Monday, May 9, 2011

DBA Han Chinese, with Scenery

These are the Spear and Psiloi elements for my still in-progress Han Dynasty Chinese army for DBA. The figures are 15mm scale, and are all Black Hat (formerly Gladiator, and originally by Metal Magic). 

The Han dynasty came immediately after the Chin dynasty,which is famous for the terracotta army.  These four elements represent a third of the entire DBA army, the remaining elements being heavy cavalry, horse archers, and crossbows.

Most people paint their Han Chinese like this plate in the Osprey book:

This plate (and a couple others in the book) are apparently derived from figures from the Yangjiawan terracotta army.  Like the more famous Chin dynasty terracotta army, it is a collection of terracotta soldiers, discovered in a tomb.  Unlike its more famous predecessor, which was buried in the tomb of the Chin emperor, the Yangjiawan army accompanied a military official and his son into the afterlife, not an emperor.  Thus, it is perhaps unsurprising that the Yangjiawan figures are smaller than lifesize, being only 50cm tall.

Although the Osprey book depicts the Han army in fairly uniform red, the actual terracotta figures were not very uniform. 
However, their palate is somewhat limited--mostly red, black, and white or cream.
I wanted to depict an Imperial Army, not that of some local potentate, and so proceeded to take some interpretive license.  I kept the palate of red, black, and off-white, but used black exclusively for the spearmen's coats because that was the Imperial color in the early years of the Han dynasty.  This is admittedly quite speculative, and it's more likely that they would not have all worn black in real life.  The Chin terracotta army, from just a few years earlier, wears a wide variety of colors, without any apparent uniformity.  Accordingly, I tried not to be entirely uniform, and their shirts, pants, leggings, and shields are done in various combinations of red, black, white, and off-white, following the diversity of the originals.  The archers (class as "Psiloi" in DBA) got the more conventional red coats.

Although I finally painted these guys recently, I sculpted their distinctive halberd blades out of Greenstuff more than ten years ago (the otherwise excellent figures did not include this detail).  Seeing that this (and the other prep work) was already done was a very pleasant surprise when I dug these out of storage and resumed working on them.  Way to go, me of the past!  Here's a pic of an actual "dagger axe" blade, made of bronze:

The biggest liberty I took with painting these was doing the armor in bronze.  The Han definitely used bronze extensively for weapons, and other items, but no bronze armor has been found.  The standard view is that it was probably leather or lamellar.  But bronze looks great, it's a possible interpretation, and it fits my theme of an imperial army.

The trees are homemade, using florist wire and colored flock.  They are meant to have an Asian look.  My mom helped me design and make these, and not for some school project either!  Thanks mom! 

Here's a shot of just the trees, and some of the picturesque, vaguely-Asian looking rocky crags as well.  These are normally islands for Pirates of the Spanish Main, but are rather scale-less, and work well in this context too!  I've got some other great scenery for this army, including a building and a fishing boat that my mother brought back from a trip to China, but they are packed up at the moment, and will have to wait for another post.


  1. Nice figures and post. I enjoyed reading your reasons for the colors you chose. I'll be revisiting this someday when I get around to painting the Han army I have in storage.