Forensic Fashion
(c) 2006-present R. Macaraeg


>Costume Studies
>>1796 Qing qinjun ying
Subjectqinjun ying imperial guard
Culture: Sino-Manchurian
Setting: Qing empire, China 18th-19thc

Context (Event Photos, Primary Sources, Secondary Sources, Field Notes)

* Heath/Perry 1994 p12
"The nucleus of the Banner army was the six divisions based in the capital, comprising the Imperial Bodyguard (Ch'in-chün ying), the Vanguard Division (Ch'ien-feng ying) the Flank Division (Hu-chün ying), the Light Division (Ch'ien-jui ying), the Firearms Division (Huo-ch'i ying) and the Paid Force (Hsiao-ch'i ying).  The Imperial Bodyguard -- a cavalry force of nearly 3,000 men -- was more a ceremonial unit than a functional one."

* Elliott 2001 p81
"Another elite group within the Eight Banners was the imperial guard.  There were three such corps: the Guard, the Vanguard, and the Imperial Bodyguard, in ascending order of exclusivity, pay, and prestige.  All were Manchu institutions tracing their origins to before 1644.  Soldiers from the regular Manchu and Mongol banners could aspire to join the Guard (hujun ying/bayara), which was assigned to protect the palace.  The Vanguard (qianfeng ying/gabsihiyan) was also made up of Manchus and Mongols, but with only about fifteen hundred men, it was just one-tenth the size of the Guard.  When the emperor left the palace, the Vanguard led the way, as it did also in battle.  The most elite guard unit was the Imperial Bodyguard (lingshiwei or qinjun ying/hiya), which followed the emperor everywhere.  Members of the Imperial Bodyguard were drawn only from the Manchu banners, and primarily from the Upper Three Banners (there was, however, a separate Chinese bodyguard).  About the same in number as the Vanguard, to the Imperial Bodyguard fell the job of protecting the emperor's safety at all times, within and without the palace." ...


* Anawalt 2007 p169
"... Qing parade armor did not appear until after the conquest.  At that time, the Manchu adopted Chinese-style brigandine armor constructed of overlapping metal plates covered with padded textiles."

* Silks for thrones and altars p76-78 (John E Vollmer)
"Surviving evidence suggests that Manchu military uniforms were identical to their riding costumes with added coats of chain mail. Dress or parade armor did not appear until after the conquest. ... Ceremonial armor worn by guards at the Forbidden City and high-ranking members of the imperial household, including the emperor, was derived from Ming dynasty prototypes and featured metal plates covered with luxury silks and gilt brass fittings."

* Robinson 1967 p148-149
"The usual form taken by these armours is a basic jacket, with or without sleeves; an underskirt, like a divided apron, of ankle length; and a pair of high boots.  Over the jacket are buttoned, or fastened with cords and buckles, certain reinforces, such as semicircular shoulderpieces , deep crescent-shaped gussets beneath the arms, and rectangular pieces below these and across the front opening over the privates.  In some, the sleeves are dispensed with or built up of hundreds of narrow horizontal splints attached to fabric, which can be fastened to the shoulders by buttons or strap and buckle in a similar manner to the kote of Japanese armour.  Sometimes, splinted 'vambraces' are provided to tie round the forearm.  Each of these sections is lined with its rows of plates, and in several instances some external reinforces are applied, such as circular silvered copper mirrors on breast and back, or a border of three or four overlapping splints on the upper edges of the shoulderpieces.  These metal fittings are frequently gilded or, on armours of high court officials, of copper gilt, pierced and engraved, principally with designs of dragons.  The divided skirts of horsemen's armours have rows of exposed narrow lamellae secured by rivets within a broad frame of fabric. ...
​    "Armours dating from the K'ien-lung period (1736-95) at Chicago, amongst the earliest known in the Western hemisphere, have portions which are studded, but not backed by plates. This was the beginning of the end for armour in China and shows that it was fast becoming a uniform and little else.  Several military court officials' uniforms in Britain, such as that in the Wallace Collection, are made of rich blue and gold brocade, woven in a conventional scale pattern, and carry an external powdering of gilt nail-heads, but no internal plates.  The helmets are silvered copper with applied fittings of pierced and engraved copper-gilt, sometimes set with corals and turquoise.  Dragons and waves dominate the theme of decoration.  Crests of red hair, stiff tails of sable-like bulrushes, feathers and netting are mounted in a slender crest-tube surmounting the crown -- a decadent form never seen on real Chinese helmets.  [CONTRA Alexander & Mason 1998 p68]  Anciently, a tassel of yak or pony hair dyed red, or a spray of feathers, would be the limit of helmet ornament."

* Hua 2010 p73-74
"The Qing Dynasty armor suits were divided into coat of mail and a weishang.  On each shoulder of the coat of mail, there was a protective shoulder pad, with an armpit guard underneath.  In addition, metal chest plates were attached on front and back, with a trapezoid-shaped chest protector.  The left side of the body was protected, while ther right remained open for carrying bow and arrows.  The double width weishang was used to protect the sides, fastened around the waist when needed.  Helmets, whether made of iron or cattle hide, were painted.  On all four sides of the helmet, there were vertical ridges, a brow protector and metal tubing for attaching the decorative feather, tassel or animal fur.  A protective silk collar for shielding the neck and the ears, decorated with fine embroidery and metal tacks." [SIC]

* Stone 1934 p57
"The best and most characteristic Chinese suits have always been brigandine, made of two thicknesses of cloth with small iron plates between them.  This was frequently reinforced by round metal plates on the breast, back and knees.   The helmets were of steel with neck guards of brigandine like the body armor.  These suits had leg pieces like those shown for riding and large divided skirts of jazeraint for fighting on foot. ...  Later the entire suits were made of padded cloth with gilt rivets; the only actual armor being the helmet, the round metal plates on the back and breast and the huge and elaborate shoulder guards were larger and contained more metal than the later. [sic]"

* Heath/Perry 1994 p43 (reconstructing a Banner cavalryman in armour, Taiping Rebellion 1851-66)
"Armour was still worn by some Bannermen and most officers, more as a military insignia than a form of defence.  It consisted of decoratively embroidered quilted cotton silk (silk for officers), reinforced with iron or brass studs.  It was called ting kia or 'armour with nails', and occasionally still incorporated a lining of small metal plates.  Among Banner cavalrymen the colour of the quilted fabric was uniform within a unit.  Helmets were of steel or leather, often painted or otherwise decorated, with a tall plume tube that usually bore a tuft of red horsehair or a small red flag."

* Alexander/Mason 1988 p68 (writing in 1793)
"This dress of the troops is extremely clumsy, inconvenient, and inimical to the performance of military exercises, yet a battalion thus equipped has, at some distance, a splendid and even warlike appearance; but on closer inspection these coats of mail are found to be nothing more than quilted nankeen, enriched with thin plates of metal, surrounded with studs, which gives the tout-ensemble very much the appearance of armour.
​    "From the crown of the helmet (which is the only part that is iron) issues a spear, inclosed with a tassel of dyed horse-hair.  The characters on the breast-plate, denote the corps to which he belongs; and the box which is worn in front, serves to contain heads of arrows, bowstrings, &c. &c.  The lower part of the bow is inclosed in a sheath or case."

* Peers 2006 p232 caption (describing a 19th-century armour for a Manchu Imperial Guardsman)
"By this date such armour was worn mainly for ceremonial purposes; the iron plates were generally omitted, and the studs were retained purely for show."

* Heath 1998 p62
"ARMOURED BANNERMAN 1800-1900  A considerable number of such armours preserved in the Palace Museum in Peking owe their survival to the fact that they were stored in the Forbidden City between parades.  They are in the colours of the men's respective Banners (yellow, yellow edged in red, white, white edged in red, red, red edged in white, blue, and blue edged in red), with brass studs, and black-laquered, red-plumed leather helmets.  Beyond suffering from wear and tear, there is no reason to suppose that campaign armours differed in any significant way.  Timkowski (1820-21) says that when he saw them, Banner cavalrymen in Peking were still carrying bamboo wicker shields in addition."


* Yang 1999 p30
"Long-handled sabers were generally used for horse-to-horse fighting."


* Stone 1934 p134
"The Chinese bows are more complicated [than Korean bows].  The frame is a piece of bamboo with pieces of a deciduous wood glued on at the handle ends and sharp bends near the ends.  Horn is then glued on the belly.  A single piece for the length of the bow for the finer ones; and two meeting at the handle for the others.  The back has sinew glued on it.  The ends and handle are covered with leather or shark skin which goes entirely around the bow.  The back only of the parts between is covered with a thin layer of bark which is frequently decorated.  Narrow blocks are glued and doweled on the belly of the bow about nine inches from each end; the string bears on these when the bow is not in use. Many of the handles are covered with cork.
​    "The Chinese bows are large and powerful.  Amiot says ... that the bows made for the army were made of four sizes, 70, 80, 90, and 100 pounds pull.  Larger ones were made for exceptional men, or for parade.  Bows of 150 pounds are by no means rare in China.  The arrows used at the siege of the Legations in 1900 are 3 feet 5.5 inches long and 7/16 of an inch in diameter with heavy socketed steel heads.  Some of the whistling arrows are 4 feet 2 inches long with heads four inches in diameter and six inches long.  The bows that I saw in Peking that were used with such arrows were huge, about six feet long strung, with a cross section at the handle of nearly two square inches.  They were said to have a pull of about 200 pounds and looked it."

Sabers (Pei Dao, Kouming Dao)

Alexander/Mason 1988 p132 (writing in 1793)
"Their scymeters, though rudely formed, are said to equal the best from Spain."