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DID ANCIENT CHINESE WARRIORS WEAR SILK AS PROTECTION?


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#1 KingDavid

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Posted 03 July 2010 - 10:48 PM

I've noticed that silk is a great form of protection. The kevlar began with silk, mongols used silk as armor, etc. Silk is stronger than steal. It is the longest and the strongest natural fiber in the world. It is also flexible as well. After looking at the terracotta army of the qin and the han, i realize that they are very well protected even without the leather hide. You see 60% unarmored terracotta warriors, but yet they are wearing the strongest natural fiber in the world. But my question is, was chinese civilian clothing made out of silk, or was it made out of cloth as well? Did Chinese warriors wear silk, and sometimes leather for armor?

#2 WuXiaHer0

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Posted 04 July 2010 - 12:39 AM

I've noticed that silk is a great form of protection. The kevlar began with silk, mongols used silk as armor, etc. Silk is stronger than steal. It is the longest and the strongest natural fiber in the world. It is also flexible as well. After looking at the terracotta army of the qin and the han, i realize that they are very well protected even without the leather hide.

Silk as armour? How can silk stand all the blows on the battlefield? Silk is no match for the swords, arrows and spears. Also, silk loses their strength when it's wet or when exposed to sunlight. It's too fragile for a soldier to wear them to the battlefield.

You see 60% unarmored terracotta warriors, but yet they are wearing the strongest natural fiber in the world.

Those are not warriors. They could be officials.

But my question is, was chinese civilian clothing made out of silk, or was it made out of cloth as well?

Only the nobles and royalties wore silk. Poor commoners wore simple clothing. Very rough and dull looking.

Did Chinese warriors wear silk, and sometimes leather for armor?

From what I heard, the armours were made up of pieces of metals or turtle shells sewed together.

From Wikipedia:

The earliest known armour used by the warriors of the Shang dynasty (商) was light plated armour made from turtle shells tied together with cords. Later, bronze and leather armour was introduced, and simple one-piece breastplates, coat of plates and lamellar cuirasses began to appear.


After the defeat of the Shang, the Zhou (周) used many weapons and types of equipment that originally came from the Shang. However, the Zhou incorporated some of their own different styles of armour. One type was the ge jia (革甲), a sleeveless coat of animal hide formed on a wooden dummy. The hide used was of buffalo and rhinoceros. Because of the disappearance of the rhinoceros in the region, buffalo came to be most common material. Another type of armour used by the Zhou was the wei jia, made of boiled leather on a fabric backing. Red lacquer was often used to form a protective layer for most armour used by the Zhou.


Most infantrymen wore lamellar or coat of plates cuirasses. The lamellar cuirass worn by these men was made of hundreds of small overlapping metal and/or leather plates laced together to make a flexible and light coat of armour. Coat of plates consisted of hundreds of small non-overlapping metal or leather plates stitched or riveted together. Shoulder guards and helmets were often used, but leather caps seem to have been more common for ground infantry.


Edited by WuXiaHer0, 04 July 2010 - 12:39 AM.

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#3 Mei Houwang

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Posted 04 July 2010 - 01:06 AM

Silk had no direct protective purposes. It helps pulling arrows out of wounds in order to avoid infection. However, people have been discussing the possibility of using spider silk as a form of protective wear. Only the future can tell.

#4 KingDavid

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Posted 04 July 2010 - 01:57 AM

Silk as armour? How can silk stand all the blows on the battlefield? Silk is no match for the swords, arrows and spears. Also, silk loses their strength when it's wet or when exposed to sunlight. It's too fragile for a soldier to wear them to the battlefield.


Those are not warriors. They could be officials.


Only the nobles and royalties wore silk. Poor commoners wore simple clothing. Very rough and dull looking.


From what I heard, the armours were made up of pieces of metals or turtle shells sewed together.

From Wikipedia:

You said poor peasants wore clothing, but you didn't specify, what kind of clothing? what was their clothing made of? cotton?

#5 WuXiaHer0

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Posted 06 July 2010 - 01:56 AM

You said poor peasants wore clothing, but you didn't specify, what kind of clothing? what was their clothing made of? cotton?


Most probably cotton.

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#6 leeyenkun

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Posted 22 September 2010 - 05:25 AM

I canít 100% tell you the ancient Chinese warrior wear silk as armor, but there something I am 100% sure as hereinafter.
1. The silk indeed can be armor, not only old age, even modem time those been armor too.
Thai police use silk armor against bullet. http://news.bbc.co.u...ture/379338.stm
Mongolian armor,
http://en.wikipedia....ongolian_armour
Mongolian invades Europe, they wear the Iron, leather and silk complex light armor, against whole iron armor cover Europe army, and you know the end.
http://en.wikipedia....asion_of_Europe
2. Cotton original come from Indian, the early record of cotton on China until 12 century. The silk, wool and hemp are using at ancient China, silk is very popular in ancient China, if they want using silk be armor there will be no problem.
By the way, this is the first time I hear the armor made by turtle shell, please someone tell me how to prove it.

#7 ghostexorcist

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Posted 22 September 2010 - 04:20 PM

I can’t 100% tell you the ancient Chinese warrior wear silk as armor, but there something I am 100% sure as hereinafter.
[...]
2. Cotton original come from Indian, the early record of cotton on China until 12 century.
[...]

Cotton actually has a history in China of almost 2,000 years. The kind commonly referred to as appearing in the 12 century was a new type that grew faster. This took place around the same time that new processing methods made it easier for cotton cloth to be produced. What follows is a list of works that mention cotton and the period and place referred to (my source doesn't give Chinese characters):

*Wu-Lu, A.D. 220-280, Yungch’ang (Yunana) and Chiaochou (Indo-China)

*Nan-Chou I-wu chih, 220-280, Nanchou (Kwangsi)

*Nan-shih, 420-588, Linyi (Indo-China)

*Liang shu, 502-556, Linyi (Indo-China)

*Pai Chu-i's poems, 772-846, Kuei (Kwangsi)

*Wen ch'ang tsa-hu, 1085, Kwangsi and Kwantung

*Meh-Keh hui-si, 1023-1064, Kwangsi and Kwantung

*Kuei-hai yu-heng chih, 1126-1193, Kueilin (Kwangsi)

*Ling-wai tai-ta, 1174-1190, Kwangsi and Hainan Island

*Chu-fan chih, 1174-1190, Fukien

*P'o-tse pien, 1180-1200, Fukien and Hainan Island

Edited by ghostexorcist, 22 September 2010 - 04:22 PM.


#8 Peter

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Posted 12 November 2010 - 11:28 AM

The protective properties of fabric have often been overlooked but indeed many layers of silk could, and have been, used by the Chinese military to protect themselves. The article on silk stopping bullets by leeyenkun proves this.


Silk as armour? How can silk stand all the blows on the battlefield? Silk is no match for the swords, arrows and spears. Also, silk loses their strength when it's wet or when exposed to sunlight. It's too fragile for a soldier to wear them to the battlefield.


The type of combat you are probably referring to is shock combat, which was usually done with a body of heavily armored men. Shock combat wasn't quite as popular in Asia as it was in Europe, but shock troops still existed in the Chinese military.

The battlefield knows many other conditions and different types of armor were devised for different kinds of troops. Silk indeed will not stop a blow of a mace, or the thrust of a spear. When used with different layers of silk and felt some silk amours could be able to stop arrows. (Also depending heavily on what bows and arrows were used.) But silk is a great protection for light cavalry whose job it was to harass the enemy from all sides, and whose main attribute was speed. Even though not unpenetrable, the silk and other fabrics they wore at least provided some protection. Especially swords and sabers tend to slide off many layers of fabric, and would really need a perfect hit to get through. And even if an arrow is not stopped by it, it will not penetrate as deep as when unprotected. So although not 100% protected, it gives one the speed protection which was essential for their task.

Another type of armor used only in specific situations was chain mail. Most cultures devised arrows that could pierce it. It would also not stop a spear, or a mace. But is impenetrable against cutting, and provides some protection against the trust.

In all, armor does not need to be impenetrable to be of use. There was no invincible warrior in any battlefield. It was always a trade-off between protection and mobility and even the best protected soldiers still had weak spots in their armors like their armpits. An officer's challenge was to make these different kinds of light and heavy troops work together effectively.

-Peter

Edited by Peter, 12 November 2010 - 11:31 AM.

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#9 NEOBRICK

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Posted 25 December 2010 - 04:02 AM

Only after fire weapons were put in use widely can "soft" material be regaded as a kind of material for armor against bullets.Actually Qing army use cotton armor.The handcraft faciliting cotton armor is extremely complex already not mention to make silk this use.
Most ancient Chinese civilians could only were cloth and cotton,for the price of silk were unacceptable for them.Even in ancient China silk is anything but something cheap.

#10 shurite7

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Posted 11 January 2011 - 06:25 PM

I've done some research on the claim that silk was used because arrows could not penetrate this. The first person to claim this is James Chambers in his book The Devils Horsemen. Since then, several writers have said the same thing, but no one has provided any evidence to support this. I have yet to see any tests or any form of proof to validate this claim. I seriously doubt silk was worn because it protected people against arrows. It is much more probable that people wore silk because it was comfortable and they could afford it or they obtained it through looting.
zai jian

Chris

#11 Mei Houwang

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Posted 11 January 2011 - 07:20 PM

I doubt any professional ever claimed silk would outright stop arrows from penetrating prior to the industrial period. What it did was help pull the arrow out. The arrow would still penetrate the skin, it just wouldn't penetrate the silk.

Since then, several writers have said the same thing, but no one has provided any evidence to support this. I have yet to see any tests or any form of proof to validate this claim.


Look up silk bulletproof vests. Its been done.




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