ometimes you just get lucky. I did. This little piece of the history of China turned up right where I live, in Australia. A certain Australian antique dealer had had his eye on a certain collection of arms and armour for several years. It finally came up for sale and he claimed it. Ancient Chinese military pieces, Japanese pieces and others, were put up for sale, and my husband spotted this one. After a quick check with a reputable historian, he decided to buy it for me. I love my husband! I really do!
I don't know a lot about it yet. there are more questions than answers. If you are good at the history of China, please feel free to contact me and share your knowledge. In the meantime, I'll show you a lot of pictures, tell you the bit I do know, and wait to add the rest when it becomes available.
Updated July 14, 2009
My teacher, Scott Rodell, has shared some interesting knowledge about this helmet. Therefore the information on this page has changed. There is a thread about the helmet on the GRTC Forum. Anyone interested in the history of China should join the forum
The base of the plume holder is a dome with flat sides. Sometimes pieces seen in artwork from the history of China, or in museums are decorated with inlays, jewels, or other decorations. If you look closely at this one, you will see it is decorated with carving. I don't know if there were inlays. If there were, they are now gone, but the design is still there, faintly carved into the iron.
The stalk of the plume holder was fitted inside and then peened in place. It is quite loose and moves about freely on top of the helmet but it is also quite secure.
There is a small visor on the brow. This may have helped deflect a sword sliding towards the face. It would have also shaded the eyes from the sun.
There are smaller holes below the row of holes made for the flaps to be riveted through. These are placed well for a cradle of leather straps to hold the helmet on. This is only speculation though. The smaller holes continue around the inside of the helmet behind the visor area. Other possible speculations are that they could have been used for attaching either a buffer for the straps, or an inner padding. We have no evidence of this but it is good to lightly hold all possibilities towards future discoveries.
While photographing the helmet, I discovered the carved decorations also cover the front steel strip both inside and out, as well as the visor. These are quite faint from age and it has been suggested that acid may have been used to clean up the helmet. This would have worn away some of the motif. I'm taking close up pictures in good light to try and catch as much of the design as possible. As part of conserving the helmet, my sister is attempting a digital rubbing of the designs so we can see what they originally looked like. I intend to use them in future reproduction pieces for reenactment.
It is possible to artificially retore patina when original period items have been over zealously cleaned. My plan for this helmet at present is only conservation - minimal interference to prevent further deterioration, but there is always the option of full restoration. We have good pictures and artifacts from this period of the history of China, so it could be restored. But that would mean half the helmet would be new. I'm inclined to leave it the way it is.