Horse armours of the Ming Dynasty

While horse armour did not saw much use (if at all) throughout Ming period because of the shift in cavalry tactics, lack of funding as well as deteriorating quality and training of both horse and rider, hinese still had several designs of horse armour in their arsenal.

Horse armour is known as Ju Zhuang (具裝) in Chinese. An armoured cavalryman on armoured horse is therefore known as Jia Qi Ju Zhuang (甲騎具裝, lit. 'Armour for man and armour for horse'). From Ming Dynasty onward, horse armour is also known as Ma Jia (馬甲) or Ma Kai (馬鎧).

Traditional Song Dynasty-style "Cataphract" Barding
Champron and croupiere/crupper, from 'Wu Bei Zhi (《武備志》)'.
Criniere/crinet and peytral, from 'Wu Bei Zhi (《武備志》)'.
Champron (side view) and flanchard, from 'Wu Bei Zhi (《武備志》)'.
Traditional Chinese barding is of lamellar construction, and can be made of either leather or iron. It consists of five different components: Ma Mian Lian (馬面簾, lit. 'Horse face screen') or champron, Ji Jing (雞頸, lit. 'Chicken neck') or criniere/crinet, Dang Xiong (盪胷, lit. 'Swinging chest') or peytral, Ma Shen Jia (馬身甲, lit. 'Horse body armour') or flanchard, and Ma Da Hou (馬搭後, lit. 'Horse back attachment') or croupiere/crupper. The practice of separating hourse armour into different components appears to be unique to the Chinese, at least until the advent of full plate barding in Europe.

The design and aesthetic of Ming period barding changed little from its Song Dynasty counterpart.

Late Ming Dynasty Leather Barding
Lightweight barding, from 'Wu Bei Yao Lue (《武備要略》)'.
Late Ming period saw the development of a type of lightweight horse armour, which consists of only three components: Hu Lian (護臉, lit. 'Face protector'), one piece Hou Jia (喉甲, lit 'Throat armour') and Xiong Jia (胸甲, lit. 'Chest armour') as well as Qian Jia (膁甲, lit. 'Loin armour').

This horse armour is made of raw buffalo hide treated with tung oil and then sewn onto cotton backing.


  1. So how much use did it saw compared to previous dynasties like Yuan and Song.

    1. Much rarer, especially towards the later period of Ming Dynasty.

    2. Thank you, if you don't mind me asking could you perhaps could go a little bit in depth about it during Yuan or Song, like how common was it exactly.

      Also what is the total weight.

    3. As far as I am aware, there isn't any comprehensive research on the use of horse armour in China across multiple dynasties, and Song & Yuan Dynasty aren't really in my study focus.

      I can only tell you that horse armour was more common during those two dynasties.

  2. not relevant to the article but figured I should ask this now, it's about the crossbow in Chinese military, I'm a bit confused on the matter I have read a few forms saying it was a dominant weapon in the military and this one article saying it was not uncommon for Han Dynasty to have 30% or 50% of the army having crossbows is that true.

    I know in another article you mentioned crossbows were never popular in Ming or Yuan and as well remembering in a comment respond to another person saying that the Chinese rely more on crossbows then bows is only true for certain dynasties( i.e. Song) even then bows were use alongside them.

    So if that the case where does the overemphasis on crossbows come from exactly.

    1. It's only my guess - the reason of overemphasis on crossbow is probably due to:

      1) Chinese invented crossbow.
      2) Cool factor of repeating crossbow.
      3) Stereotypical protrayal of Chinese armies as "massed peasant horde" or "human wave".
      4) Crossbow just happens to "allow untrained peasants to stand up and kill aristocratic knights" in Western consciousness.
      5) Add all of the above together.