Northern and Southern Dynasties, Northern Cataphracts 北朝重骑兵
The period between 386 and 581 A.D. in Chinese history is conventionally called the Northern and Southern Dynasties. It was an age of great division when North China was—under the control of the Tuoba clan of the Xianbei tribe (a proto-Mongol people)—warred fiercely with the Chinese dynasties established in Jiankang (Nanking) of southern China. In military matters, the northerners were masters of cavalry and fielded some of the heaviest cavalries in the entire orient.
Helmet and horse armor of the Northern and Southern Dynasties (Northern)
"Fish scale" armor, invented during the Han Dynasty and was used during the subsequent Three Kingdoms period, Jin, and the centuries of strife of the 5th and 6th century. Compared with the scale armor of the Dark Ages in Europe, these possessed more flexible pauldrons, Also~ because of the small and intricate overlay of the scales (when compared with the large, finger lengthed scales of the Dark Age armies,) it can well stand jabs and stabs directed from below and protect the wearer's armpits (a common trick when fighting opponents with scale armor is to jab from below where the scales offer no protection) ~ which makes these armor excellent for cavalry.
The distinctive 寄生 "Jisheng" (Lit. "Parasite")- Large decorative plumes attached to the back
of the horse armor. In a role similar to the Sashimono or Horo of the samurai, they served to
not only marking the rank and station of the armored riders, but also according to some sources
served to deflect projectiles fired from behind the horsemen. They appeared during the late Jin-
Sixteen Kingdoms period preceding the Northern and Southern dynasties and were
ubiquitously seen in the first half of the 6th century.
Chanfron and barding (horse armor) of a 4th-7th century Chinese cataphract,
note the ostentatious plume Jisheng 寄生, lit. "parasite" on the horse's hip.
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