Generally speaking, there were several different styles of lamellar or scale armour in use during Ming period.
Traditional Song Dynasty-style "Ornate" Armour
|Section of an early Ming Dynasty religious scroll painting, depicting a Chinese general in an ornate suit of composite armour. Shanxi Museum.|
While Ming armour followed the design and aesthetic of Song armour very closely, they were not completely identical. The development of extremely long hanging loin armour know as Hu Wei (鶻尾, lit. 'Falcon tail') was unique to Ming Chinese.
Traditional Song Dynasty-style "Cataphract" Armour
|Section of the scroll painting 'Wakō-zukan (《倭寇図巻》)' currently kept at the University of Tokyo, depicting a Ming general and his retinue.|
One of the most prominent characteristics of this armour is the "figure X" straps on the chest to fix the spaudlers in place. Most armours of this type feature exposed straps, although the straps can be hidden beneath torso armour as well (some spaudlers also feature extra chest pieces to cover the straps). Unlike the ornate armour, this type of armour uses lamellar construction exclusively.
This armour was used by Ming Chinese in limited numbers from early to mid Ming period, and possibly later. It was probably more common in South China than in the North (due to South China being less exposed to Mongol influence). The face-covering heavy helmet that usually accompany this armour was no longer widely used though.
Traditional Song Dynasty-style Liang Dang Jia (兩當甲)
|Section of scroll painting 'Guan Yu Qin Jiang Tu (《關羽擒將圖》)', depicting two Guan Yu's subordinates in Liang Dang Jia.|
During Song period, this type of armour was used by the rank and file. It was rarely used by Ming Chinese, which seem to preferred waistcoat type instead.
Transition into Ming Dynasty-style armour
The ninety-seven year long Mongol rule of China had introduced many changes to Chinese culture. Among other things, a type of collarless, sleeveless single-breasted coat known as Bi Jia (比甲) was developed during Yuan period (as sleeveless clothing is more convenient for horse archery) and became fashionable among women during Ming period. Bi Jia eventually developed into a male version known as Zhao Jia (罩甲) during Ming period.
Zhao Jia was used as military uniform (although civilians quickly imitated the design), and soon developed into actual armour. Both armours described below, as well as their more common brigandine counterparts, can be called Zhao Jia.
Ming Dynasty "Long Coat" Armour
|Section of the Ming Dynasty scroll painting 'Chu Jing Tu (《出警圖》)', depicting Ming cavalrymen in long lamellar coat.|
Ming Dynasty "Waistcoat" Armour
|Ming flailmen and shieldsmen in armoured vest, from a mural section in Fire God's Temple, Yongningzhen, Yanqing, China.|
Other less common lamellar and scale armours are covered in the following blog posts:
Leather (and other animal-derived) armours of the Ming Dynasty
Scale armours from 'Yu Zi Shi San Zhong Mi Shu Bing Heng'
Fan Jiang Hun Hai Fei Bo Shen Jia