1884.31.33 .1 1884.31.33 .2 1884.31.33 .3 1884.31.33 .4 1884.31.33 .5 1884.31.33 .6 1884.31.33 .7

Suit of armour consisting of: a canvas helmet [.1], a sword and sheath [.2 - .3], a rope bag [.4] and a padded suit of canvas armour with a cuirass [.5], a wide belt [.6] and a padded breastpiece [.7]. [El.B 23/3/2007]

Place details: ASIA. Korea, Republic of (South Korea) / Korea, Democratic People's Republic of (North Korea) / Unknown. Local Name: Unknown. Materials: Brass Metal / Canvas Textile / Metal / Rope / Lacquer Varnish / ?. Processes: Padded / Stitched / Lacquered Varnished / Woven / Printed / Inscribed / ?. Dimensions: Max L [.1] = 880 mm Max W [.1] = 51 mm Max L [.2 & .3] = 660 mm Max L [.4 without handles] = 360 mm Max L [.5] = 890 mm Max W [.6] = 230 mm Max W [.7] = 430 mm Maker: Unknown Field Collector: Unknown When Collected: By 1876 Other Owners: Augustus Henry Lane Fox Pitt Rivers. This object was listed in the Delivery Catalogue as having been transferred from South Kensington Museum in 1884. It was delivered to Bethnal Green Museum in June 1876 (if the green book match is correct). It was probably displayed at Bethnal Green and/ or South Kensington Museum between 1876 - 1884. PRM Source: Augustus Henry Lane Fox Pitt Rivers founding collection Acquired: Donated 1884

KEYWORD: Armour / Helmet / Sword / Bag / Sheath / Inscription / CLASS: Armour Weapon / Bag / Clothing Headgear / Clothing / Writing / ?.

Object description: Suit of armour in seven parts, largely made of padded hemp cloth with iron reinforcements in the helmet. The woodblock print script on the chest piece shows the Buddhist mantra "Om Mani Padme Hum". [JN 29/07/2013]

Publications history, trails & websites: A photograph of this suit of armour was included on a graphic panel in the exhibition Korean Treasures: Rare Books, Manuscripts and Artefacts in the Bodleian Libraries, held in the Proscholium at the Bodleian Library, University of Oxford, from 26 August to 26 September 2011, with the following caption: 'Korean armour. The armour and helmet were made from thickly padded hemp fabric with iron strips reinforcing the skull of the helmet. The prints on the chest and forehead display the Buddhist mantra Om mani padme hum. Part of the founding collection of the Pitt Rivers Museum (1884.31.33). (Copyright Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford).' [JC 18 8 2011]

Illustrated in colour as Figure 90 on page 118 of Korean Treasures: Rare Books, Manuscripts and Artefacts in the Bodleian Libraries and Museums of Oxford University, by Minh Chung (Oxford: Bodleian Library, 2011). Also discussed on pages 117-119. [JC 9 10 2019]

Research notes: It is clear that it is not known that Whitmee (see biographies file) spent any time in Japan or Korea. It is also clear the Whitmee collection seems to have come to the Museum not partly via the founding collection from Pitt-Rivers, as previously thought, but via George Rolleston and the Oxford University Museum (of Natural History). I think that the supposition that the black and white oil cloth label must mean that this object came from the Whitmee collection is at best that, a suggestion (it is true that other Whitmee objects have what appears to be the same label from the description) but it could as well identify items associated with George Rolleston. Until this label is firmly identified I think one has to assume that the object was not part of the Whitmee collection, but was obtained by some other collector. This is confirmed because except for the additional accession book entry, written in the 1920s there is no primary source that suggests that Whitmee is the collector [AP 03/09/2012]

Information given by Donald LaRocca, Curator of Arms and Armour at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (see letter in RDF): "Korean textile armor. A small number of this rare type exists. The example in the Metropolitan Museum of Art (accession number 36.25.10 a-c) is illustrated in The Gods of War (enclosed, see back cover for color view) [now in Balfour Library]. Other examples are found in the Smithsonian, the American Museum of Natural History in New York (helmet only), and in the Korean Army Museum in Seoul. Please note that in The Gods of War I was mistaken in my comments about the seed syllables on the armor. The correct reading is simply "Om Mani Padme Hum"." [CF 17/12/2002]

For the collector's account of his voyage in the Pacific in 1870, see A Missionary Cruise in the South Pacific...among the Tokelau, Ellice and Gilbert Islands, in the Missionary Barque 'John Williams', during 1870, by Samuel James Whitmee (Sydney: Joseph Cook & Co., Sydney, 1871). [AP 27/2/2003; JC 26 8 2009]

The following notes are drawn from research compiled by Andy Mills as part of the DCF Cutting Edge project in 2006-2007. This full suit of cloth armour belonged to an infantryman of the 19th-century Korean army. The Infantryman’s armour is composed entirely of thickly padded hemp fabric, a coarse textile which was (and continues to be) hand-woven by Korean women on a household level. It is undyed, and retains the muted natural colour of hemp. The suit itself follows the basic pattern of a cheollik – a one-piece military uniform comprising a wide-sleeved jacket and long pleated kilt – worn by members of the Korean military since the late 16th century. The helmet follows the pattern of helmets worn by North Asian warriors for centuries. It is Scytho-Siberian in form, and reflects the nomadic steppe cultural origins of the Korean people. Alongside a very strong Chinese influence, this influence is the major cultural stream in Korea, and can also be seen in the form of Korean mirrors, kettles, buckles, bells, and horse harness. It has a peak and three flaps, and the skull of the helmet has been reinforced with iron strips. Conventionally, such Korean helmets also feature a terminal plume of horse-hair, dyed red – which seems to be missing from this example. The chest, forehead, kilt and satchel of the suit are printed with woodblocks carved from pearwood. Pearwood was conventionally used for the production of woodcuts in Korea due to the fineness of the grain. The cartouche printed on the helmet, chest and satchel is in Chinese script of the decorative Korean style known as ‘Running” (haengso), which is more fluid than the ordinary style, and permits greater artistic expression. It reads Om Mani Padme Hum – the commonest of Buddhist mantras. This mantra can be loosely translated into English as ‘Behold! The Jewel of Enlightenment in the Lotus’. It is a mantra used throughout the Buddhist world and is sacred to Kwan Yin, the Mahayana goddess of mercy and compassion, she who hears the cries of the world. [SM 07/05/2008]