Zhao Shi Zhen's multipurpose shield

Ming Chinese mobile bunker
Left: Back view of the multipurpose shield, wheel turned sideways. Centre: Back view of the multipurpose shield. Right: Front view of the multipurpose shield. From 'Shen Qi Pu (《神器譜》)'.
Besides designing new and innovative firearms, Ming firearm specialist Zhao Shi Zhen (趙士禎) also concerned himself with other aspects of Ming warfare. Notably, he was well aware of the common tactics and equipment employed by Ming armies of both the North and the South, and sought to improve their combat effectiveness.

The multipurpose shield designed by Zhao Shi Zhen, which he called with the generic name Che Pai (車牌, wheeled shield), is a more advanced version of Wu Di Shen Pai (無敵神牌), a similar shield. While Zhao Shi Zhen did not go into details on the construction and dimensions of this shield, it is presumed that the shield is made of wood like many other Chinese shields, and can be further reinforced with cotton blanket to increase its effectiveness against small arms fire.

The most noticable feature of this multipurpose shield is that it mounts a detachable swivel wheel that allows the shield to turn and change its facing easily. The shield also comes equipped with two props that can be used to fix the shield to the ground, two chains, two gun loops, and two triple-barreled volley guns.

Shield team
Ming Chinese special entry team
A shield team (highlighted), from 'Shen Qi Pu (《神器譜》)'.
Zhao Shi Zhen proposed a seven-man team to handle one shield. The team consisted of one shieldman, one assistant shieldman, two gunners armed with San Yan Chong (三眼銃), one troop armed with Zhao Shi Zhen's fire lance version of Tian Peng Chan (天蓬鏟), and two pikemen armed with Li Hua Qiang (梨花鎗). It is very clear from the weapon loadout (shield-mounted volley guns, multi-shot handgonnes and fire lances) that Zhao Shi Zhen intended this team to excel at close range firefight. It is no coincidence that the shield bears a striking resemblance to modern wheeled ballistic shield used by special ops.

Special Ops mobile bunker
A wheeled "mobile bunker" ballistic shield used by special operation entry team.

Shield wall
Ming Chinese Shield wall
A shield wall with five shields, from 'Shen Qi Pu (《神器譜》)'.
While the seven-man shield team was adequate to use in rough ground and cramped space, especially against Wokou (倭寇) that frequently employed ambush and other terrorist-like tactics, the seven-man team was clearly unsuitable for use in open terrain against fast-moving foes such as Mongol horsemen. In such circumstance, a more traditional shield wall formation consisted of five shield teams could be deployed. To offset the inaccuracy and short range of San Yan Chong, Zhao Shi Zhen replaced two shield teams with a variant loadout that consisted of one shieldman, one assistant shieldman, four arquebusiers armed with powerful Turkish-derived Lu Mi Chong (魯密銃), as well as one reload assistant. During battle, arquebusier shield teams employed Zhao Shi Zhen's shooting method.

While Zhao Shi Zhen did not explicitly mention the shield wall's application for large scale battle, it is obvious that several shield walls could be chained together to form a even larger battle formation. Thanks to its swivel wheel, the shield can even be used in a hollow square formation that wish to maintain its mobility.

Other uses
Ming Chinese wheelbarrow shield
Two soldiers using the shield as a makeshift wheelbarrow.
Zhao Shi Zhen's multipurpose shield also has several uses outside of battle. Firstly, the shield can be flipped over to be used as a makeshift wheelbarrow for transporting supply. Secondly, it can also be used as a raft for river crossing. It even comes with special attachment points for tent canvas at the top, so that multiple shields can be chained together to quickly form a fortified tent for the troops to rest inside.

Ming Chinese shield fort
A makeshift tent created by joining ten shields together. From 'Shen Qi Pu (《神器譜》)'.

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1 comment:

  1. Very well-researched. I've always appreciated the diversity and versatility of the Ming in their use of defensive weapons such as shields, war carts, and war wheelbarrows.