blow.
I believe your assertion that one could still get an arm or other bone broken thru this sort of armor is a valid one.
kg6cig wrote:... I'm curious as to how well it resists a thrust.
Honestly, I don't know, I'd like to test a piece of quality reproduction armor, but don;t have any...
kg6cig wrote:... In European tradition,... halfsword- ... Would stabbing the brigandine you showed be effective? Or do you still need to aim for the gaps?
There are two handed thrusting techniques with the jian that I always thought were deigned to stabilize a punch through armor, otherwise, there would be no reason to employ a two-handed grip.
kg6cig wrote:...Also, were the gaps ... armpit specifically, here, because it's a prime target for us- covered with mail or anything similar?
The main gap in Qing brigandine (dingjia) is certainly under the arms. I think certain sweeping cuts (such as chou) to the inside of the leg could also brush aside the tasset enough to get in a solid cut to the leg, but you have to be fairly close to hit that cut.

Nik
Rank: Chang San feng
Rank: Chang San feng
Posts: 292
Joined: Tue Aug 12, 2008 11:06 am
Contact:

Re: Period Chinese Armor

Post by Nik » Fri Dec 10, 2010 2:54 pm

I could get reproduction clothing made in Pakistan from a trustable source (provided the infrastructure is back again), as long as I get a good specification about what they should do. As of the well-rounded expert going by the name of "Wiki", brigandine comes in several makes, from hardened leather to steel plates riveted onto a leather carrier.

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

Re: Period Chinese Armor

Post by kg6cig » Sat Dec 11, 2010 12:19 pm

Scott M. Rodell wrote:
Honestly, I don't know, I'd like to test a piece of quality reproduction armor, but don;t have any...
Do you know enough about the construction to recreate, say, 10"x10x swatch? That would at least give a starting point. It looks like hexagonal pieces riveted closely together. I don't know about overlap or anything, so that would be an issue. Would the facing material be leather or quilted cloth?

See, if you want a reproduction set, you'd need to talk to Nik or whomever. But I can make a _piece_ if I know the construction, at least one close enough to get an idea.
Scott M. Rodell wrote: There are two handed thrusting techniques with the jian that I always thought were deigned to stabilize a punch through armor, otherwise, there would be no reason to employ a two-handed grip.
In that case, I think you're saying _through_ the brig- as in, through the gaps between the plates? I'm making sure I understand the technique- again, in European armored fighting, there's no punching through the armor, at least by the mid-14th C. What you're punching into is the mail covering the gaps, or the few points where there's _no_ armor.
Scott M. Rodell wrote:The main gap in Qing brigandine (dingjia) is certainly under the arms. I think certain sweeping cuts (such as chou) to the inside of the leg could also brush aside the tasset enough to get in a solid cut to the leg, but you have to be fairly close to hit that cut.
So, if you stab for the armpit, there's nothing really to impede it if you get into the gap? Maybe the arming jack (or whatever the term is in Chinese)? Same with the leg?

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 » Sat Dec 11, 2010 4:02 pm

kg6cig wrote:
Scott M. Rodell wrote:
Honestly, I don't know, I'd like to test a piece of quality reproduction armor, but don't have any...
Do you know enough about the construction to recreate, say, 10"x10x swatch?...the facing material be leather or quilted cloth?

See, if you want a reproduction set... I can make a _piece_ if I know the construction, at least one close enough to get an idea.
That would be very helpful. I've handled all the 18th c. examples at the Met, & the plates are rectangular, riveted to the back of cloth. Each plate is dished tempered steel.
Scott M. Rodell wrote: There are two handed thrusting techniques with the jian that I always thought were deigned to stabilize a punch through armor, otherwise, there would be no reason to employ a two-handed grip.
kg6cig wrote:... I think you're saying _through_ the brig- as in, through the gaps between the plates? I'm making sure I understand the technique- again...
Remember, my thought are only theory until tested in armor, but while the plates fit very closely together, it seems possible that a thrust to the border of two plates might penetrate some what.
Scott M. Rodell wrote:The main gap in Qing brigandine (dingjia) is certainly under the arms. I think certain sweeping cuts (such as chou) to the inside of the leg could also brush aside the tasset enough to get in a solid cut to the leg, but you have to be fairly close to hit that cut.
kg6cig wrote: So, if you stab for the armpit, there's nothing really to impede it if you get into the gap? Maybe the arming jack (or whatever the term is in Chinese)? Same with the leg?
No, the Chinese certainly worn gambeson under their armor, we can see that in 18th c. paintings where they are wearing chain maile jackets, see the illustration below. We just don't know, much detail about these gambeson.

Manchu Officer: Ayuxi / mandsch. Ayusi ( 阿 玉 锡 a yu xi ) -
Image

Manchu Officer: Duan-ji-bu ( 端 济 布 duan ji bu ) -
Image

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

Inside View of Qing Period Armor

Post by Scott M. Rodell » Thu Dec 23, 2010 11:08 am

Image

This image will provide a farily good idea of how tight the plates are on a Qing brigandine (dingjia) jacket. This is a general's armor.

From: http://www.tonglou.com.cn/space.php?uid ... &id=626167

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 4 guests