24 November 2014

Scale armours from 'Yu Zi Shi San Zhong Mi Shu Bing Heng (《喻子十三種秘書兵衡》)'

Hun Jin Jia (渾金甲, lit. 'Native gold armour')
Ming Chinese bronze scale armour
Bronze helmet, mask and body armour, from 'Yu Zi Shi San Zhong Mi Shu Bing Heng (《喻子十三種秘書兵衡》)'.
Despite its name, Hun Jin Jia is actually made of bronze scales (instead of actual native gold) attached to common rush (juncus effusus) textile backing. This armour covers its wearer from head to toe, and is intended to be used by high-ranking officers. Rare among Ming armours of this period, Hun Jin Jia also includes an armoured mask and boots.

Long Lin Jia (龍鱗甲, lit. 'Dragon scale armour')
Ming Chinese leather scale armour
Two helmets, a mask and a body armour, from 'Yu Zi Shi San Zhong Mi Shu Bing Heng (《喻子十三種秘書兵衡》)'.
Long Lin Jia follows the same basic design as Hun Jin Jia, but substitutes the bronze scales with scales made of tung oiled cowhide. It is intended to be used by first line troops.

Xie Di Jia (鞋底甲, lit. 'Shoe sole armour')
Ming Chinese scale gambeson
A Xie Di Jia and two boots, from 'Yu Zi Shi San Zhong Mi Shu Bing Heng (《喻子十三種秘書兵衡》)'.
A Xie Di Jia is likely a literal shoe sole armour – that is, its scales are made by stiching multiple layers of linen cloth together, similar to how traditional Chinese shoe soles are made. Essentially a "scale gambeson", this armour is intended to be used by second line troops.

A work-in-progress traditional Chinese shoe sole.
By the time this book was written, Ming army had largely abandoned traditional scale or lamellar armour in favour of brigandine, cotton and paper armour, so these scale armours were unlikely to see widespread use.


  1. What kind of helmet does the 七梁盔 resemble?

    What sort of function do the raised brims serve,or are they the result of artistic interpretation?(Such as the one's depicted in the 抗倭圖卷?)

  2. It is hard to think of another helmet that resemble 七梁盔/Seven ridge helmet. It does remind me of some Philippines Moro bronze helmet though.

    The exact function of raised brims is unknown, but this is a common feature on other pre-modern helmet (i.e. Spanish Morion), so artistic interpretation is unlikely.

  3. The rim of the helmet is for protection. A (sword)blow to the head may hit the rim before the actual helmet.

    A raised rim is simply stronger than a flat one.

    PS. Great blog!

    1. Good day and welcome to my blog! And thanks for the info!

  4. Wansui and I have discussed this helmet at length, but have not been able to determine its shape with certainty. Raised rims are, as has been pointed out for stopping blows, but the shape depicted here seems to show raised points in four places (though one may have only two), like a morion which as fore and aft points, but with additional points on the sides. Its not exactly easy to reconcile this with other helmet styles. It may be an artefact of the artist trying to render a brim that's turned upwards all around, but I don't think this likely as its pretty clearly depicted as distinct points. The leftmost example on the Long Lin Jia could be that, but the rightmost doesn't really look like it could be, and is apparently distinct.
    It bothers me because I want to try to sculpt it and its not easy to interpret this into a physical 3d object.

    1. Long time no see, how’s the sculpt going?

      I know it is very hard to reconstruct based on the drawings in Ming treatises, given the abstraction, terrible drawing skill, and the fact that they didn't draw in 3D or perspective.

      Personall I imagine this helmet as something similar to Morion-burgonet though.

    2. http://i.imgur.com/ToGKZ3b.jpg
      Here's a picture I mashed together to compare the Chinese helmet and a Morion-burgonet.

  5. To me it looks like it could it be shaped like a square roof, with the points turned up.
    The line from the top to a point is a double curve; the line from one point to another is a single curve.

    The right helmet looks somewhat more rounded, with the points turned up.
    The left one is more flat, with the points barely raised. The line from the top is almost a single curve.

    1. Left helmet is easier to imagine, as slightly raised cone helmet was fairly common in China, Vietnam and Japan (Jingasa).

  6. Hi 春秋戰國, rest assured I am a frequent, almost daily visitor to the blog, though I may not often be able to contribute to the discussion!

    I agree the leftmost helmet does look conical, but if you rotate the shape in you mind the raised points at the edge would be the same height the whole way round (unless they are two raised points like a morion). It may well be conical, but the artist may have depicted it imprecisely.
    The rightmost helmet is more problematic. Is it the seven ridge helmet? If so the first google image result gives this;
    which is in line with Black Prince's suggestion, and I think, is the shape most literally interpreted from the drawing. In fact its pretty much the shape I had sketched out from the drawing before seeing this post while trying to get a 3d idea of it, though it seems an odd shape for a helmet. Strangely the drawing omits the ridges that would appear to give it its name (unless I am confusing the helmet in the Hun Jin Jia with the other two, though they are all quite similar).

    Sculpting is coming along, albeit slowly; this week I sent for casting all the generic helmets and weapons I want to dolly to save time when sculpting individuals, along with the first small group of finished figures; unarmoured swordsmen.

    1. Seven ridge helmet (first picture) is bronze, while the other two are leather. Only the bronze one has ridges.

  7. That's true.

    I think this modern reconstruction of the Native gold armour is quite good, though I am not sure about the leggings, perhaps they appear in another manual illustration, or perhaps they have been extrapolated from the Shoe sole armour.
    Illustration credit; ttp://blog.sina.com.cn/kungfuland


    1. The modern drawing is quite good, although as always he took some liberies with the depiction of the armour (i.e throat armour).

      By legging, do you mean the dress beneath his armour? I think the body armour itself is pretty spot-on.

      The armoured boots is conjectured. In the original text, even the bronze armour set used leather scale boots.

  8. At what year, by what troops, meaning more specific than "front liners, etc" used it if possible, as well as what weapons would be used in conjunction with it?

    1. I can only say that the book was written during the final years of the Ming Dynsaty, although the armour might had been in use before the book.

    2. So basically the book was pretty outdated even in that period? or perhaps they actually do tend to use both brigandine and scale armor?

    3. No, it was not unusual for military treatises to record things from the ages past for the sake of “completeness” (Wubeizhi contains vast information copied from Song Dynasty Wujing Zongyao for example), but at least these three suits of armours appear to be fairly recent by the time of the book's writing.

      Lamellar armour was never entirely phased out throughout Ming period.

    4. The design of these armors, as well as the hat-shaped helmets, really reminds me of the armor worn by southern Ming cavalryman on Wako Zukan (Wokou Tujuan). It's likely that such armor might be still in use in the south during the late Ming.


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