bringing back
ancient Chinese weapons:


Peter Dekker is a young man with an interest in ancient Chinese weapons. One of the fields he has conquered is the art of making tengpai, the conical rattan shields that were popular from the time of general Qi Jiguang until around 1900, when they were still in use by both Boxer Rebels and Imperial Troops.

In an article he wrote on the Great River Taoist Center Forum, Peter said:

"Since I acquired an antique rattan shield not so long ago I've been obsessed with learning the technique to make these. I measured the materials and ordered it at a local rattan supplier and got working."

Click on the thumbnails to see how Peter went about making a tengpai.

 ancient Chinese Weapons tengpai beginning
 ancient Chinese Weapons finish rattan shield
womens boxing training
 ancient Chinese weapons revived
The end product

I don't know of anyone else who is successfully making these rattan shields. Some of us have thought about it and put it back in the too hard basket. Most of us prefer to have someone else do all the hard work. Reproducing ancient Chinese weapons is very time consuming so they are not cheap. Take a look at these comparison pictures of a genuine old tengpai and Peter's newly made one. Notice how closely it follows the real dimensions.

Rattan shields old and new

The next two photos show variation in shape. Peter explains this on his article on the Great River Taoist Center Forum:

"Rattan shields went through some change over time in shape and material. The older versions were made with whatever was available: willow, bamboo, rattan or wisteria. Rattan was considered the best material to make these from and when internal trade improved considerably during the Qing, all were made from rattan.

A woodblock picture of a conical tengpai.
Alt Text--ancient Chinese rattan shield

Early rattan shields were very conical in shape and with a rim forming eaves. This makes for the strongest of rattan shields where each rim is stacked upon the other, and so any incoming weapon needed to penetrate more material. The eaves "brush off arrows" (-Qi Jiguang) and prevent weapons to slide off the shield and into the body.

While these were superior in strength, they weighed a lot more than the later shields and took more time to make. So when horses and bows gradually disappeared from the battlefield, shields became flatter and slightly smaller. This because now they were primarily used for warding off edged weapons from infantry, that struck with a lot less force than those from cavalry. While the Qing themselves held on to using bow and arrow until even the early years of the 20th cent, none of their enemies continued this practice until so late. The shields were no match for musket balls and later firearms, so maneuverability became more important. The final stage in design of these shields thus was a moderate dome with flat edge rim, primarily designed for close infantry combat."

The flatter shape was lighter and easier to move about.
Alt Text--rattan shield reproduction

The picture below shows Peter trying out his new rattan shield. Notice the ancient Chinese weapons in the background, including an original rattan shield. When you buy your equipment, there is no better recommendation than that it comes from someone like Peter who knows the history, handles the original ancient Chinese weapons, and trains in the skills needed to use them. This is a rare mix.

Peter has his own website called Mandarin Mansion. Visit him there for contact details if you would like a tengpai of your own. He also does grip wrapping of swords, and a few other really interesting things. Peter has some good historical research on his site. it's well worth a look.

Tengpai Peter Dekker

For the complete article I've been referring to, and other information on ancient Chinese weapons, take a look at the GRTC Forums. This modern shield maker is of a rare breed. If you know of anyone else making Chinese shields from any dynasty, use the contact form to let me know.

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