10 November 2015

Gun Bei (滾被)

Chinese Blanket Shield
Drawing of an ornate Qing Dynasty Gun Bei, from 'Huang Chao Li Qi Tu Shi (《皇朝禮器圖式》)'.
Gun Bei (滾被, lit. 'Rolling blanket') is an unusual equipment of the Ming army. It is literally a large cotton blanket measuring two cun thick and serves as the handheld version of Ruan Bi (軟壁). Gun Bei is usually deployed in front of the main body of an army to screen against arrows, stones, or arquebus shots. Using Gun Bei is such a risky prospect (as it does not always stop the projectiles) that the soldier will earn double pay.

Gun Bei is usually used in conjunction with a pair of sabres.


  1. Hi, is there any more detail as to how this was deployed? I am having a hard time imagining it working.

  2. @clibinarium
    It is handheld. Something like this, I guess.


    Because it requires both hands, the user can't bring a shield. Might as well go dual wielding.

  3. I wasn't expecting that illustration!
    I see what you mean, though it seems a pretty fraught method of protection. I had imagined it being draped from the crossbar held on a pole which the soldier could hold. Do you come across instances of its actual use? I get the impression some weapons in the manuals spring from the imaginations of military theorists, but don't make for practical systems in battle. Not that this one is not practical, just very unwieldy.

  4. @clibinarium
    LOL, looks like I get the joke across.

    While many equipments were indeed spring from the imaginations of military theorists, this one is unfortunately (or fortunately?) not. That's why I have to get a Qing-period illustration of it, it is not found in Ming Dynasty military treatises.

    If you look carefully at the picture at my Lang Bing (Wolf troop) post, you can actually see one soldier (the guy beside the drummer) is carrying a rolled blanket. My other source came from 'Ming Ji Nan Lue (《明季南略》)' which records the failed conquest of Koxinga and detailing how Gun Bei is used (Koxinga employed Gun Bei in his army).

  5. @clibinarium
    Apparently the Chinese found the blanket useful enough that Qing Dynasty continued to issue Gun Bei and twin sabres as regulation equipment to the Green Standard Army.

    While it is quite unwieldy, Gun Bei is probably the only thing in the Chinese army that has a chance to stop arquebus round, yet mobile enough to keep up with rest of the army (remember, Chinese didn't have proofed plate armour)

    Cotton also seems to be the number one choice when it comes to "bulletproof material" if you don't have anything better, at least according to the Chinese, 19th century Joseon Koreans, American Civil War Confederates, and 1930s US gangsters.


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