These bows were used to great effect by the Manchus to conquer China from the Ming rulers in the 17th century, followed by a series of expansive campaigns that made Qing China one of the largest land empires that has ever existed, larger than China is today. They were the last major culture that successfully deployed masses of archers to the field, defeating on several occasions armies that already largely relied on firearms.
Manchu bows are the largest of composite reflex bows. Such bows use different materials to deal with the stresses of compression on the inside and the extension on the outside of their working limbs. This enable the limb to store more energy for a given physical weight than a wooden bow could, making it a more efficient limb design. Because of the reinforced limbs, they can also bend a lot further than a wooden bow could:
Read more about these bows at my other site, dedicated entirely to the subject of Manchu archery: www.manchuarchery.org.
Composite bows are fragile, and deteriorate easily when not stored properly. Many Manchu bows have suffered from many years of neglect and so very few reach us in a good state of preservation. Such bows, in any condition, are getting rarer and rarer on the market.
We now have two Manchu bows for sale:
A classic Manchu bow. It has bellies of black water-buffalo horn. The sinew backs are covered with birch park, painted with red stripes. The handle is cork, with ray-skin on either side. One side has a flower inlay in a contrasting color. The other side unfortunately has lost its inlay. The ears are wood, once painted white. One nock is missing, one string bridge missing. There is a working life repair on the horn. Some losses to the cork, ray-skin and birch bark.
Very similar bows were used by Manchu troops during the Nien Rebellion of 1851-1868. This bow, although not of warbow weight, probably dates from around that same period.
Price € 950,-
More pictures of bow #1
This antique Manchu bow has black water-buffalo bellies and a birch bark covered back. The birch bark is painted a modest brown. The handle is covered with old cork.
It is of an earlier form, probably late 18th to early 19th century. The ears are covered with a type of cork, hallmarks of earlier manufacture. Also, the ears are very angular in cross-section, something that started to change to more rounded form later.
The bow retains both nocks and string bridges, which is fairly rare. One string bridge is different from the other, it's a working life replacement, common on these bows. The time has taken it's toll, there is flaking on the outside surfaces and you can see the horn delaminating somewhat when looking at the limbs from the sides.
Price € 900,-
More pictures of bow #2