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[==Research==] Chinese and Asian Helmet typology craftmanship

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We're going to focus on the archaeological references for standard and hero helmets.

And I see that the Chinese influence is present in other cultures.


Defining what is a hero helmet in 0 A.D?


It would be defined as a helmet that craftsmanship goes beyond the standard design for a simple soldier.


by the way, this art is of excellent detail, even the skin reflects the intensity that a soldier should be in the Han dynasty.his face is burned either by the sun or by the intense northern weather.



I will leave a link with a backup copy on the web. In case anyone wants to read more.


Mirror TWC thread.


a movie that has an acceptable visual reference is "Red Cliff"





Until middle of Han period, there seemed to be a general lack of helmets for the massed infantry. Despite the fact that most of the Chinese are familiar with the legacy of bronze plate helmets from as early as the Shang Dynasty (1600BC-1040BC) One explanation was that due to the fact that the Han engaged in an endless struggle mainly with steppe nomads who wore little to no armor, as such most of the combat would be of skirmishing nature~ thus most of the incoming harm would come from arrows rather than blows of halberds and spears as it was in the ages before.

Mid- Late Han Commanders. As chariots became obsolete by the 1st Century BC, the armor of the officers became more flexible and also more voluminous, as they are more and more expected to wade in and fight in cavalry melees. Elaborate scale aventails began to appear to protect the general's neck and chins, pauldrons became longer in conjuncture with mailed sleeves, plate helmets began to appear as well (though the Chinese always had plate helmet as early as the Shang dynasty.) 



Edited by Lion.Kanzen
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Posted (edited)

Bronze Lamellar Helmets.



as we saw earlier, the Han dynasty, It conserved varied equipment from even 1000 years before...


And that even the bronze helmets from the time of the Shang dynasty, They were still valid to use in the Han dynasty.



Zhou whole piece bronze helmets (1046 - 771 BCE)


Why Bronze and not Iron?

Because China had low metallurgy skill and were technologically behind in comparison to the rest of the World.  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.


There were quite a few surviving examples of helmets and armors prior to the Eastern Han. 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.



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. The cast iron helmet would be too brittle for combat, heavy too.


We have actual surviving samples of Han period armors, and they are all forged steel. We also have Zhuge Liang's treatise on steel , forging all armors ten times as the standard practice. Han period steel armor making was a very labor intensive process.


Keep in mind, the Chinese produced their iron first as cast iron, then converted it to wrought iron later if they needed to. For many applications, they could use cast iron directly. Base on what others have posted, it seems the Chinese add carbon back in to their wrought iron to produce steel, but it is possible they converted some of their cast iron to steel directly. You have to remove carbon from cast iron to produced steel, and remove even more carbon to make wrought iron.


It is well known that cast iron is not suitable for making weapons, and a lot of tools, although some tools, like a rake, shovel, you can make out of cast iron, and the Chinese did.


The same source also mentioned that there are low carbon steel scales with carbon content of .1-.12%, and medium carbon steel scales with two types of grains wielded together. The smaller grains have .2% carbon while the larger ones have .5% carbon. -Traditional Chinese Craftsmanship, Armor Recovery, p 216 - 217



Also, this was before the monopolization of iron and widespread expansion of blast furnaces owned by the state under Wudi. There should be a greater scale of production of steel later. Zhuge Liang's Instruction on making steel armor state that it was standard procedure to forge all steel armor five times.


Also, the Roman armors are not carbon steel, they are mostly hardened wrought iron, there is a difference. Much of the carbon, manganese, sulfur, phosphorus, and silicon content in the wrought iron are in slag fibers within the wrought iron. This meant that its harder to heat treat than carbon steel.

Edited by Lion.Kanzen
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Posted (edited)

Iron Helmets

With zinging arrows, powerful crossbow bolts, stabbing swords, and swinging axes all a staple feature of the Chinese battlefield, it is not surprising that soldiers sought to protect themselves as best they could with armour and shields. Leather tunics with metal additions, bronze or iron helmets, and shields of lacquered leather helped to deflect at least some of the missiles and slashing blades that came a soldier's way. Horses were similarly protected, and heavy cavalry with the horse and rider covered entirely in armour became a feature of later Chinese armies.   


A soldier's head was protected by a helmet made first of rattan or leather and then, later, of bronze. They were typically of a spherical type covering the top of the ears, protected the back of the neck, and were topped by a simple and low crest. Some metal helmets have stylised projections and engravings similar to those used on shields. Bronze helmets were lined with a softer material to cushion blows and for comfort; they weigh on average 2-3 kilos. Helmets were only capable of deflecting light missiles and glancing blows from a sword, and enough skeletal remains evidencing wounds from arrowheads and swords suggests that armour, in general, was not particularly effective in earlier periods of Chinese warfare.


With the wider use of the crossbow and their increasing firepower, especially from the Han dynasty (206 BCE-220 CE) onwards, iron was increasingly used in body armour. Again, small plates were stitched or riveted together to form a semi-flexible tunic which also protected the outer upper arms. Iron was at the same time used to strengthen shields and to make helmets. Helmets of this period take on a hood-like shape with a hanging part to protect the neck but they still offered no protection for the face, even if there are references to iron face-masks in Han military treatises.

Edited by Lion.Kanzen
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