26 March 2015

Teng Pai (藤牌), Yao Dao (腰刀) and Biao Qiang (鏢鎗)

The three principal equipments of a Chinese Teng Pai Shou (藤牌手, rattan shieldman) are his Teng Pai (藤牌) shield, his Yao Dao (腰刀) sword, and his Biao Qiang (鏢鎗) javelin.

Teng Pai (藤牌, lit. 'Rattan shield')

Ming Chinese Rattan Shield
Drawing of a Teng Pai, from 'Ji Xiao Xin Shu (《紀效新書》)'.
Originated from Fujian province, the Teng Pai was one of the more common shield types used by the Ming army. Rattan/wisteria shield outperforms wooden shield in almost every conceivable way—it is cheaper, lighter, more flexible, and sturdier than wooden shield, plus it does not splinter nor split along the grain (as rattan has no wood grain). However, rattan cannot grow in North China (which is colder and drier), so Ming troops from that region had to settle for Tuan Pai (團牌, lit. 'Round shield'), a variant that is made of woven wicker and covered with leather or rawhide.

Average size of a Ming period rattan shield is two chi five cun  to three chi in diameter. Chinese rattan shield usually does not feature metal shield boss (although exceptions do exist), unlike similar shields in Tibet and Southeast Asia region.

Yao Dao (腰刀, lit. 'Waist sabre')

Ming Chinese Waist Sabre
A Yao Dao and scabbard, from 'Ji Xiao Xin Shu (《紀效新書》)'.
Yao Dao is a generic name for one-handed Chinese sabre normally used in conjunction with a rattan shield. 

Biao Qiang (鏢鎗, lit. 'Javelin')

Chinese Javelin
Drawing of a Biao Qiang, from 'Ji Xiao Xin Shu (《紀效新書》)'.
Also known as Fei Biao (飛鏢, lit. 'Flying dart'), Biao Qiang is a type of light javelin. Its primary purpose is to distract the enemy. However, it can still be lethal if it hits an unprotected vital spot.


  1. Have there been any tests done with rattan shields to show how durable they are? Do you know if any with metal bosses were used?

  2. As far as I know, some Tibetan shield have metal boss. Southeast Asian rattan shields have plenty of bosses (or rather, metal attachments).

  3. Did it mention how long the Biao Qiang is?

    1. 4~5 chi (128~160cm) if I remember correctly.

  4. Do you have any artwork that shows how the javelins or darts would be carried? I've found images of Ming warriors carrying crossbows or bows at their waist, but never javelins.

    1. No image, but the rattan shieldman carry extra javelins in his shield (left) hand.

  5. Hi!
    I've found inside a Japanese military document dealing with Japanese war gears (武器皕図) an interesting weapon, written with this characters (鏢鎗). It is in the same paragraph with a warhammer-like weapon and a mace-like weapon. The picture is really similar to the one in your post, and has the same name.
    Here is the document: at page 17 there are the weapons I mentioned.


    So my question is, (since it looks like to be the same weapon) how is the 鏢鎗 supposed to be a Javelin? My first guess was that this type of weapon was a mace, but after reading your post and a translation of the document, it seems to be the same Javelin. Was it thrown like an hammer/hatchet? Are there any survival so I could understand better?
    Thank you and sorry for the long comment ;)

    1. I have just realized that the picture might be describing a broad/leaf shaped type of blade rather than a 3d flanged mace shape. Anyway it is a unconventional shape for a Javelin which usually has a long, narrow and slender blade.

    2. These are just my guesses. A narrower head pierces more deeply but bend/break more (think the Roman pilums which are not meant to thrown back). Whereas having a broader head splits the open wound more but less penetration. The broader head also allows it to survive impacts more, so after engaging the enemy you can reuse it...of course the enemy could also toss it back at you as well. Assuming they use these to close the range into melee, it probably makes a little sense that they might want to reuse these things after finishing the enemy off. I would assume the average Ming commander/official in charge thinks its ok to spend $$$ on arrows/bullets, whereas low fatality weapons but still somewhat useful like javelins aren't worth producing too much on.

    3. @Gunsen History @Rayray
      I blame this on the(generally speaking) terrible drawing quality of early manuals. The way I see it, the illustration just depicts a normal-looking (but squashed) spearhead.

      Like this:

    4. I think all four items in the section with the javelin can be found in Wu Bei Zhi. The item named "打鉤" is most likely copied from/inspired by Chinese Fei Gou (飛鉤), as evidenced by its chain + rope construction.


    5. Thank you @Rayray your explanations seems quite logic indeed.

      Thank you!
      Yes I was under the same impression too; there are some evidences of Chinese design weapons like some form of crossbows, the uchine which is the same as the 袖箭 , the tsuki nari yari which reminds me of the 月牙鏟 and there could be some form of artillery too.
      Also Japanese axes and the famous Naginata remind me a lot of Chinese weapons.
      Although the book was written quite late, it might suggest that Chinese weapons were used in Japan.

      Honestly I was looking for this kind of reference, it seems quite logic that those weapons arrived in Japan, with trades or by pirates, especially since Chinese and Koreans adopted Japanese weapons.
      Interestingly enough, there are no mentions of Chinese armors, which might be an hint that those weapons were already integrated inside the Japanese arms.

      Anyway, thank you so much for the info!

    6. Did the japanese really used javelins and other special weapons that you mentioned? I'm rather dubious about this, as I never read any account (whether Chinese or Korean) about japanese using javelins, instead they preferred to use arquebus and bows as their ranged weapons.

    7. @TheXanian
      For javelins I'm quite skeptical too, bows and later on arquebus were far more common and effective. But it could be that someday, someone chose to throw a spear.
      Instead I'm more confident about the mace and the warhammer/pick weapons that are drawn in that manual, since I have already other evidences like this:


    8. @Gunsen History
      That might be a mining pick (use in siege) though.


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