1 April 2015

Ai Pai (挨牌)

Ming Dynasty Ai Pai
Front (right) and back (left) view of Ai Pai, from sixteenth century military treatise 'Chou Hai Tu Bian (《籌海圖編》)'.
Ai Pai (挨牌 or 捱牌, lit. 'Leaning shield'), also came to be known as Gao Li Pai (高麗牌, lit. 'Goryeo shield' or 'Korean shield') during late Ming period for reasons unknown, is a large wooden shield made of poplar wood, measuring five chi long and one chi five cun to three chi wide.
Ai Pai does not have any grip. Instead, three cords pass through punched holes in the shield and fastened with wooden beads on both ends. Two cords on the upper side of the shield are tied together so that the shield can be hanged around the neck, while the lower cord is held between middle and ring finger of the wielder's left hand to allow for finer control of the shield. This shield allows the wielder to use a weapon requiring both hands.

Ai Pai can be fitted with a prop to be used as free-standing shield (like a pavise) as well.

Large Ai Pai with Daoist talismanic inscriptions, from 'Ji Xiao Xin Shu (《紀效新書》)'.
Chinese Pavise Shield
Variant Ai Pai design, from 'Wu Bei Zhi (《武備志》)'.
Chinese Ai Pai
Crenel-mounted Ai Pai, from 'Wu Bei Zhi (《武備志》)'.
Ai Pai comes in a variety of shapes. The most common form actually resembles an enlarged Yan Wei Pai (燕尾牌), but long pentagonal and rounded rectangular Ai Pai are also common.


  1. You've mentioned these were used in mandarin duck formation, are there any illustrations or reconstructions of how it was used?

  2. Good day and welcome to my blog.

    You can read my blog post about the mandarin duck formation. Unlike rattan shiled, the role of Ai Pai shieldman is to stand ground and defend others.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. Honestly, I still don't know how the straps work on the ai pai. I've been wracking my head over it...

    1. Huh? Isn't it just a fairly standard guige?. The shield is hanged from the neck like the Macedonian phalangite's shield.

    2. Sorry, need to clarify, I understand how the neck strap works, but I don't understand how the hand would control the shield. I'm guessing the 2 straps on top were connected somehow by another strap as the guige, but for the hand, do you just hold onto the wooden bead/stick?

    3. You hold the bead at like you would hold the starter handle to rev up a chainsaw. I.e. like this:


    4. Ah, Thanks! I wonder how much control that gives.

    5. Not very much, I suppose. Then again, Ai Pai's a pavise. It's no gonna be very agile in the first place, and it lets you to still use a spear two-handed.


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