In the summer mountains
Somewhere a tree collapsed with a crash -
Matsuo Basho (1644 -1694). Translation by A. Dolina
Somewhere a tree collapsed with a crash -
Matsuo Basho (1644 -1694). Translation by A. Dolina
Not so long ago, a conversation about Japanese came into VO for the umpteenth time. weapons and Japanese armor. And again, it was very surprising to read about wood armor and questions about "Japanese varnish." That is, someone somewhere clearly heard a ringing, but ... does not know where he is. However, if there is a question, how did Japanese armor differ from all the others, then there should be an answer. And this will be discussed in this article. Since materials on Japanese armor at the VO have already been published, there is no point in repeating them. But to focus on some interesting details, like the same famous varnish, why not?
When you look at the Japanese armor up close, the first thing you see is colored cords. The plates under them are perceived as a background. (Tokyo National Museum)
So let's start with the main difference. And it was this: if the European armor of the era of chain mail consisted of chain mail and "metal scales", then the Japanese armor at that time was made up of plates that were interconnected with colored cords. Further, both the Chinese and the same Europeans in armor all had approximately the same size. They were usually riveted on the skin or fabric, both outside and inside, with the heads of the rivets protruding outside, gilded or decorated with decorative sockets.
Japanese sword V - VI centuries. (Tokyo National Museum)
The Japanese classical armor of the Heian epoch (as o-eroy, haramaki-do and do-maru) consisted of plates of three types - narrow with one row of holes, wider with two rows, and very wide - with three. The plates with two rows of holes, called o-arame, were in most armor and this was the main difference between ancient armor. The plate had 13 holes: five on top (large in size, cadate-no-ana) and 8 on the bottom (sieve-t -ji-no-ana - “small holes”). When the armor was collected, the plates were superimposed on each other in such a way that each of them would half cover the one that was on her right side. At the beginning, and then at the end of each row, one more plate was added that had one row of holes, so that the “armor” turned out to be double the thickness!
If, however, sikime-zane plates with three rows of holes were used, then all three plates superimposed on each other, so that in the end it gave a triple thickness! But the weight of such armor was significant, so in this case the plates were tried to be made of leather. Although leather plates made of durable "plantar leather", and besides, two three-three rows superimposed one upon the other, provided very good protection, with the weight of armor much less than that assembled from plates made of metal.
Today, quite a lot of interesting literature is published in English on Japanese armor, and not only Stephen Turnbull alone. This brochure, for example, despite the fact that it contains only 30 pages, gives an exhaustive description of Japanese armor. And all because it was made by experts of the Royal Arsenal in Leeds.
In the 13th century, thinner kozane records appeared, which also had all along 13 holes. That is, the holes for the cords in them were the same as in the old o-arame, but they themselves have become much narrower. The weight of armor from such plates immediately decreased, because now they had less metal than before, but the required number of plates that needed to be forged, cut holes in them, and most importantly, cover them with protective varnish and tie them together, has increased a lot.
Page from this brochure. It shows the armor donated to King James Y. I by Shogun Tokugawa Hidedead in 1610.
However, the assembly technology of such armor was also improved and somewhat simplified. If, for example, each of the plates was previously varnished separately, then now of them the strips were first collected, and only now they were all varnished simultaneously. The process of making armor has accelerated, but they themselves, albeit slightly, have become cheaper. Then, in the XIV century, new yojane records appeared, which were wider than the previous kozane.
Haramaki-to armor with shoulder pads from the armor of o-roy. Epoch of Momoyama, XVI century. (Tokyo National Museum)
In any case, the technology of connecting the plates with the help of cords was very laborious, although at first glance it was not particularly difficult - sit yourself, and pull the cords into the holes so that one plate is bound to another. But it was a real art, which had its name - odoshi, because it was required to link the plates so that their ranks did not sag and did not shift.
Reconstruction of the armor o-roy. (Tokyo National Museum)
Of course, sagging, like stretching of cords, whether they are made of leather or silk, was never completely avoided, since they simply could not but stretch under the weight of the plates. Therefore, the masters-armors in Japan have always had a lot of work. They tried to increase the rigidity of the armor by tying the yojane plates onto the leather strip. But ... in any case, the skin is the skin, and as soon as it got wet, how hard it was to lose, stretch, and the rows of plates spread out to the sides.
Another reconstruction of the armor of the Edo era, XVII century. (Tokyo National Museum)
Shoulders of o-sode from this armor bear the emblem of the Ashikaga clan - the color of pavlon. (Tokyo National Museum)
That is, before the meeting with the Europeans, neither chain mail nor solid-metal armor were used in Japan. But in the decoration of these plates fantasy masters knew no bounds! But first of all, it should be noted that the plates of Japanese armor were always necessarily covered with the famous Urus varnish. Europeans cleaned their chain mail of rust in barrels of sand. Armor from solid-forged plates were subjected to bluing, gilding, silvering, painting. But the Japanese preferred savings of varnishing with all this technique! It would seem, why in this difficult? I took a brush, dipped it in varnish, smeared it, dried it and it was done! But in fact, this process was much more laborious and complex, and not everyone knows about it outside of Japan.
Breastplate with imitation plates and cords, completely filled with varnish. (Tokyo National Museum)
To begin with, the collection of the juice of a lacquer tree is not an easy task, because this juice is very poisonous. Then - the lacquer coating should be applied in several layers, and between each varnish should be carefully polished all surfaces of varnished products using emery stones, charcoal and water. All this is troublesome, but ... familiar and understandable. Drying products coated with Japanese varnish, is also not quite as if you used oil or nitrolak.
The rare lacing of Japanese armor, which was used on later armor like the Tosi gusoku, made it possible to see the plates of the armor much better. (Tokyo National Museum)
The fact is that the lacquer of the Urusi needs moisture (!), Humidity and ... coolness to dry completely! That is, if you dry products from it under the sun, nothing will come of it! Japanese masters used special cabinets for drying varnished products in the past, arranged so that water flowed along their walls, and where the ideal humidity was maintained in the order of 80-85% and the temperature was not higher than 30 ° degrees. Drying time, and it would be more correct to say - polymerization of varnish, while it was equal to 4-24 hours.
Here is the famous lacquered tree in the summer.
The easiest way, of course, would be to take a metal plate, paint it, say, black, red or brown, or gild it and varnish it. And often this is exactly what the Japanese did, avoiding unnecessary trouble and getting an acceptable result in all respects. But ... the Japanese would not be Japanese if they did not try to create a textured finish of the plates, which would not be spoiled by the blows and would also be pleasant to the touch. For this, in the last few layers of lacquer, the master armors introduced, for example, baked clay (because of this, there was even a completely wrong opinion that the plates in Japanese armor had a ceramic coating!), Sea sand, pieces of hardened varnish, golden powder, or even ordinary land. They painted the plates before varnishing is very simple: black with soot, red with cinnabar; for brown, a mixture of red and black colors was used.
With the help of lacquer, the Japanese did not only their armor, but also a lot of beautiful and useful things: screens, tables, tea trays and all kinds of caskets, well, for example, such as this "cosmetic bag" made in the Kamakura era, XIII century . (Tokyo National Museum)
"Cosmetic Bag" - "Birds", Kamakura era, XIII century. (Tokyo National Museum)
For a more decorative effect after the 2-3 first lacquer varnishes, the masters sprinkled the plates with metal filings, pieces of nacre or even chopped straw, and then again varnished in several layers, and used both transparent varnish and color. Working in this way, they produced plates with a surface that mimics wrinkled skin, tree bark, the same bamboo, rusty iron (the motif, by the way, is very popular in Japan!), Etc. Finishing just under red-brown rusty iron was popular in later japanese armor. The reason - the spread of the cult of tea, because good tea had a rich brown color. In addition, the coating of red-brown lacquer made it possible to create the appearance of iron, corroded with rust. And the Japanese literally raved (and rave!) "Old", adore old utensils, so it is not surprising, not to mention the fact that the rust itself was not there in principle!
The box of the Muromachi era, the XVI century. (Tokyo National Museum)
It is believed, and this varnish in Japan became known thanks to Prince Yamato Takeru, who killed his own brother, and then the dragon and accomplished many more different feats. According to legend, he accidentally broke a branch of a tree with bright red foliage. A beautiful, brilliant juice flowed from the break, and for some reason it occurred to the prince to order his servants to collect it and cover his favorite dishes with it. After that, she gained a very beautiful look and extraordinary strength, which the prince really liked. According to another version, the prince during the hunt wounded a boar, but he could not finish it off. Then he broke a branch of a lacquer tree, smeared an arrowhead on it with juice and, since the juice of this was very poisonous, killed him.
Japanese lacquer is so durable and resistant to heat that even teapots are covered with it! Edo Epoch, XVIII century
Not surprisingly, the plates, decorated in such a complicated way, were really very beautiful and could withstand all the vagaries of the Japanese climate. But you can imagine the whole amount of labor that needed to be spent in order to varnish several hundred (!) Such records, which are necessary for traditional type armor, not to mention tens of meters of leather or silk cords, which required them to be joined. Therefore, beauty - beauty, but also the manufacturability, strength and reliability of armor should also be taken into account. In addition, such armor was heavy to wear. It was necessary to get into them under the rain, as they got wet and their weight grew very much. God forbid in the wet armor to be in the cold - lacing froze and it was impossible to take them off, you had to warm up by the fire. Naturally, the lacing got dirty and occasionally had to be dismissed and washed, and then to collect the armor again. They also got ants, lice and fleas, which caused the owners of the armor a lot of inconvenience, that is, the high qualities of the plates themselves devalued the way they were joined!
It so happened that I was lucky to be born in an old wooden house, where there were a lot of old things. One of them is this Chinese lacquer box (and in China the lacquer tree is also growing!), Finished in the Chinese style - that is, painted with gold and applications of mother-of-pearl and ivory.
Trade with the Portuguese led to the emergence of Namban-do armor (“Southern barbarians' armor”), which were modeled on the European ones. For example, the hatamune-do was an ordinary European cuirass with a stiffener protruding from the front and a traditional Kusazuri skirt attached to it. Moreover, even in this case, the polished metal, as the "white armor" in Europe, these plates did not shine. Most often, they were covered with the same lacquer - most often brown, which had both a utilitarian value and helped to introduce a purely foreign thing into the Japanese world of perception of form and content.
Vietnamese took over the skill of working with varnish, and they themselves began to make such boxes, which were supplied to the USSR in the 70 years of the last century. Before us is a pattern of egg shell inlays. It is pasted on paper, cut out the pattern, and already its paper up pasted on varnish. Then the paper is grinded, the product is again varnished and polished again until the shell ceases to stand out above the main background. Then put the last layer and the product is ready. Such a low-key, mean beauty.
One of the manifestations of the decline in the weapon case was the revival of old weapons styles, a trend that received a significant stimulus thanks to the book of the historian Arai Hakuseki "Honto Gunkiko" published in 1725. Khakuseki adored old styles of armor type, and blacksmiths of that time tried to reproduce them to the needs of the public, sometimes creating strange and incredible mixtures of old and new armor that had no practical significance. By the way, the funniest samurai armor, even in many museums and private collections, was made ... after the end of World War II and the occupation of Japan by American troops. Then the Japanese cities lay in ruins, the factories did not work, but as life went on, the Japanese began to produce souvenirs for American soldiers and officers. These were, first of all, skillfully made models of temples, junks and Japanese samurai armor, since the same swords were forbidden by the occupation authorities. But not to make souvenir battens from real metal? He must be forged, and where will you take him ?! But there were plenty of papers all around - and it was from her, covered with all the same famous Japanese varnish, that armor did. Moreover, they assured their customers that this is the real antiquity, and so it was always with them! From here, by the way, there was talk that the samurai’s armor was record-breaking in weight and made of pressed paper and bamboo plates!
Vietnamese chess inlaid with mother of pearl is also from that era.
However, it should be emphasized that the Japanese would never have any armor at all, either from metal or paper, if not ... yes-yes, the natural-geographical conditions in which they lived on their islands, and precisely because of which grew the famous lacquer tree, which gave much-needed varnish urus! And that is why the haiku about summer was chosen as the epigraph to this chapter. After all, it is collected only at the beginning of summer (June-July), when the growth of foliage is most intense ...
Another casket "from there" with the image of the islands of the South China Sea. Very simple and unsophisticated image, but it's nice to use this box.
By the way, it’s still not clear how the ancestors of today's Japanese thought of using the juice of a lacquered tree as a lacquer. What helped them in this? Natural observation? Lucky case? Who knows? But be that as it may, Japan owes precisely this varnish that so many of the armor made by its masters have survived to this day, despite all the vicissitudes of its climate, and even today they delight our eyes.