Song Dynasty armor and other form of Chinese armor

Jan 2019
Southeast Asia
Hello, this is my first thread.

I have often read Historum debates and am interested in studying Asian armor.

I actually got my interest in studying Chinese armor from this forum.

During my research, I noticed that Song Dynasty armor is often hailed as the pinnacle of Chinese armor in protectiveness, design, coverage and weight.

However I found Chinese armor from other period that looks heavier or more sophisticated than Song period armor, so why are they never talked about?

I realize that the more sophisticated form of Chinese armor often have no archeological basis and often only exist in painting or statue.
Jan 2019
Southeast Asia
No, I mean plate and laminar.

I know the Song use mountain pattern. However they seem to abandon use of plate and laminar compared to late Tang and Five Dynasties.

I also noticed that laminar armor still appear in the early Song, but disappear later on.
Jan 2019
Southeast Asia
At first, I dislike both Yuan and Ming armor because I thought they are lackluster compared to the Song.

Now, I think I would say that the Yuan and the early Ming seem to keep what the Song knew and added their own innovation to it.
Feb 2011
Are you talking about armor in terms of effectiveness or what looks good? Song records show the weight of the armor. Outward appearance may be misleading, as armor could provide a lot of coverage but the individual plates are thin, whereas armor with small amount of coverage could have very thick plates.
Jan 2019
Southeast Asia
English is not my first language, so you may misunderstood me. There is too much things to write here.

I don't intend this thread to be a really scientific discussion, but if you have sources, I would welcome it. What I am looking for is the progression of armor from the Northern/Southern Period to the early Ming Dynasty with this thread focusing on the late Tang to the Song.

I set the following parameters to determine the probable effectiveness for myself.

Effectiveness: About effectiveness against the enemy, I don't know as warfare change. Too variable.

Thickness: From what I read, the Tang have lamellar armor with thickness of 2-3 mm. Considering that the Song armor is quite heavy, I assume that thickness remain the same.

Metallurgy: I also don't know much about the difference between the periods, so I assume they don't change much.

What I can determine objectively are the following:

Coverage and Sophistication:

Song armor left most of the gap in the armpit. I also noticed that they lose the Mingguang plates as the dynasty progress on. The Tang while having less people manage to equip their soldiers with these for pretty much their entire duration.

Song long coat armor is almost always lamellar.
Armor China Song Dynasty Double bow crossbow and full lamellar armor 5.jpg
while the Tang have mountain pattern and with beast head pauldron, which from numerous example I see actually fully cover the armpit, and laminar manica too, which the Song lost early on Armor China Tang Dynasty long coat armor 8 complete statue and armor.jpg They also have what looks like rigid plate like neck armor and solid helmet that cover the neck. There is a credible Chinese website which claim that this is from the Sui, but I don't believe that Sui armor is that good.
Armor China Tang Dynasty tomb guardian armor 7th-early 8th century 2.jpg

From what I see, whatever the Song armor have, the Tang have it and they do it better.

The Five Dynasties armor I found are even better than these Tang examples.

During the Yuan, there are various improvement although just slight enough. Tasset hanger make it easier when the soldier dismount, yet I am certain that this only appear starting from the Yuan.
Armor China Yuan Dynasty 14th century 1300-1315 Retinue of the Minister of Water attributed to...jpg

Song armor always have tasset that double as thigh armor, the Tang have a separate thigh armor which maybe the remain from Age of Fragmentation, the early Ming also have separate thigh armor. Armor China Ming Dynasty thigh armor separate 3.jpg

Armor China Ming Dynasty feature 1 phoenix wing on helmet secondary skirt.jpg

They also like the Yuan used several different types of armor in one suit.

Armor China Ming Dynasty 15th century Baoning Temple Water and Earth painting 2 elbow armor.jpg
Jan 2019
Southeast Asia
While a lot of the things that the Tang have are similar to the Song. I would say where it shows the sophistication of Tang and Five Dynasties armor.

The Tang Dynasty have lamellar armor with complete tube sleeve, not only manica,( and lamellar foot armor as well). Armor China Tang Dynasty 781-848 Yulin Caves King of the South Cave.jpg

Later on the suit become more sophisticated in this 9th century painting. The long lamellar coat are tied to make a lamellar jumpsuit, while this painting might be unclear, I will explain why I thought that the bottom figure is wearing a jumpsuit armor.

Armor China Tang Dynasty long coat armor 4 9th century.jpg

By the Five Dynasties, I think this is one of the best development of Chinese armor. Laminar and plate armor are more widely applied.

This picture show that laminar armor can be used to fully protect the arm and the armpit joint

Armor China Five Dynasties Dunhuang 1 bigger.jpg

Here is the picture showing that now the jumpsuit is laminar.

Armor China Five Dynasties Dunhuang 10th century Lotus Sutra first part 9.jpg

Armor China Five Dynasties Dunhuang 10th century Lotus Sutra second part 6.jpg

Armor China Tang Dynasty 781-848 Yulin Caves King of the South Cave.jpg Armor China Tang Dynasty long coat armor 4 9th century.jpg Armor China Five Dynasties Dunhuang 1 bigger.jpg Armor China Five Dynasties Dunhuang 10th century Lotus Sutra first part 9.jpg Armor China Five Dynasties Dunhuang 10th century Lotus Sutra second part 6.jpg

Here it shows that the upper part of the arm seems to be armored with plate just like the Mingguang armor.

Armor China Five Dynasties Dunhuang 3.jpg

Here is what Uyghur armor from around the same period looks like. The upper arm is laminar.

Armor China Uyghur Xida Temple in Beiting, Xinjiang 6.jpg

However from what I see most of these examples are from western China. Maybe they were influenced by Tarim Basin armor.

Here is the armor that start to appear in the eastern part.
Later Shu painting.
It seems like plate armor.

Armor China Five Dynasties plate cuirass Later Shu 934-965 smoother.jpeg

In the early Song, we can still see some of these armor being used.

Armor China Song Dynasty Northern Song statue found in Zhejiang Rui'an Huiguang Tower or Huizh...jpg


Jan 2019
Southeast Asia
I just want to know about this topic, because I also remember 2 quotes about Song Dynasty armor. However I don't remember the exact quote, maybe someone could provide them.

1. Song Dynasty armor is lighter compared to the previous armor because the previous armor is too heavy.

2. Sometimes in Mid to Late Song Dynatsy, someone said Song Dynasty armor is better at the time of the founder than at the time of the quote.

I have look the armor of the other polities surrounding the Chinese dynasties of this transitional period like Nanzhao, Liao and Xi Xia, it seems they also wear the heavy armor that the Chinese use.

Why is it rarely spoken about, is it because there are few Chinese armor find of these periods?
Aug 2014
Weight and protection are directly related. If the armour is lighter then it provides less protection, either in the form of damage resistance or in the form of coverage. The Song didn't have a magical material that provided better resistance to weapons than anyone else around the world.

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