Why iron lamellar helmets replaced whole piece bronze helmets?

Dec 2011
3,492
Mountains and Jungles of Southern China
I wonder why the seemingly more primitive-looking lamellar helmet had replaced whole piece bronze helmets in China. Is there any particular reason for this?
 
Dec 2011
3,492
Mountains and Jungles of Southern China
Here's the evidence

Zhou whole piece bronze helmets (1046 - 771 BCE)







Chu lacquered leather lamellar helmet and armor from the Early Warring States (circa 425 BCE)



Yan iron lamellar helmet from the Late Warring States (3rd century BCE)



Qin lamellar helmet (221 - 206 BCE)



Western Han iron lamellar helmet (2nd century BCE)



Eastern Han or Xianbei iron lamellar helmet (first or second century AD?)



Tang Dynasty iron lamellar helmet (7th to 10th centuries AD)

 
Sep 2016
211
Australia
Because China had low metallurgy skill and were technologically behind in comparison to the rest of the World. Jokes aside, it take less time and effort to stamp out sheets of bent steel and joining it with studded or threads rather than forging one solid piece from bronze.

"Iron" is also much more common and lighter than bronze.
Lamelar is often more "breathable" and flexible than a solid construction used on Xia helmets.



That Tang Dynasty helmet is really exquisite by the way. Is their any remnants that exist from the original helmet?
 
Last edited:
Dec 2011
3,492
Mountains and Jungles of Southern China
That Tang Dynasty helmet is really exquisite by the way. Is their any remnants that exist from the original helmet?
No, as far as I'm aware that Tang helmet is reconstructed based on evidences from Tang mural paintings.
 
Sep 2016
211
Australia
No, as far as I'm aware that Tang helmet is reconstructed based on evidences from Tang mural paintings.
That's a real shame. Why is it so hard find surviving examples of Chinese armour? Surely some would have survived the Harsh decay of age.
 
Dec 2011
3,492
Mountains and Jungles of Southern China
That's a real shame. Why is it so hard find surviving examples of Chinese armour? Surely some would have survived the Harsh decay of age.
There were quite a few surviving examples of helmets and armors prior to the Eastern Han as you can see from the pictures that I posted. However, after the Eastern Han and in particular during the Tang and Song, armors were not allowed to be buried with individuals and were strictly controlled by the state. And as the state fell, the armors were either destroyed by its enemies or remade into other objects. That's probably why most armors after the Eastern Han did not survive to this day, unfortunately.
 
Sep 2016
211
Australia
There were quite a few surviving examples of helmets and armors prior to the Eastern Han as you can see from the pictures that I posted. However, after the Eastern Han and in particular during the Tang and Song, armors were not allowed to be buried with individuals and were strictly controlled by the state. And as the state fell, the armors were either destroyed by its enemies or remade into other objects. That's probably why most armors after the Eastern Han did not survive to this day, unfortunately.
Wow I didn't know that. Had a hunch they would be repurposed. Were swords and armours of high ranking officers subject to similar laws?
 
Dec 2011
3,492
Mountains and Jungles of Southern China
Wow I didn't know that. Had a hunch they would be repurposed. Were swords and armours of high ranking officers subject to similar laws?
Yes, officers were not exempt from such regulations.

BTW, through a very hard search on Chinese internet sites I did find a picture of some actual remaining pieces of a Tang iron lamellar armor

 

Bart Dale

Ad Honorem
Dec 2009
7,095
Because China had low metallurgy skill and were technologically behind in comparison to the rest of the World. Jokes aside, it take less time and effort to stamp out sheets of bent steel and joining it with studded or threads rather than forging one solid piece from bronze.

"Iron" is also much more common and lighter than bronze.
Lamelar is often more "breathable" and flexible than a solid construction used on Xia helmets.



That Tang Dynasty helmet is really exquisite by the way. Is their any remnants that exist from the original helmet?
As you said, iron is more common and cheaper than bronze. It looks like the switch to the lamelar construction may have been cost. The Chinese made their iron first as cast iron, then converted it wrought iron if needed. (Cast iron is too brittle for weapons, and possibly weapons as well). The iron pieces may represent the typical unit size of the blocks of cast iron converted to wrought iron. To make a larger piece, like a single iron helment, you would have weld together smaller blocks of iron, which was more work than to switch together smaller blocks as they did. And I suspect cast iron helmet would be too brittle for combat, heavy too.