7 September 2016

Weaponised shields of the Ming Dynasty

Throughout the long history of Ming Dynasty, Chinese had developed various types of combination weapons, and shield was no exception. Unlike most other Ming combination weapons which are often gimmicky and impractical, These shields are somewhat more practical and saw limited field use, although they were still far from the most common equipment on the battlefield.

In general, Chinese weaponised shields can be grouped into two categories, namely assault shields and defensive shields. Unlike Xun Lei Chong (迅雷銃), which also includes a shield, these equipment are used primarily as shields rather than as guns.

Assault Shield

Assault shields are light enough to be used in conjunction with another weapon, usually a sabre. Their primary use is to disrupt enemy formation so that the swordsman can find an opening to rush in, although they are also extremely deadly in their own right.

Shen Xing Po Zhen Meng Huo Dao Pai (神行破陣猛火刀牌, lit. 'Marvelous travelling, formation breaking, raging fire blade shield')

Ming Chinese Flamethrower Shield
Drawing of a Shen Xing Po Zhen Meng Huo Dao Pai, from 'Wu Bei Zhi (《武備志》)'.
Shen Xing Po Zhen Meng Huo Dao Pai is a modified Yan Wei Pai (燕尾牌) made of fire-resistant cowhide. The top portion of this shield is painted with the head of a Chinese dragon or other fierce mythological beasts, while the lower portion contains up to thirty-six muzzles. When activated, these muzzles will spit out intense flames, poisonous smokes and shrapnel of all kinds to a range of two to three zhang. After Shen Xing Po Zhen Meng Huo Dao Pai expended its charge, it can still be used like a normal shield.

While short ranged and only has capacity for a single shot, this shield still allows its wielder, usually a swordsman, to disrupt or outright kill his enemy from outside the reach of long weapons such as spears, pikes and polearms. It can be used to scare or kill enemy horses as well, allowing the swordsman to countercharge them.

Bao Sheng Pai (保生牌, lit. 'Life-saving shield')

Bao Sheng Pai was recorded in Wu Bian (《武編》) without accompanying illustration. It is a shield that incorporates fifteen small guns, all connected to a trigger (probably a wheellock or similar devices) controlled by the left hand. Once the trigger is pulled, all fifteen guns fire simultaneously.

Defensive Shield

Defensive shields are larger and more static, and can be propped up. Their primary use is to deter enemy assault.

Hu Tou Huo Pai (虎頭火牌, lit. 'Tiger Head Fire Shield')

Ming Dynasty Firearm Shield
Unpainted (left) and painted (right) Hu Tou Huo Pai, from 'Wu Bei Zhi (《武備志》)'.
Ming Chinese Rocket Gun-shield
Back view of the Hu Tou Huo Pai, from 'Wu Bei Zhi (《武備志》)'.
Hu Tou Huo Pai is a modified Ai Pai (挨牌) with an incorporated rocket pod that carries either ten full-sized Shen Ji Jian (神機箭) rockets or twenty smaller Meng Jian (猛箭) rockets. The rockets are launched through a gun loop in the middle of the shield (at the mouth of the painted tiger) which is normally sealed with a detachable cover mounted on the rocket pod. 

The shield is suitable to used on ship as well as on land.

Hu Tou Mu Pai (虎頭木牌, lit. 'Tiger head wooden shield')

Ming Chinese Rocket Shield
Front (right) and back (left) of Hu Tou Mu Pai, from 'Wu Bei Zhi (《武備志》)'.
Hu Tou Mu Pai is also a modified Ai Pai that has a large gun loop (at the glabella of the painted tiger) for Shen Qiang (神鎗) and two smaller peepholes (at the eyes of the painted tiger) used for observation. It also incorporates four rectangular firing ports for small rocket pods of two Shen Ji Jian each. The rocket pods are mounted on rotating sliders, allowing them to be swapped out quickly after use. The sliders also serve as covers for the firing ports when not in use.

Replica Ming Dynasty Rocket Pavise
Replica Hu Tou Mu Pai (unpainted), with its four rocket pods rotated into ready position. Military Museum of the Chinese People's Revolution.
Hu Tou Mu Pai is five chi tall, one chi seven cun wide, and three fen thick. It is covered in cowhide, and its top rim is reinforced with iron.

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