Northern Dynasties (386 AD – 581 AD)Despite their nomadic/barbarian origin, Northern Dynasties adopted and inherited much of the military legacy of Western Jin Dynasty, which they overthrew.
|Section of a mural depicting an armoured Northern Wei warrior with a long shield. Datong, China.|
|Several figurines with Jin Dynasty-style long shields discovered at a Northern Dynasties tomb at Dongbaliwa, Shandong, China.|
|Northern Dynasties figurine propping a large long shield.|
It should be noted that despite the presumed increase in weight, the shield was still carried by hand during combat.
Southern Dynasties (420 AD – 589 AD)
Hexagonal long shield
|Southern Dynasties figurines with Jin Dynasty-style long shields.|
|Section of the Dunhuang mural 'Conversion to Buddhism of Five Hundred Robbers', depicting shielded robbers (dressed in the manner of Southern Dynasties infantry) fighting against heavily armoured cataphracts.|
|Brick relief depicting several Southern Dynasties infantry. Note that they walk in swordsman-longbowman pairs. Also note the asymmetric shape of the bows and the way they are carried are similar to Japanese bow.|
Sui Dynasty (581 AD – 618 AD)
After one and a half century of struggle, Northern and Southern Dynasties period came to an end with the South ended up on the losing side–Sui Dynasty, which succeeded the Northern Zhou, successfully conquered Southern Chen and finally reunified China. Nevertheless, Sui Dynasty was short-lived, lasting a mere thirty-nine years before it was succeeded by Tang Dynasty. Unsurprisingly, Chinese shield hardly changed during this period.
Hexagonal long shield
|Two Sui Dynasty figurines wearing Northern Dynasties-style armours, but equipped with Southern Dynasties-style bend hexagonal shields.|
Shield was no exception to this Southernification trend. Southern Dynasties-style hexagonal shield quickly displaced Northern Dynasties shield and became the predominant shield type.
Tang Dynasty and Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period (618 AD – 979 AD)
While widely considered to be the zenith and golden age of Chinese civilisation, Chinese shield changed surprisingly little during this period. Hexagonal shield, only slightly modified, continued to see common use throughout the entire Tang period.
Pentagonal or hexagonal long shield
|Section of a Dunhuang mural telling the legend of King Ajatashatru, depicting Tang swordsmen sparring with spearmen. Both pentagonal and hexagonal shields are depicted in the mural.|
|Yulin caves mural depicting a Tang cavalryman with a pentagonal long shield. Also note the rather large size of the horse.|
More decorated Tang Dynasty long shields were usually segmented into several rectangles and painted with simple primary colours.
Round or oval cavalry shield with five studs
|Tang period warrior figurine with round shield found in Kumtura Caves, China.|
|Section of Dunhuang mural "Eight Kings Dividing the Relics" depicting early Tang light cavalry with round shields.|
Round cavalry shield, of possible Central Asian influence, also became popular during Tang period.
|Section of a painted banner depicting an armoured Tang warrior with a hand shield. The banner is currently in the pocession of British Museum.|
A new type of hand shield was also used during Tang period, although it was not as popular as the long shield. This type of hand shield appears to be a throwback to earlier designs.
Other blog posts in my Shield Evolution series:
Part 2: Northern and Southern Dynasties to Tang