Only a week after posting a picture of my Opium War Sikhs I'm back with another finished unit. This time they are Qing Dynasty Chinese from the mid-19th Century (ie Taiping Rebellion/Opium War period).
The figures are from Irregular again and have painted up quite well. I've had a bit of an issue deciding how to paint them as I want to use them both for fighting Taiping forces and also the British/French. The problem there is that the main forces that fought the Taiping were the Hunan Army, not the Bannermen of the Imperial forces (nor even the Army of the Green Standard). That means differences in uniforms, slightly, and possibly differences in colours.
All forces do have something in common,- a white disk on the chest signifying unit details. Given that as a starting point I'll try to paint them as generically as possible to enable them to be used for any army I choose. The pikemen from the Irregular range look closer to Hunan forces than Bannermen, but they'll do for both.
I think Ian Kay's figures predate Ian Heath's book on Chinese forces of the 19th Century, and possible even his Osprey book so there are a few problems with their uniforms for the purist. I think they do a pretty good job of it, and there's not a lot else out there in 15mm (there is another 15mm range, but I think they look.....spindly might be a good word. Stringy would be another). The pikemen from Ian's range look closer to Hunan forces than Bannermen, but they'll do for both. (Before anyone mentions 28mm that just isn't going to happen for several reasons: They are way to butch for Chinese, and the Taiping Rebellion is not a war of skirmishes and small actions. Armies start at 20,000 and get up to 100,000).
I've got a mix of pike, firearms, pole weapons and bowmen. I debated mixing the figures on the bases but in the end I've decided to base by type. For the moment the rules I'm working on have all infantry bases firing and fighting in the same way regardless of weapon type, so it won't matter. The references to how they formed up that I have so far are a bit thin, but it seems like they did form up by weapon type, regardless of company mix, when they deployed in battle.
So here they are, all lined up in classic pike & shot style, with the pikes in the middle and the shot on the wings.
Here's a close up of the pikemen. They're wearing turbans, mostly. The two front row figures on the left are the Officer and the standard bearer respectively. The officer is okay, - he's in a long robe with a summer "coolie" hat. The only mistake with him is the chest panel should be square rather than round. His robe is a bit fancy with patches and edging in silver grey. The standard bearer I'm less pleased with. He was cast with a big flag, so I've cut that off and replaced it. I've drilled out the tasselled top from the cast flag and attached it to the top of the replacement pole. Like the officer he has a long robe, which I'm not sure about. Looking at illustrations I think he should be more like a standard pike man, so I might buy those instead and replace the pikes with longer flag poles.
The pikes are wearing a wrap over tunic, rather than a tabard, that makes them more Hunan than Bannerman. I've painted them with different coloured sleeves so they can pass for both at a distance. Even with these reservations I quite like them.
The musketeers are wearing what the Victorians called a "pork-pie" hat, and have the same style of tunic, although slightly less pronounced in design. The firearms are suitably bland and could pass for both match locks or "modern" rifles.
The facial detail on all the figures is interesting .Some have real character and even a pronounced "fu-manchu" moustache.
Overall I'm pleased with the look, and surprisingly these figures painted up quickly. With a bit of luck I can start on some Mongol or Manchu cavalry today.
Historical Note on Chinese Imperial Forces
Bannermen: These were hereditary Manchu forces, supposedly the elite of the army. Based mainly round Beijing.
Green Standard forces: The mostly Chinese forces that covered the rest of China. By this time more like a police force.
Hunan forces: These were local militia raised to fight the Taiping locally from Hunan province. They became a more "regular" force that the word militia implies.
Mongol cavalry: Probably are the best of the Imperial forces and fight anywhere because of their mobility.