In the ancient times China was on the forefront of technological advancements. Silk, gunpowder, and porcelain are just a few of their coveted ancient inventions. A number of Chinese armors, mostly isolated from the advancements of the middle east and Europe, were developed. The Chinese was continuously being harassed by outside influences, the Huns, the Mongolians and the Manchus to name a few. Chinese armor allowed them to survive for a decent amount time before eventually being conquered.
The Shang dynasty is when we first see evidence of ancient Chinese armor. True to most cultural patterns, the first armors to appear in China were mostly exclusive to the noble classes. The earliest armors to appear were made out of turtle shells lashed together to make a coat of shells. Improvements on this fairly primitive armor led to leather and later bronze armor. Since most of the armor was used by nobles, it tended to be fairly elaborate in design. We also see the Shang dynasty using helmets made out of bronze.
After the Shang dynasty came the Zhou dynasty. The Zhou used a number of the Shang armors but also had some advancements of their own. The Zhou used wooden dummies to mold armor made out rhinoceros and buffalo hide. Eventually due to the disappearance of rhinoceros' in the region, the armor started to be made solely from buffalo hide. 10,000 Chinese clothed in Buffalo hide armor must have been formidable and I don't mean the size. 10,000 men marching for weeks without a bath must have singed the noise hairs of the defenders. Probably to the relief of the defenders, the Zhou later developed armor made out of lacquered leather. To date twelve suits of this type of armor has been discovered in a Chinese tomb.
The next good sized block of information we have about ancient Chinese armor is when the first Chinese emperor's tomb, Shi Huangdi, was discovered in 1974. The tomb contained 8,000 full-sized terracotta soldiers complete with armor, weapons and military gear. The clay soldiers gave us an unprecedented look at the armor of the Chinese soldier. The soldiers wore a type of lamellar armor made from square and rectangular plates. The plates were either laced together or riveted.
Although wrought iron first appeared in the 5th century BC it didn't fully supplant bronze armor until the 2nd century BC. Even more interesting than the advent of iron was the creation of Chinese paper armor. You'd think armor made from paper would be about as useful as an ice machine in Alaska but this armor was extremely strong. It was crafted from 10-15 layers of mulberry paper and apparently was able to stop an arrow.
Illustrated by Cyrus "killacaravagio" Hunter
The invention of Chinese Mulberry Paper armor leaves soldiers speechless.