Sunday, August 15, 2010
Cavalry and horses of Northern Wei - China nomadic rulers
Let us return to China and its nomadic heritage and equine past, to the time of the IV-VI centuries AD.
When in the western Eurasia and around the Mediterranean Sea classical Antiguity was slowly dying under assault of the Germanic barbarians and new religion, and where her direct heirs, Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire and Sassanid Persia, were locked in series of never ending wars, in the eastern Eurasia Chinese Han, eg a Han rider from Cernuschi_Museum , empire Han_Dynasty collapsed amid fighting and corruption, and rivalry amongst the ruling clans. China rulers and conquerors divided the Han empire into Three_Kingdoms , while some parts went back to the nomadic peoples as they were restless and seeking their own empires, and soon, in the VI century AD, almost the entire steppe was to be united under the Turkuts (ancient Turks) gumilevica.kulichki.net beautifully reconstructed in this Russian article http://history.novosibdom.ru/node/31 or on this page ancient Turks articles , future arch-enemy of the Tang Dynasty and Sassanid Iran.
Three Kingdoms eventually collapsed and in the south of China we then have a leading Jin dynasty Jin_Dynasty 280-420 AD, but their rule in the north was challenged by the nomads during the IV century AD. Because in Han's wake the northeastern nomadic peoples of the Eastern steppes were bound to create their own smaller and bigger kingdoms, and one group of proto-Turkic nomads seemed to distinguish itself - Touba Xianbei xianbei . They absorbed exhibit/nwei former masters of the eastern steppe, multiethnic polity of the Xiongnu xiongnu image002 (wonderful reconstructions on this Siberian archaeology page history.novosibdom.ru/?q=node/45 ) that were chief enemies of Chin and Han dynasties empires until Han armies destroyed their might xiongnu.atspace.com xiongnu.atspace.com/art
article Xiongnu mutliethnicity archaeology
xiongnu belt plate
Toba/Touba Xianbei northern wei essay were most likely Mongolian/Turkic nomads, that came southward from the Manchurian steppe, and upon taking over the Inner Mongolia moved further south, and eventually in concert with Han Chinese elites created their own empire known as Northern Wei (386-534 AD), becoming sinicized towards the end of their rule over the Han populations. Their steppe enemies were Turkic juan_juan , some scholars believe they were know as Avars in western Eurasia. Slav-Avar belt plaques/mounts
more images of steppe art, in this article associated with ancient nomadic Bulgarians bolgnames.com/text/Treasure.html
But Northern Wei was just one of the kingdoms or empires in China of that time Southern and Northern Dynasties, before the first reunification of Han China by the short lived Sui dynasty Sui_Dynasty
In the history of the development of war horse harness this period II-VI century AD , within the eastern Eurasia milieu, had been the most fertile ground for revolutionary changes - it was the time of the development of solid 'treed' saddle (with pommel and cantle) from Saka/Sarmatian saddle eg saddle sibir_181 , curb-bit, stirrups, horse armor. Naturally some of these inventions were made within the Eastern Eurasia by the various nomads and Han Chinese, and some came from the West, from the Sassanid Iran (Persia) etc.
Some visual sources showing artifacts of Northern Dynasties, mostly ceramics and few paintings :
military man/officer in a nomadic costume (Northern China) http://pl.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Plik:CMOC_Treasures_of_Ancient_China_exhibit_-_painted_figure_of_an_officer.jpg&filetimestamp=20080615200751
Xinabei belt buckle, with dragon images, this kind of belt buckle has been known to the nomads of the eastern Eurasia since II millennium BC http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:BeltBuckleXianbei3-4thcentury.jpg
warrior in armor http://history.cultural-china.com/chinaWH/images/exbig_images/d710523115ea14f25607036d17243364.jpg
mounted musician http://history.cultural-china.com/chinaWH/images/exbig_images/2d0edc1388eb068996a61423fecca491.jpg
nomadic musicians china. Wei musicians on horseback
riders, horses, and camels (Bactrian) of Northern Wei
muscian with nomadic 'horse' drums
nomad on a Bactrian camel
rider nomadic fashion
archers from frescoes of the Dunhua caves dunhua53
heavy cavalry, Dunhua frescos dunhua54
rider with a horn
heavy cavalry cataphract
heavy cavalry cataphract II
heavy cavalry cataphract III
the above heavy riders are shown without spears and swords, and without spear holster, that only very few sculptures show (I will show them in a separate entry on this blog I hope)
more ceramics eramics - fine steeds:
here we have fine example of Northern Wei horse armor and saddle
pack horse, essential ingredient of a fast moving nomadic/mounted army: pack horse
Northern Wei tomb guardians silkroad/exhibit/nwei/nwei
Northern Wei neighbors
beautiful painting of two riders from Northern Qi (550 - 577AD) dynasty 'Xianbei' tomb of one Liu Xian, part of a series of funerary painting showing horsemen riding and hunting with dogs riders northern Qi_Dynasty.jpg please note that they are using stirrups
in the western part of the 'Chinese' steppe, in today's Chinese Turkestan, lived Tocharians, Indo-European people of the eastern part of the Silk Road, Tocharian Qizil Cave Donors Their towns and fortresses will become of part of the Tang Empire, and from there Tang China will clash with oncoming Arab conquerors of Central Asia, in the battle on river Talas
Some literature on war, Iranian influences in China, 'Chinese' nomads, Chinese miltiary during the end of I milenium BC and fist 500 years of I milenium AD time frame etc:
Article on iranica.com articles chinese-iranian influences
Nicola di Cosmo, Ancient China and its Enemies http://books.google.com/books?id=va-IUoQTNCQC&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_atb#v=onepage&q&f=false
works of Albert Dien - very intresting article on the preTang armor in China, while another one - on Chinese, Korean and Japanese horse armor - is also a very interesting article, and here link to his very interesting book on the lifes and arts of six dynasties
Chris Peers, and Michael Perry work for Osprey, for this period the vol I of imperial China Imperial China
and another rather Osprey, badly needing rewriting but with beautiful iconography and illustrations by late Angus McBride, Atilla and Nomad Hordes, by dr Nicolle attila and hordes
For reconstructions of the nomadic warriors you can look for "Warriors Of Eurasia, from the VIII century BC to the XVII century ad" by Mikhael V Gorelik, Montvert Publications, 1995.
For the nomadic Bronze and Iron Age art in China nomadic heritage best are the books by art historian Emma Bunker , eg Ancient Bronzes of the Eastern Eurasian Steppes or Nomadic Art of the Eastern Eurasian Steppes
but this article written by two art galleries, Janssens and Wace with Emma Bunker help, on the Bronzes is also easily accessible via net nomadic bronzes
Interesting book by Davis -Kimbal, Bashilov and Yablonsky Nomads in the Early Iron Age
Orlat belt palque - found by Galina Pugachenova, these are some of the most important images of Central Asia nomadic warriors and warrior lore, perhaps Xiongnu warriors in this article with detailed drawings Mode Orlat and Russian language version by messers Nikonorov and Khudiakov Nikonorov Khudiakov orlat
...and so many others, one only needs to starts searching the net...
In China equine-military history overview treads on my blog, next I think I am going to tackle the Tang China and her marvelous horse.
And here is a very interesting site with reconstructed images of Chinese warriors' arms and armor throughout the history china-ancient-armours
Web forum devoted to the history of this period chinahistoryforum age-of-fragmentation
I hope to cover some of the subjects mentioned above in more specific blog entries with my own reconstruction etc.
little sketch of a Sui or Korean caparisoned horse, drawn without a bridle nor bit - on purpose :)