Tibetan Helmet with Leopard Fur Trim
Place of Origin: Tibet
Date: 15th-16th Century
Overall: 240mm (9.5 inches)
The fifth Dalai Lama, writing in 1643, said that armour was first bought to Tibet from a district in Kham (smar khams) during the reign of the semi-legendary, ancient king, Trigum Tsenpo (gri gum btsan po). We now have a recognisable Tibetan tradition of lamellar plate armour and helmets to which this helmet conforms.
The bowl of this helmet is formed from eight overlapping iron plates, which have been attached together with rivets, the heads of which are visible on the external surface of the helmet. Fitted along the brim of the helmet is a cylindrical band of leopard fur which is strongly secured by thick thread, which is interlaced through twenty-one holes, visible only within the interior of the helmet. At the base of the helmet, binding the leopard fur, providing additional stability, is a thin layer of red and white painted ribbon securely tying either end of the trim in place. It is a wonderfully preserved piece of accoutrement that gives us an insight into adornment in the Tibetan tradition of decorating armour.
The finial plate at the top of the bowl is convex with an attached, multi-level, pagoda-shaped plume holder. A small Tibetan inscription can be found on this finial plate Xia Da Ba 335 which is thought to be an inventory number
An armoured infantryman (zimchonpa), wearing a Tibetan helmet with a fur trim is shown as the subject of a photograph in the important book by Donald J LaRocca ‘Warriors of the Himalayas…..’, 2006, p.3, fig.2.
 Photograph taken at the Great Prayer Festival in Lhasa, 1943, by Ilya Tolstoy. Ewell Sale Stewart Library. Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia.