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Wearing Masks in ancient Chinese Armies


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#1 Blue

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Posted 30 June 2009 - 08:41 PM

After researching Samurai warriors (and learning they were Japanese warriors), I wondered if the Chinese had their own version, particularly where it comes to using a scary mask to intimidate the enemy.

I've tried looking for facts about this on the internet, but only find varying and conflicting information about it.

I want to know if there were any elite Chinese warriors/soldiers who wore masks when they fought, when they existed, and where.

Does anyone know?

Edited by General_Zhaoyun, 05 July 2009 - 11:22 PM.


#2 General_Zhaoyun

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Posted 05 July 2009 - 11:41 PM

After researching Samurai warriors (and learning they were Japanese warriors), I wondered if the Chinese had their own version, particularly where it comes to using a scary mask to intimidate the enemy.

I've tried looking for facts about this on the internet, but only find varying and conflicting information about it.

I want to know if there were any elite Chinese warriors/soldiers who wore masks when they fought, when they existed, and where.

Does anyone know?


There were no "specific Chinese Warriors/Soldiers" wearing masks when they fought.

But during Pre-Qin period (predominantly Xia, Shang, Zhou period), ancient Chinese armies practiced some form of Shamanism (witchcraft) or elaborate spiritual rituals before battles. Priests who were in charge of these religious/spiritual rituals in ancient Chinese armies were known as "Nuo Ren 傩人". They were known to be wearing some of masks when performing shamanist rituals to 'expel ghosts/spirits' or to 'pacify deceased spirits of soldiers'. Wearing masks helped to scare off the "enemy's deceased spirits" so as to prevent them from 'continuing to fight' against the army. During Warring States period, the Qin and Chu were known to have some form of shamanistic rituals. Thus, "Nuo Ren 傩人" acted as some form of 'witchcraft soldiers' used for fighting against spirits during battles.

Note that by Zhou dynasty period, Shamanist rituals (known as "Nuo Li 傩礼") had become one of the 5 military rites of the ancient Chinese army.

Below shows an example of a Nuo Ren.

Posted Image

Edited by General_Zhaoyun, 05 July 2009 - 11:45 PM.

Posted ImagePosted Image

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#3 Blue

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Posted 06 July 2009 - 11:37 AM

Thanks, that has been on my mind for a while now. You've been a great help, more than you know.

#4 Freddy1

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Posted 07 July 2009 - 08:57 PM

There were no "specific Chinese Warriors/Soldiers" wearing masks when they fought.

But during Pre-Qin period (predominantly Xia, Shang, Zhou period), ancient Chinese armies practiced some form of Shamanism (witchcraft) or elaborate spiritual rituals before battles. Priests who were in charge of these religious/spiritual rituals in ancient Chinese armies were known as "Nuo Ren 傩人". They were known to be wearing some of masks when performing shamanist rituals to 'expel ghosts/spirits' or to 'pacify deceased spirits of soldiers'. Wearing masks helped to scare off the "enemy's deceased spirits" so as to prevent them from 'continuing to fight' against the army. During Warring States period, the Qin and Chu were known to have some form of shamanistic rituals. Thus, "Nuo Ren 傩人" acted as some form of 'witchcraft soldiers' used for fighting against spirits during battles.

Note that by Zhou dynasty period, Shamanist rituals (known as "Nuo Li 傩礼") had become one of the 5 military rites of the ancient Chinese army.

Below shows an example of a Nuo Ren.

Posted Image


I would be curious to know if there were any masks that were used as a form of armour protection for the face. Not so much of religious reasons.

#5 tadamson

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Posted 08 July 2009 - 02:57 AM

Jurchen burials of the Jin dynasty have face masks attached to the armour. Some scholars see these as death masks but others think that they were normal armour.

eg: http://www.nsu.ru/aw/resource.do?id=65
rgds.

Tom..

#6 Freddy1

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Posted 08 July 2009 - 08:14 AM

Thanks tadamson I appreciate the information. :)

#7 Peter

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Posted 28 July 2009 - 04:26 AM

Indeed masks never appear to have seen widespread use in Chinese warfare.

It is known that in the 13th century, Russian forces under Mstislav used masks and some of them may have reached China but if so their use remained incidental. We do know that the Mongols did adopt them, perhaps following the battle at Kalka River where they faced a masked army. The only remaining example of such a Mongolian mask is kept in the Metropolitan Museum in New York, it was on display in the Tibetan arms and armor section when I last visited.

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#8 Mei Houwang

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Posted 28 July 2009 - 01:14 PM

There was a thread a while back that talked of Chinese masks here:

http://www.chinahist...p...19204&st=15

The thread itself provides a link to this picture:

http://img179.images...us/i/8ayr5.jpg/

Notice that one of the soldiers has a mask dangling at the side. Due to the similarity of the mask and the faces of some of the soldiers, we can assume that the soldiers with darker complexions are already wearing masks. But with just the pictures, we can only guess whether these masks serve some protective purpose or are merely ceremonial.

#9 YvesYew

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Posted 02 August 2009 - 10:13 PM

There is no doubt the mask wearing warriors were originated in China and then inherited by the Japanese, but mask is nothing more than a tool for the Chinese Warriors, while Japanese has learned it and it became a iconic symbol of Samurai.

During the Southern and Northern Dynasties
Generals were wearing the ghost-like mask, and it is very similar to the Japanese Samurai's mask. There was a historic figure that famous with the mask wearing in this age. Lan Ling Wang (兰陵王), King of Lan Ling, or 高长恭 (Gao-Chang-Gong). He was a terrific General that won a lot of battles, however, because of his face was too beautiful, according to the historic document's depiction, he was as pretty as a lady, thus, he was always being underestimated by the foes, therefore, he wore the scary mask before going to the battlefield. His story even being sung in the later time and imported to Japan. The Japanese traditional dance of lan ling wang (陵王入阵曲) , I do not know the english or japanese name of it, sorry ;(

http://www.globaleff...murai736_hi.jpg

http://www.globaleff...20_1_suits.html

you can check out the picture of the Southern and Northern Dynasty's armor in the link above
It is believed as the prototype of Japanese armor, thats why they are kind of similar, even a lot of Chinese thought it was a Samurai's armor, xD
they are just a bunch of nerds who are lacking of history knowledge. If you have study about the both, you can easily tell the differences between of them. it is a very long story that can be another thread, so i will stop it here xD


In the following Age, The SONG Dynasties,
There was a elite unit of Heavy Cavalry (连环马 Lian Huan Ma) that wearing the mask too, They are heavily armored, even the horse as well, it is said that they are fully protected by the armor, the only vulnerable part is the eyes, because they are wearing the mask. Related information can be found in the Shui Hu Zhuan,水浒传. or any other Song Dynasty's history related stuff. I couldnt show you the pictures because I get this info from a book with the ancient paintings.

The Samurai Armor were influenced by these two ages as well, that is why you could see the similarity of the Japanese armor and S & N Dynasties, it is because the chinese's armor were always changing by ages, mask was abandoned very soon along the End of Song Dynasty, by the Mongols (Mongolian do not wear mask) and Chinese do not protect their armor like the Japanese does, that is why you can hardly find the related info bout chinese Armor

Hope my information can help you, =)

Edited by YvesYew, 02 August 2009 - 10:36 PM.


#10 shurite7

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Posted 03 August 2009 - 07:25 PM

In the following Age, The SONG Dynasties,
There was a elite unit of Heavy Cavalry (连环马 Lian Huan Ma) that wearing the mask too, They are heavily armored, even the horse as well, it is said that they are fully protected by the armor, the only vulnerable part is the eyes, because they are wearing the mask. Related information can be found in the Shui Hu Zhuan,水浒传. or any other Song Dynasty's history related stuff. I couldnt show you the pictures because I get this info from a book with the ancient paintings.

Hope my information can help you, =)


YvesYew,

Where did you obtain the information pertaining the the elite unit of heavy cavalry? I'm not familiar with the Lian Huan Ma. Could you please elaborate a bit on this unit.

cheers
zai jian

Chris

#11 YvesYew

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Posted 05 August 2009 - 02:10 AM

YvesYew,

Where did you obtain the information pertaining the the elite unit of heavy cavalry? I'm not familiar with the Lian Huan Ma. Could you please elaborate a bit on this unit.

cheers



The related info can be found in the Song History, or the historic novel "Water Margin", i found them from the chinese military website.
Lian Huan Ma was the cavalry unit that originated in Jin (金) clan that invaded China during
the SONG dynasty, it was called Guai Zi Ma originally(拐子马).It is actually a mounted troops chained together,
(30 cavalrymen formed one line) which is impossible to breakthrough, because they are all chained
to each other, so the soldier cannot run away individually, but to fight until death instead.
When the troops died, their bodies laid on the ground will be blocking the enemies's advance, as a wall built by blood and flesh.
Thus,the enemies were forced to step back instead of moving through the bodies. (this is crucial key that leading the battle to a decisive result).
Since Guai Zi Ma is a Unit that never retreat, and impossible to breakthrough, therefore they became the "Ace" against the infantry.

When it came to Song Dynasty, Chinese developed their own Lian Huan Ma(*Chained Calvary). It inherited the feature of Guai Zi Ma, but with improved protection
with the heavy armors. The mount is covered by the horse iron armors(Ma Jia 马甲), only the hoof is exposed, the man is wearing the iron armor that protected the entire body,
and also masked. It is bellieved that the unit normally never charge with full speed, because they are heavy and chained.

Although this unit is formidable, and won a lot of battles, but it is not invincible. According to the Song History, or "Water Margin". This unit was defeated
by the Liang Shan rebels (梁山). They invented the Gou Lian Qiang (钩镰), some kind of Halberd or lance with hook. And they hide themselves under the brushes,
where the Lian Huan Ma passed by, these rebels used the Gou Lian Qiang, to hook the horse's leg and turned over the troopers.
er
However, Lian Huan Ma is still the best unit against the infantry formation or normal light cavalry. (This unit is more suitable for plain.)

Edited by YvesYew, 05 August 2009 - 02:16 AM.


#12 tadamson

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Posted 05 August 2009 - 03:23 AM

The related info can be found in the Song History, or the historic novel "Water Margin", i found them from the chinese military website.
Lian Huan Ma was the cavalry unit that originated in Jin (金) clan that invaded China during
the SONG dynasty, it was called Guai Zi Ma originally(拐子马).It is actually a mounted troops chained together,
(30 cavalrymen formed one line) which is impossible to breakthrough, because they are all chained
to each other, so the soldier cannot run away individually, but to fight until death instead.
When the troops died, their bodies laid on the ground will be blocking the enemies's advance, as a wall built by blood and flesh.
Thus,the enemies were forced to step back instead of moving through the bodies. (this is crucial key that leading the battle to a decisive result).
Since Guai Zi Ma is a Unit that never retreat, and impossible to breakthrough, therefore they became the "Ace" against the infantry.

When it came to Song Dynasty, Chinese developed their own Lian Huan Ma(*Chained Calvary). It inherited the feature of Guai Zi Ma, but with improved protection
with the heavy armors. The mount is covered by the horse iron armors(Ma Jia 马甲), only the hoof is exposed, the man is wearing the iron armor that protected the entire body,
and also masked. It is bellieved that the unit normally never charge with full speed, because they are heavy and chained.

Although this unit is formidable, and won a lot of battles, but it is not invincible. According to the Song History, or "Water Margin". This unit was defeated
by the Liang Shan rebels (梁山). They invented the Gou Lian Qiang (钩镰), some kind of Halberd or lance with hook. And they hide themselves under the brushes,
where the Lian Huan Ma passed by, these rebels used the Gou Lian Qiang, to hook the horse's leg and turned over the troopers.
er
However, Lian Huan Ma is still the best unit against the infantry formation or normal light cavalry. (This unit is more suitable for plain.)


Guai Ze Ma (tightly turning cavalry is a better translation) was a formation/tactic used by Jin dynasty cavalry.

Lian Huan Ma (literally chain ringed cavalry) has been debated, many scholars think that the name is because the riders manoeuvring in formation look like links in a chain. However physically chaining troops together has been tried on various occasions in Europe. India and China; almost always disastrously (one dead or seriously wounded horse incapacitates the whole unit). If I recall correctly the 'physically chained together' description is only in the novels and not in the histories.

nb The Jin favoured iron horse armour while the Song preferred leather. Jin face masks have survived, I don't know of any Song ones being found but I wouldn't be surprised if they did exist.
rgds.

Tom..

#13 Lenn

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Posted 17 August 2009 - 11:48 PM

Hi, I'm interested in this subject. can anyone provide a source to what you're saying? like YvesYew ? or others?




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