Author Topic: Nara Japanese armour  (Read 395 times)

Duncan Head

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Nara Japanese armour
« on: July 11, 2021, 08:38:02 PM »
So, skim-reading ahead of myself in Nara Japan, 758-763, I find the following passage under February 762:

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The Military Instructors of the Tōkaidō, Saikaidō, and Nankaidō are to oversee the manufacture of twenty thousand two hundred fifty items each of padded armour and helmets for the Kyushu Headquarters. Their patterns are to be of the newest designs of Tang China. The colours of the Five Ranks (footnote: green, red, blue, white, black) are to be depicted on the armour. Four thousand fifty items each are to be uniformly constructed with these colours – vermilion on a green field, red on a blue field, blue on a red field, white on a black field, black on a white field.

This is intriguing for several reasons. First, it appears to be the (one of the?) source for the padded armour reconstructed by some modern scholars (for instance here from the Early Samurai Osprey). Second, when I have previously seen references to armour coloured or trimmed in “five colours” I had assumed that they were the same colours as the Chinese Five Directions/Elements – black, white, red, blue/green, yellow. But this list isn’t quite the same.

But my real problem is its impact on painting my Nara/Heian Japanese. I was planning to organize these into three commands (being a DBMM army) each command with a distinctive colour. As some of you will have noticed in the Currently Painting thread, I have one lot of infantry in red armour trimmed yellow with reddish (“bay horse”) shields, and that command will have a red flag. The second lot has off-white armour trimmed in red, with off-white shields, and will have a white flag. Neither of these match the colour combinations recorded for 762, but I am not going to go back and repaint them now.

The question is what do I do for the third command? In fact these are to include Khurasan’s infantry figures “in issued armour” - of which the spearmen are wearing precisely these padded armours and helmets. I was intending to go for yellow – yellow flag, dull yellow-brown armour (maybe trimmed in red) and shields. But should I do this now, since yellow is about the only colour not appearing in the 762 list? My options look to be green or blue, and I am not sure I fancy either of these colours for a shield-wall. (I was intending to use Outpost Chinese shields for this command – the ones STC4 at http://www.outpostwargameservices.co.uk/ carry.) I’m thinking of a light green or, if blue, maybe a blue-grey rather than a bright blue.

And painting the flag and other assorted bits in the “command colour” is almost the next item on the agenda for painting the generals’ elements. Any thoughts?
  • Duncan Head

Swampster

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Re: Nara Japanese armour
« Reply #1 on: July 11, 2021, 10:37:18 PM »
Green can be tricky. I prefer something like a French dragoon green* with suitable highlights. Going very light can either be very washed out or too acid looking. However, do we know how 'green' this is - could it be the greenish-blue, like Chinese qing

I think the Japanese were using indigo for cloth even that early. IIRC, cheaper cloth is dyed fewer times so the cloth ends up paler (Indigo dying is about repeated dips rather than longer times). Bavarian cornflower ought to work. Red trim would probably look better against this than on a royal blue or deeper.

*Which ought to be very dark but the paints sold as this colour are a bit paler for scale effect I suppose.
  • Peter Kershaw

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Re: Nara Japanese armour
« Reply #2 on: July 11, 2021, 10:46:50 PM »
Interesting idea, thanks. I hadn't thought about going for a paler blue. I have a Vallejo light blue - not sure about the name - which might be OK for the flag and even the armour, but I don't think I would want massed shields in that colour. Might have to use a different shade for that.
  • Duncan Head

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Re: Nara Japanese armour
« Reply #3 on: July 12, 2021, 07:55:52 AM »
The shields would look good using one of the contrast paint mid- to dark- blues. Its a really nice colour.
  • Peter Kershaw

Duncan Head

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Re: Nara Japanese armour
« Reply #4 on: July 12, 2021, 06:08:37 PM »
Vallejo Pale Green; and a mix of Sky Blue and Dark Blue. I suspect the blue may be the better of the two.
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Erpingham

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Re: Nara Japanese armour
« Reply #5 on: July 12, 2021, 06:13:28 PM »
Vallejo Pale Green; and a mix of Sky Blue and Dark Blue. I suspect the blue may be the better of the two.

Re : Green . Might depend on the wash you use e.g. brown over green.  But too lurid for my taste in the base state, I'm afraid. 
  • Anthony Clipsom

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Re: Nara Japanese armour
« Reply #6 on: July 12, 2021, 06:34:09 PM »
I'm sure the wash would calm both colours down. But I know what you mean....
  • Duncan Head

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Re: Nara Japanese armour
« Reply #7 on: July 12, 2021, 09:38:04 PM »
The green is a bit too bright for my taste, but would be interesting to see after a wash.
  • Peter Kershaw

evilgong

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Re: Nara Japanese armour
« Reply #8 on: July 13, 2021, 01:22:57 AM »
The green should look fine with a dark green or olive wash over it.

DB
  • David Brown

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Re: Nara Japanese armour
« Reply #9 on: July 17, 2021, 11:20:30 AM »
And now I have found this site which plainly illustrates the yellow trimmed with red option which I was going to use in the first place before I got side-tracked by Bender's translated blues and greens.

Running the first paragraph through the wonderful Google Translate gives us:

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続日本紀の天平宝字6年丁未の記事によると、東海、南海、西海道の節渡使の料として綿襖冑各2万250具を造り、すべて唐の新様式と同様の5行の色にかたどる。皆甲板の形を碧みどり地には朱、赤地には黄、黄地には朱、白地には黒、黒地には朱でえがいて4050具ごとに一つの色とした、と書かれている。即ち綿襖冑は布製で、中に麻や楮こうぞ類等を入れ、そとには甲板の画がかいてあるだけである。
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Shokunihonki no tenpyōhōji 6-nen Teimi no kiji ni yoru to, Tōkai, Nankai, saikaidō no setsu Do-shi no-ryō to shite wata fusuma kabuto kaku 2 man 250 gu o tsukuri, subete tō no shin yōshiki to dōyō no 5-gyō no iro ni katadoru. Kai kanpan no katachi o ao Midori-chi ni wa shu, akaji ni wa ki, ōji ni wa shu, shiraji ni wa kuro, kuroji ni wa shu de egaite 4050 gu-goto ni hitotsu no iro to shita, to kaka rete iru. Sunawachi wata fusuma kabuto wa nunosei de,-chū ni asa ya kōzo kō zo-rui-tō o ire,-so to ni wa kanpan no ga ga kaite aru dakedearu.
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According to an article about the 6th year of the Tenpyo-hoji in the Shoku Nihongi period, 20,250 cotton sliding doors were made for each of the Tokai, Nankai, and Saikaidō messengers. It is modeled on the color of. It is written that the shape of the deck was painted in vermilion on a green background, yellow on a red background, vermilion on a yellow background, black on a white background, and vermilion on a black background, making it one color for each 4050 tool. .. That is, the cotton sliding door is made of cloth, and hemp and mulberry mulberry are put in it, and the deck is only drawn on it.

This is a reference to the very same passage, but clearly the colour terms have been translated quite differently. Whether this results from different readings of the text or some other cause I have no idea.

I think the blue/green diversion has been a waste of time and I'm going back to the yellow that I had originally intended.

(Oh, "sliding doors" - the text has fusuma kabuto, roughly where Bender has "padded armour and helmets": we all know that kabuto is a helmet, but "fusuma" seems to mean a sliding screen door in most contexts. Don't know if there is a homophone connected with armour?)
  • Duncan Head

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Re: Nara Japanese armour
« Reply #10 on: July 17, 2021, 12:19:13 PM »
As for the fusuma, Thom Richardson tells me:

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Fusuma 襖 is also pronounced  ao, an archaic word for the everyday garment worn by men in ancient Japan, which may explain some of the confusion.

So the original actually means something more like "coat and helmet" when describing the armour. No sliding doors involved.
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Jim Webster

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Re: Nara Japanese armour
« Reply #11 on: July 17, 2021, 01:00:50 PM »
One may be the colours as described by the wife, and the other as by the husband  :-[
  • Jim Webster

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Re: Nara Japanese armour
« Reply #12 on: July 18, 2021, 12:20:12 PM »
Thom's just sent me his translation of the website text.

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According to an article (kiji) about the 6th year of the Tenpyo-hoji in the Shoku Nihongi period, 20,250 cotton coats and helmets were made for each of the Tokai, Nankai, and Saikaidō regional military governors (節渡使, jiedushi in Chinese, not sure what they were in Japanese) the same as the new Chinese 5 colour pattern. It was written that each armour (甲dō) plate (板, ita) be blue green (碧緑, ao midori) on a vermillion (朱, shu) ground (地, chi), red (aka) on yellow (黄, ki) ground, yellow (ki) on vermillion (shu) ground, white on black (白, shiro, 黒, kuro) ground, black on vermillion ground, 4,050 gu (counter for sets of armour) of each colour scheme. Namely the cotton armour plates and helmets were made of cloth, in the middle of each was hemp or mulberry paper (楮, kōzo) whichever was put in, and the armour plate drawn on top.

Bender's translation of Shoku Nihongi seems to be working from a different text, judging from my amateurish attempts to compare the characters for the colours.
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Re: Nara Japanese armour
« Reply #13 on: July 26, 2021, 01:46:25 AM »
I would note that the Japanese word for green is more modern than the Nara period, so there seems to be a problem in translation somewhere.

Blue versus green is even today, curiously identified in some circumstances, but I don't know how you could have a sharp distinction in the Nara period without it being used as a description for a known object - sky-blue and grass-blue. (I know grass is not blue, but there is no word for green.) I am not saying they weren't green, but you'd need the original to figure out where this came from.

碧緑 is also not literally blue + green, its jade + green (midori). Blue (ao) is 青.
« Last Edit: July 26, 2021, 01:58:12 AM by Dangun »
  • Nicholas Spratt

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Re: Nara Japanese armour
« Reply #14 on: July 26, 2021, 10:45:45 AM »
Thanks, Nick.
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