Bi Fu (臂縛)

Ming Chinese Armguard
A pair of Bi Fu, from 'Wu Bei Zhi (《武備志》)'.
Bi Fu (臂縛, lit. 'Armbind'), also known as Bi Shou (臂手, lit. 'Arm and hand') or Bi Shou (蔽手, lit. 'Arm cover') is a type of articulated metal armguard that protects the shoulder and entire length of the arm (but not the hand) of its wearer. It is the primary upper limb defence of Ming soldiers, particularly for mounted troops. The armguard is quite heavy, weighing five to six catties.

Ming Dynasty arm armour
A Ming cavalryman in lamellar armour. His armguards are apparently laced and without backing material. Image cropped from 'Chu Jing Tu (《出警圖》)'.
A typical Bi Fu is made of overlapping metal plates riveted to a dog leather backing and then sewn onto another silk sleeve. The sleeve is fixed on the wearer's arm by means of leather lacing. Nevertheless, this is certainly not the only way to construct a Bi Fu.

Roman Manica Armguard
Replica Roman manica based on the the Carlisle finds.
(Source: The Roman Military Research Society
Incidentally, Bi Fu is extremely similar to manica armguard used by Roman Legionaries, although the Roman manica does not extend to the shoulder of its wearer (except for gladiator version).

6 comments:

  1. why qing chinese dont were these?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They still use it, especially among high ranking officers and generals. Common troops switch to spaudlers (and sometimes bracers) instead.

      Reason for this change is unknown. Maybe this has something to do with the change of (civilian) fashion, just my baseless guess though.

      Delete
  2. but qing chinese arm guard is not large as this one

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That we can't know for sure, since there are only a few armguards survived.

      Delete
  3. Hello, I had a question in my head for some times, and I was wondering if the bi fu were a total invention of the ming dinasty, or already exists during the song dinasty?also,I was wondering if they were a evolution of the Mongol timurid armguard with a similar construction?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I was going to answer Yuan Mongol, but now I think it was more likely come from Timurid influence.

      Delete

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