In this release the thumb is protected by a guard of some kind. With the Manchu, Chinese, and Turk, as well as with the Persian, this guard consists of a thick ring, which is worn near the base of the thumb. The thick edge of the ring is brought to bear upon the string as it is drawn back, and at the same time the string is quickly released by straightening the thumb. The ring may be made of any hard material, such as horn, bone, ivory, quartz, agate, or jade. These rings are often very expensive. I was shown one in Canton that was valued at three hundred dollars. Fig. 13 illustrates an ordinary horn ring such as the Cantonese use.
Fig. 14 shows a Chinese thumb-ring in section, made of jade. This ring, being used with bows having thicker strings, is correspondingly larger. The Korean thumb-ring is quite unlike that used by the Chinese, as will be seen by Fig. 15. The ring is thin, and from its shape is evidently used to protect the ball of the thumb. The string is not engaged by the edge of the ring, as in the Chinese method, but rests upon the side of the ring. The Japanese archer, instead of using a thumb-ring, is provided with a glove consisting of thumb and two fingers. The wrist of the glove is firmly bound to the wrist by a long band, which is fastened to one flap, passes through a hole in the opposite flap, thus enabling it to be pulled up like a noose, and then is wound tightly about the wrist several times. The thumb of the glove is much thickened, and is very hard and stiff (Fig. 16). Its operation is like that of the Korean thumb-ring.
In the Korean and Japanese practice the first and second fingers assist in holding the thumb bent on the string, while in the Manchu release only the first finger is so used, the other three fingers being inactive and closed. There are doubtless other modifications of this release; the essential features however remain the same.
A young Japanese from the north of Japan, in illustrating to me his method of release, drew the string back with the thumb and interlocked forefinger as already described, and assisted the drawing back of the string with the tips of the second and third fingers, as shown in the secondary release.
The accompanying figure illustrates the attitude of the shaft hand of a Manchu as seen from above, which I sketched from a Manchu soldier at Canton. (Fig. 17.) The Persians and Turks use the thumb-ring in the same way. Fig. 18, representing the Persian thumb-ring, is copied from a drawing given in Meyrick's "Ancient Armour." Hansard, referring to another author, says that "one of the early Turkish Sultans occupied his leisure in manufacturing these rings," distributing them as presents among his favorite pashas; and adds also that the carnelian thumb-rings may be easily procured in the Bazaars of Constantinople.