Qi Ji Guang's Gang Rou Pai (剛柔牌)

Unlike contemporary European powers where the use of firearms stimulated the development and refinement of plate armour, Chinese never developed plate armour in the first place. They instead turn to the millennia-old philosophy of "conquering the unyielding with the yielding" for a solution.

Ruan Bi (軟壁, 'Soft wall')
Ming Dynasty ruan bi
Ruan Bi, from 'Ji Xiao Xin Shu (《紀效新書》)'.
Ruan Bi is an improvised defensive structure or mantlet against small caliber firearms. It is a wooden frame covered with old cotton blanket, and could be further reinforced with wooden planks.


Gang Rou Pai (剛柔牌, roughly translated as 'Shield of inflexibility and yielding')

"According to Goodnight, Commanche shields, made from two layers of the toughest rawhide from the neck of a buffalo and hardened in fire, were almost invulnerable to bullets when stuffed with paper."
— Empire of the Summer Moon by S. C. Gwyne, describing Commanche shields with striking similarities to Gang Rou Pai.
Ming Dynasty kelvar
Details on the layering of Gang Rou Pai from 'Ji Xiao Xin Shu (《紀效新書》)'. This shield was a military secret, and thus did not have a drawing.
Being a makeshift mantlet, defensive properties of Ruan Bi leaves something to be desired. Realising this, general Qi Ji Guang (戚繼光) developed the Gang Rou Pai. Gang Rou Pai is constructed on similar principles as modern composite armour: by layering different materials together to make a stronger composite. 

The outermost layer of a Gang Rou Pai consists of cowhide nailed onto a wooden frame at both sides. A waterproofed cloth bag, stuffed with three catties of fine silk wadding is sandwiched between the cow hides, and crumbled paper balls form the innermost layer. These layers are nailed together with bamboo nails, and the wooden frame will be covered with another bag of silk floss as well. Entire shield will be painted with ash paint.

Gang Rou Pai is proof to arquebus shots from up to forty paces (210 feet or 64 metre) away. However, it will start to lose effectiveness at thirty paces (157.5 feet or 48 metre).

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