Saber and Shield

Discussion of Chinese historical swordsmanship from all styles.

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Saber and Shield

Post by iglazer » Thu Nov 03, 2005 5:50 pm

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A painting of a Chinese "Tigerman", ca. 1850, armed with a dao and tengpai (rattan shield). These troops were used to break up enemy cavalry charges.
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Post by iglazer » Thu Nov 03, 2005 5:51 pm

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Shields used in formation to create a shield wall during a Taiping Rebellion battle, ca. 1865.

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Post by Linda Heenan » Thu Nov 03, 2005 11:56 pm

What is the tengpai surface covered with? It looks smooth enough to paint. Was it cloth or leather, or what? Was it just lacquer over the rattan? If we were to make our own, what would be needed?



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Post by Scott M. Rodell » Mon Nov 07, 2005 9:41 am

Linda Heenan wrote:What is the tengpai surface covered with? It looks smooth enough to paint... If we were to make our own, what would be needed?


The tengpai are essentially big baskets, so it has a surface like a tightly woven basket, it was not covered. Often the front surface was painted with a tiger face. To make one you just need a long piece of rattan about 1.5 cm. in diameter to form to the spiral from the center to the edge & rattan & thin rattan strips to bind this together.
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Post by iglazer » Mon Nov 07, 2005 11:00 am

Front Image



Bank

Image





This Qing dynasty Tengpai probably dates from around 1865.



Diameter: 74 cm., 29"

Height: 13 cm., 5"

Flat edge rim, before dome: 5 cm., 1 3/4"

Weight: approximately 1.5 kg., 3 lbs.
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Post by iglazer » Mon Nov 07, 2005 11:00 am

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Post by Chris Lampe » Mon Nov 07, 2005 11:26 am

That's beautiful!



Is it a reproduction or antique?



I would guess it's repro but I have no idea as to the lifespan of rattan so I can't make any kind of realistic judgement based on it's condition.



I also have had a question about the first illustration.



Is the tiger outfit a stylistic embellishment on the artist's part or did these men actually wear an outfit resembling a tiger? It's hard to imagine that they did but I'm sure there have been more unusual outfits worn into battle.



BTW, breaking up cavalry charges with a single-hand saber and rattan shield doesn't sound like a job I'd want!

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Post by Scott M. Rodell » Mon Nov 07, 2005 12:09 pm

Chris Lampe wrote:Is it a reproduction or antique?


Antique. They are rare, this example is the best I've encounter. I also examined 2 in West Point"s Museum collection. Those 2 were captured during the Boxer Rebellion & weren't as nice as this one.


Chris Lampe wrote: ...I have no idea as to the lifespan of rattan...


They are undoubtly rare because they took a beating in use & those that did not see combat could easily rot away. Those damaged after battle were probably used to start the evenings camp fire. To put their rarity in prespective, I've examined in the neighborhood of 3000 anitque Chinese swords, but only 3 old tengpai.


Chris Lampe wrote:Is the tiger outfit a stylistic embellishment on the artist's part or did these men actually wear an outfit resembling a tiger?...


This is a realistic representation.


Chris Lampe wrote:..breaking up cavalry charges with... doesn't sound like a job I'd want!


Sitting in the general's chair giving orders from the rear is a much better job, if you can get it... plus, I think the general gets served hot tea whenever he feels thirsty.

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Post by Chris Lampe » Mon Nov 07, 2005 1:33 pm

Scott,



Thanks for the informative reply!



Now that I go back and look at the picture again I see the caption below stating that it is from the Qing Dynasty. I guess I was so impressed with the shield itself I missed that part.

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Post by Linda Heenan » Mon Nov 07, 2005 1:45 pm

Thanks for the details and closeups. It looks fairly easy to make. I have a little bit of background in basket weaving because it was one of the skills our family took up for a hobby and extra money in the winter when the cows weren't milking. Something pretty close to those materials should be obtainable from a craft shop. Then it is only a matter of soaking the round cane for flexibility and weaving two strips of flat cane alternately, and moulding the shape as you go.

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Post by iglazer » Fri Nov 11, 2005 5:11 pm

Image

Image



Here is another example of a Chinese rattan shield. This example has a more peaked, conical shaped dome than the first example. Tengpai of this same are generally associated with Southern China.

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Post by iglazer » Fri Nov 11, 2005 5:13 pm

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Post by Linda Heenan » Sat Aug 05, 2006 8:46 pm

Yesterday, between saber and shield bouts with a spear wielding member of my reenactment group, he mentioned that his brother has a tengpai and that he often used it in reenactment battles. He shared some insights I thought people might be interested to hear.



I had noticed, during our fights that the shield was very useful for creating openings against a spearsman. Very little else is safely effective. A sharp spear can catch in the shield long enough to get inside the range. It is also more protective in deflection than a sword by itself.



The tengpai my duifang's brother has, came from those in use by the police force in China many years ago. While working with it in various battle scenaria, he discovered that even though it is very light, it is made in such a way as to be resiliant under attack. When hit with a sharp sword, it doesn't just crack or cut. It yields to the blow and bounces out again, making it more difficult to destroy than it looks.



Another useful thing he discovered is that the method of weaving allows the rattan to part just long enough to trap an arrow. The arrows don't go very far through, but are caught as the weave briefly parts and then clamps back on them.



This week I am going to talk with a local basket maker and see how well he can replicate not only the dimensions of the ]tengpai, but its resiliance. Then the fun begins ......

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Post by josh stout » Thu Aug 10, 2006 7:57 pm

Rattan is pretty tough and hard to cut on its own, but you should be able to make it even harder by smoke curing it. They do this in Indonesia by hanging the rattan or bamboo over the cooking fires for any amount of time ranging from 3 months to over a year. You wouldn't want it to get too hot, just well smoked over a long time.



The second shield shown looks like it may have had this treatment, but age may have the same effect on the color.

Josh
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Knife & Tengpai Video

Post by Scott M. Rodell » Wed Oct 04, 2006 11:06 am

You don't see many Chinese Forms using both a dao & tengpai, but I found this Video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CbE45V2Puzw

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