Qi Jia (緝甲, lit. 'Quilted armour') and Zhi Bi Shou (紙臂手, paper armguard)
|Drawing of a Qi Jia, from 'Ji Xiao Xin Shu (《紀效新書》)'.|
|A helmet and a paper armguard, also from 'Ji Xiao Xin Shu (《紀效新書》)'.|
Zhi Bi Shou is made of four layers of clothes stuffed with cotton and silk paper, then quilted with silk thread. Better quality version can be made with silk cloth and silk floss.
|Sleeved paper armour (left) from 'Wu Bei Yao Lue (《武備要略》)'.|
Zhi Jia (紙甲, paper armour)
A different Zhi Jia, hereby dubbed "studded paper armour", is recorded in Jin Tang Jie Zhu Shi Er Chou (《金湯借箸十二籌》) and Yong Chuang Xiao Pin (《湧幢小品》). It is made of flexible paper, hammered soft and layered to three cun thick, then fastened with studs. It is said that this armour performs better when soaked with rainwater.
Zhi Yi Jia (紙夷甲, lit. 'Barbarian-style paper armour')
|Various components of Zhi Yi Jia, from 'Wu Bei Yao Lue (《武備要略》)'.|
Chu Kai (楮鎧, mulberry armour)
Barkcloth armour is known as Chu Kai to differentiate it from ordinary paper armour. Bai Gang Bing (白桿兵) was the only Ming unit known to wear this type of armour.
Paper or Barkcloth?
Some have claimed that paper used in Chinese paper armour isn't really paper, but mulberry barkcloth. This is unlikely to be the case, as Chinese paper can be made from a variety of materials such as bamboo, rattan, wheatgrass, bulrush, flax, citrus and silk, not all of which can be turned into a barkcloth.
When actual barkcloth was mentioned in Ming Dynasty records, it was always written as Pi (皮, skin), as tree bark is known as Shu Pi (樹皮, lit. 'Tree-skin') in Chinese language. An example can be found in Ben Cao Gang Mu (《本草綱目》, Compedium of Materia Medica):
which can be (roughly) translate into "This is known as Gou tree. Southerners also call Gu Paper as Chu Paper. People in Wuling make clothes with Gu barkcloth, which are tough." Gou (構), Gu (榖) and Chu (楮) are different (regional) names for paper mulberry, while Zhi (紙, paper) and Pi (皮, skin or hide) are different terms used to distinguish true paper from barkcloth.
Another Northern Song Dynasty record also describes old accounting books being broken down to make more armours, again pointing to the use of actual paper rather than barkcloth.