Dingjia Brigandine

The Qianlong Emporer in Dingjia Armor.
Alt Text--Chinese Armor Qianlong Emperor
Chinese armor from the Manchu Dynasty we know as the Qing, was often made of dingjia plates, a form of brigandine. It consisted of rectangular plates of metal, riveted between layers of material.

Some of the best surviving examples of this Chinese armor have silk brocade on the outside and linen underneath. The Manchus, particulary those of higher rank, wore this heavy and very protective armour. It is well known that not all Chinese warriors were as heavily armoured as others.

Some of the Manchus had their horses armoured as well. Even with a light rider, such warhorses needed to be quite strong to carry their own armor as well as an armoured rider.

There were different methods of making the brigandine armour. Sometimes the plates were not fixed to one another. The more usual method consisted of overlapping rectangles and riveting them in position. Overlapping plates fielded blows more protectively, since the strike was absorbed by the entire sheet of armour. In order for the armour to be flexible enough, the holes were wider than the rivet shanks, and each plate was curved.

Brigandine armour appears throughout Chinese history, as does maille and lamellar versions. The older plate armours had larger pieces and fewer plates. More recent, Qing versions, during the Manchu Dynasty era, had smaller, finer plates, making them more flexible. Usually there were specific sizes of plates for different parts of the body.

Fitting Dingjia plates together.
Alt Text--Chinese Armor Dingjia
The term, dingjia, means nail armour. It is also called ting kia, and some make a difference, saying the word kia implies metal, while jia makes no distinction from other materials. I do not speak Chinese, so those who do are welcome to contact the Chinese Swords Guide with further information. It is called nail armour because of the effect of rows of small nails (rivets), on the outside of the cloth. Rivets were nearly always brass. Only those of very high rank had silver. The Emporer alone, had gold rivets. Sometimes the rivets had a protective covering.

Even in a suit of dingjia Chinese armor, complete with tasset, there were some parts made of single pieces of metal. The codpiece (groin covering) was a single sheet of metal. Often the outside of the material covering, was still dotted with studs, even though these had no purpose other than decoration. The chests of chinese warriors were protected, over the heart, with a dome of metal, usually not covered by material. there was a matching one over the heart at the back of the body. Examination of Chinese armour on the terracotta warriors may be helpful for continued study.

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