Summary on Legend of Armors, Episode 1

HackneyedScribe

Ad Honorem
Feb 2011
6,613
铠甲传奇 (Legend of Armors) is a Chinese TV show. Here is a summary of a most relevant information from episode 1.


To note, even the interviewer was just a little unintentionally condescending at the start (there are shows where people are way more condescending to replica makers, and probably intentionally). Some elements of Chinese culture unfortunately tends to look down on Chinese replica makers not as people making a living or doing academic experiments, but as adults wasting time playing at a children's hobby. Hopefully that attitude will change in the future as a more open minded generation replaces the old one.

Continuing on, the first armor they looked at closely was the excavated Chu armor from the Warring States period (a total of 13 sets have been excavated).
7:01 : Says that the armor is made out of cow hide. Presenter said that sabres and bows can't penetrate it. When the interviewer asked what amount of 'power behind the weapon' the presenter had in mind when he stated 'sabres and bows', the presenter said 'the maximum power from a modern person who have no professional training'.
8:13: The scales are made of raw hide. Hides are coated with black or dark colored lacquer. Usually coated 2-3 layers. Some scales were first coated with red lacquer, and then coated with black lacquer on top.
8:24: The threads which bind the scales together are .6-.8 cm wide
8:48: Interviewer asked how to wear it because there's no buttons like modern clothing. Presenter said that it can be "opened" from the side. After putting the armor on, a belt was worn on the waist.
10:00: The armor has a total of 46 scales
10:32: During the Warring States, the most protective armor was "He Jia". Its scales had two layers of hide covering a wooden plaque in the middle. The thickness would be 10 cm thick, so thicker than the replica armor shown which was "already pretty thick".
11:11: The armor weighs at around 8-10 kg.

Personal note: This armor has more coverage than most of the armor of the terracotta warriors of QinShiHuang, some Qin charioteer armor do have provide coverage. Qin armor have more design smarts. Qin armor have less of the bindings exposed on the outside (the threads are the weakest part of lamellar armor). Qin armor also have smaller scales but also have more scales, so the armor can adjust better to the various movements of the body.

Chu armor:



Qin armor:


They then showed a different set of armor, and then another set, both made out of hide. They are much later sets of hide armor said to be from near the end of the Ming to the beginning of the Qing)
14:52: It has at least 6 layers of lacquer. Gold powder was then used to decorate the scales.
15:39: The bottom scales overlap the upper scales so that the armor can be condensed and rolled
16:55: Presenter says that these armor aren't just for protection, it's for very important honor guards and etiquette, considering that there's a different design of brocade art for each individual scale.
18:00: After putting the armor on, the waist would be bound (implied for weight distribution)
19:00: One of the two sets were put on a scale, which says it weighs 6.5 kg. If shoulder guards were added it would weigh a total of around 20 jin (10 kg). So it was concluded that it's not like the TV shows which depicts soldiers wearing armor "24 hours a day".

Of course I didn't mention A LOT from the video, I just mentioned the parts with the most concrete information (ie, those parts in which they stated actual numbers).
 

Dan Howard

Ad Honorem
Aug 2014
5,144
Australia
Sounds like a cool show.

IIRC there was no trace of rawhide left on those initial 13 suits, only the lacquer shell. They assumed the armours were made from rawhide because of the impression left in the lacquer. I'm not sure how they knew the scales were made from cowhide if there was no hide left to analyse.

The two armours in your first photo look like charioteer armour, since they reach down to the elbow and knee. This is pretty consistent with armour from all chariot cultures at the time.
 
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HackneyedScribe

Ad Honorem
Feb 2011
6,613
You are probably correct, there are chariots found in the same tomb, including a scythe for the chariot wheel.



Compared to Qin chariot driver armor:


Also, I'm not sure where they got the idea of hejia (合甲), literally 'joined armor', as having a wooden core, with scales 10 cm thick.

Zhouli:
函人为甲,犀甲七属,兕甲六属,合甲五属。犀甲寿百年,兕甲寿二百年,合甲寿三百年.
Han people (Armourers) make armor (The Han here is a different word than the Han of the Han dynasty). There are seven shu for rhino armor, 6 shu for si armor, 5 shu for joined armor.. Rhino armor have a lifespan of 100 years, Si armor 200 years, He armor 300 years.
Note: The explanation from 华美服装艺术 for “X shu for Y armor” is that it's describing the number of scales that make up a single lamellar column for that specific type of armor. Not sure how reliable the interpretation is considering the name of the book is "Gorgeous costume art".

Most people seem to interpret Hejia (Joined armor) as two types of hide joined together to form a scale. I can't find that much info about it, don't know where the presenter got his info from.
 

Dan Howard

Ad Honorem
Aug 2014
5,144
Australia
Most people seem to interpret Hejia (Joined armor) as two types of hide joined together to form a scale.
I'm one of them. If the scales were 10 cm thick with a wooden core, the armour would weigh a hell of a lot more than 10kg.

One of the two sets were put on a scale, which says it weighs 6.5 kg. If shoulder guards were added it would weigh a total of around 20 jin (10 kg). So it was concluded that it's not like the TV shows which depicts soldiers wearing armor "24 hours a day".
What do they mean by this? Are they complaining that this was heavy? 10 kg is nothing. A buff coat in the English Civil war weighed 8-10 kg by itself, before any armour was strapped over it. The average US rifle platoon soldier's load is over 40 kg.
 
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HackneyedScribe

Ad Honorem
Feb 2011
6,613
What do they mean by this? Are they complaining that this was heavy?
It went like this:
Interviewer said that the armor felt light.
Presenter said "let's weigh it" and got out a scale, in which it weighed 6.5 kg.
Presenter then said that if shoulder guards were added, it would increase to 10 kg, in which he said it would be difficult to "wear all day". And that only when engaging in battle would they put it on, as opposed to the TV shows in which soldiers would wear armor 24 hours a day. He then went on to talk about paper armor and Song dynasty iron armor which weighs 50-something jin (25 kg), in which "wearing it an entire day will be exhausting".
 
Nov 2019
63
Solar System
I would really like to see certain Chinese (and non-Chinese) organic armors being tested out, namely leather armor, paper armor, and rattan armor. I've yet to see a satisfying reconstruction of those, and to my knowledge none has been tested. I'm especially interested in the performance of rattan armor, since it's supposed to be light-weight, water-proof, and arrow-resistant.
 

HackneyedScribe

Ad Honorem
Feb 2011
6,613
Mythbusters made a replica paper armor and tested it out. It was pretty resistant to all but the revolver, however the armor fell apart quicker than the lamellar armor being tested.
 

Dan Howard

Ad Honorem
Aug 2014
5,144
Australia
Paper armour was made from barkcloth not reconstituted wood pulp. It was made from quilted layers, just like textile armour, not the weird scales that Mythbusters used. The Koreans called it "jigap".
 
Nov 2019
63
Solar System
Paper armour was made from barkcloth not reconstituted wood pulp. It was made from quilted layers, just like textile armour, not the weird scales that Mythbusters used. The Koreans called it "jigap".
There might be several different types of paper armors in Chinese history. There were lamellar ones and quilted ones. Song Dynasty records indeed mentioned actual papers from old account books being used to make paper armors.

And the Chinese were the true inventors of paper armors, not the Koreans. The first record of paper armor being used for warfare in China dates back to the 6th century AD during the Northern and Southern Dynasties period. Koreans started to use paper armors much later than that. Even the word "jigap" is likely borrowed from Middle Chinese.