Early Manchu Horse Archer Armor 钉甲

I'd like to take this time to show some screengrabs from the wonderful Korean film "War of the Arrows," or as it is also known, "Bow, the Ultimate Weapon." set during the Second Manchu invasion of Korea.

The movie featured many beautifully crafted armor sets for the Manchu raiders, including the many layers of its construction that I would highlight.

Before I began, I'd like to say it's a very intense, very well paced film that I enjoyed for the most part, except the English translation of the Manchu invaders as simply "Qing" China. I believe this might cause a snowball of confusion for the western audiences and must declare my reserve in calling them that.

For two reasons:

1. Although the Manchus declared themselves "Qing" in the style of a Chinese dynasty in the hope of eventually ruling over all of China, they have not defeated the crumbling Ming Dynasty, the legitimate China at the time. They are a large, organized nomadic horde in the hope of ruling a much larger, entrenched ethnicity to the south. In fact the whole aim of this expedition is to force the Koreans to join the warpath against the remaining Ming territories in the South.

Why is that important?

2. For 30 million lives. When the Manchus launched their attacks in full, they killed over 30 million Chinese (Yangzhou massacre, Shanxi, Shaanxi, and Jiangnan) in order to achieve "peace." That is 7 Britains of the time (4.2 Million, people) or the totality of France + Spain + Portugal + Holland. If you can imagine London being wiped out 60 times over and over again in slaughter you get the picture.

Which means while the west think this is some example of China imperializing Korea, there are literally 30 million Han Chinese being wiped out. My Manchu brothers, I love ya, I grew up with ya but our two people's introduction was rather bloody wasn't it? At least I'm thankful for the good visionary emperors you provided right after this~

Oh the humanity of terrible translations.


Back on Topic!!!

I'm very impressed by the details of the armors. When we first see the riders they were in their riding gear, heavy with multiple layers of armor.

Armor design in China by this point has largely eschewed metal plates and rigid bands, which means the iconic mountain scale armor was on its final legs waiting to be totally replaced.

In 1640s, combat has shifted largely toward lighter, fluid engagements against horse riding nomads. Movement is the key, the maneuvering of formations became much more decisive in the outcome of the battle when muskets and light horses could destroy weak points in a single barrage. Like many armies of the early modern period which favored lighter armors (Kusari and Kikko in Edo Japan, Buffcoat in the Western European armies) the Chinese armies chose the 钉甲 Ding Jia, which consisted of rivetted metal plates/ chainmail covered by layers of studded leather and fabric on the outside.

I was really glad to see the Manchu pursuers strip down the leather cover of their outer coats when they needed to chase on foot. The exposed chains and plates really showed the purpose of this construction. Light and flexible covers on the outside that maximized arm movements (saber cuts and drawing of arrows) which in desperate times could deflect a glancing saber blow. But still heavy enough to deflect an arrow or a direct spear thrust in the gut.

I was glad to see accurately made armors for officers as well. These things were items of beauty and were highly treasured family heirlooms. There were much more elaborate than the standard armor and are held with ribbed metal bands and mirror plates beneath the silk cover.

If the Prince wasn't an ass I'd say he wore it well~

謝謝, ありがとう, 감사합니다, Thank you!!!

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