Why didn't the Ancient Chinese use plate armor like the Greeks, Romans, Europeans?

Dec 2009
5,615
Canada
It's not all that different from Japanese armour. The suneate (greaves) are put on first then the haidate (thigh armour) is put on, so as to protect the cords that suspend it. Kote (arm guards) which are more like individual sleeves are put on. Then the do (cuirass) is worn over that, then the sode (pauldrons) are attached, then finally a helmet is worn. Most armour systems used around the world are put on in layers or individual parts that are combined to make one panoply.
 
Dec 2013
102
n/a
Did we go over the cast vs forged argument yet? Western iron-making technology began as forged iron, which involved the processing of large chunks of relatively-pure iron into armor by heating them until supple, then beating them into shape. Chinese iron-making technology, on the other hand, was based off cast iron-making, involving the use of molds. Because Chinese iron-making technology was based off cast iron, large pieces like breastplates were harder to make, so that when the Chinese went for heavy protection, they ended up using coat-of-plates or other technologies based on arrays of small, single pieces.

We still have the mystery of the Chinese switching to short draw-length crossbows in the Ming, however. Long powerstrokes, as mentioned before, are a relatively basic technology based only on a trigger design, not even on trigger materials. When the Chinese transitioned from bronze triggers to deer antler, there should have been no need for the crossbows to have shrunk correspondingly.

One argument for it could be the reduction of small arms ammo from large-caliber armor-piercing to increasingly smaller calibers and energies. This allows for controllable high-rate of fire, as well as lighter ammunition loads, while still retaining lethality. The same thing happened with the arquebus; the arquebus tended to have higher energies than the muskets that replaced it, but that was needed to penetrate plate. Any reintroduction of heavy plate would result in the redevelopment of heavier firearms, resulting in their natural obsolescence.
 
Feb 2014
29
New Delhi,India
There can be many reasons why Chinese not used metal plate armours and used only chain mail armours. Firstly the cost difference between the two.Secondly as you said its hard to carry a metal plate armour as compare with chain mail armour.
 
Jan 2015
955
EARTH
I've heard that native Chinese metal ores were frequently contaminated with extraordinary high amount of sulfur. Perhaps this is a contributing factor?
 
Aug 2014
4,343
Australia
There can be many reasons why Chinese not used metal plate armours and used only chain mail armours. Firstly the cost difference between the two.Secondly as you said its hard to carry a metal plate armour as compare with chain mail armour.
At the end of the Middle Ages in Europe, basic plate armour actually cost less than mail. It is reasonable to say the same might have been true in China given the sophistication of its iron fabrication technologies. In any case, I thought that mail was pretty rare in China compared to scale and lamellar.
 
Last edited:
Dec 2011
3,492
Mountains and Jungles of Southern China
There can be many reasons why Chinese not used metal plate armours and used only chain mail armours. Firstly the cost difference between the two.Secondly as you said its hard to carry a metal plate armour as compare with chain mail armour.
Mail armors were actually quite rare in ancient China. They only started to become a bit more popular during the last three Yuan, Ming, and Qing dynasties, but even then they were still not as popular as some other types of armors such as brigandine or cotton tunic.

The most common types of armors in ancient China were probably lamellar and scale.
 
This assumption is absurd! Do you really think that your steel crossbows need a mechanical cranking system means that the chinese crossbow is absolutely inferior?! Really, the only reason why the steel crossbow need this is that they are so goddamn hard to draw. Unlike the Europeans, the chinese had a composite bow, not a metal one which gave it a much easier reload. Moreover, the chinese crossbows had a more complex and a much more advanced trigger mechanism which gave it better powerstroke as it supported more pressure than the retarded mechanism of the Europeans( I mean really, after 1000 years you haven't figured it out?... the chinese got it like in the warring state period...) If you are still not convinced, just look how large the bows on the chinese crossbow is compared to the European ones, they are nearly twice as large and are so much cheaper than the steel version. There are some proof: have you ever seen a steel bow?(not mounted on a crossbow) being used in massed numbers and was the longbow a steel bow? Of course not!
the longbows were effective because of the material used to make them and because of their length. Moreover, the steel bows were never used because they not only ineffective with the heavy weight but are also so complex to make that you would be better off with making some more armor!
 
Dec 2011
557
Texas
This assumption is absurd! Do you really think that your steel crossbows need a mechanical cranking system means that the chinese crossbow is absolutely inferior?! Really, the only reason why the steel crossbow need this is that they are so goddamn hard to draw. Unlike the Europeans, the chinese had a composite bow, not a metal one which gave it a much easier reload. Moreover, the chinese crossbows had a more complex and a much more advanced trigger mechanism which gave it better powerstroke as it supported more pressure than the retarded mechanism of the Europeans( I mean really, after 1000 years you haven't figured it out?... the chinese got it like in the warring state period...) If you are still not convinced, just look how large the bows on the chinese crossbow is compared to the European ones, they are nearly twice as large and are so much cheaper than the steel version. There are some proof: have you ever seen a steel bow?(not mounted on a crossbow) being used in massed numbers and was the longbow a steel bow? Of course not!
the longbows were effective because of the material used to make them and because of their length. Moreover, the steel bows were never used because they not only ineffective with the heavy weight but are also so complex to make that you would be better off with making some more armor!

Well, yea man we are talking about 500 to 2000 lbs of draw weight. The Steel prods and bows were cheaper to make and was less and easier to maintain as well as much more resistant to weathering.

They both had their ups and downs, it all depends what you are looking for and what you need.
 

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