When looking at a new set of figures the first task is always to establish exactly what they are and what time period they are supposed to be from. Generally this task requires no more effort than reading the title on the box, although sometimes manufacturers are a bit vague. With this set Caesar have taken vague to a whole new level, however, as it tells us little about what to expect inside. "Chinese Qing Dynasty Troopers". So, they are Chinese – good start – but then it says they are of the Qing dynasty, which ruled China from 1644 to 1911, and by using the term ‘troopers’ it doesn’t even specify if we are talking infantry or cavalry. In Europe 1644 saw armies walk on to the battlefield with massed ranks of pikes, and 1911 saw them building up their stocks of machine guns and aircraft, so this is an enormous period with much change. Certainly China was pretty backward in 1644, and had stagnated since, but even there armies and military technology had changed to a degree over these two-and-a-half centuries, so what is in this set?
Sadly published evidence for Chinese armies for much of their history is extremely limited in the English language, so despite our best efforts we simply do not know what these figures are supposed to be. What we have found is that this uniform was worn as a largely ceremonial item by some cavalry and other officers, as well as some imperial guard units, during the 19th century. These were bannermen – part of the regular Chinese Army, and by common consent they were, with few exceptions, simply parade troops with no military capacity at all. However, it seems likely that this ceremonial uniform was based on an earlier, every-day one, so presumably these figures are for such a unit from a previous century, although we have no idea which one.
All the men wear the same uniform, which is an armour of fabric with metal studs at regular intervals that might indicate metal plates underneath, although one source says the studs were purely for show by the 19th century. Every man has a small pectoral plate in the shape of a dome, and on his head he wears a black-lacquered leather helmet. The man we suppose to be an officer has a faintly ridiculous long plume on his helmet, but the others have a more restrained one. All also have a coif and a neck-guard hanging from the helmet. All this exactly matches extant ceremonial uniforms still on display in Beijing museums today.
The traditional Chinese weapons of spears, swords and bows are shown here, which is surely correct regardless of the intended timeframe since such weapons were still widely used in China centuries after they had been replaced by firearms in much of the rest of the World.
The sculpting as always is very nice. There is lots of detail to admire here and all of it is very clear. There is no flash and all the proportions are great, so these are well produced.
The first thing to say about the poses is there are only seven of them. That is a lot less than we have come to expect from Caesar, and with the range of weapons in use it does limit the scope of this set. There are a fair number of swordsmen, but only one spearman and bowman will disappoint many. Several of the poses are unusually flat for this manufacturer, particularly some of the swordsmen, so again expectations are not met.
We can’t believe these figures are just dismounted Imperial bannermen of the 19th century, so we cannot comment on accuracy without knowing what they are. Technically they are well produced, but the poses are both less than inspiring and too few. A strange set.
Note that some copies of this set seem to have a single extra painted figure in a different pose. Since Caesar like to randomly put extras in their sets we cannot know if all copies of this set contain the same figure, or indeed any extra figure at all, and as with all recent Caesar sets the exact numbers of each pose will vary between boxes.