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Mirror armour

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Title: Mirror armour  
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Subject: Plated mail, Mail (armour), Chinese armour, Plate armour, History of Tibet
Collection: Asian Armour
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Mirror armour

Classic Indian char-aina, also chahar-aina or chahar-ai-ne (the four mirrors), Persian (چهاﺮآﻳنه ), shown with kulah khud helmet and madu shield, Mumtaz Mahal Museum, Red Fort, Delhi India.
Ottoman Empire mirror armour (krug), a distinctively Ottoman protection consisting of large steel plates connected by mail.

Mirror armour (Old East Slavic Зерцало Zertsalo which means a "mirror", Kazakh: Шар-айна Shar-ayna were Kazakh: айна ayna means a "mirror" too, Chinese language 护心镜 pinyin: Huxinjing, meaning "Protect-heart mirror"), sometimes referred to as disc armour or Chahar-Ainé (Persian چهاﺮآﻳنه where "آﻳنه " means mirror and " چهاﺮ" is the number "four"), was a type of armour used in Asia and Europe up to the 17th Century. It literally translates to "four mirrors" which is a reflection of how these pieces looked, which resembles four rivetted metal discs or oblong mirrors.


  • Description and history 1
  • Gallery 2
  • References 3
  • External links 4

Description and history

Mirror armour is a type of partial plate armour which was developed initially from round metal mirrors (a kind of rondel worn over other armour (usually over mail) as enforcement. Metal mirrors in this armour were considered not only as protection from cold steel and arrows, but also from supernatural influence. It was believed that mirrors could reflect the evil eye, so they were polished and worn over other armour.

Early mirror armour consisted of a round mirror attached to the body with a few leather laces (similar to the Roman phaelerae). In Europe they were known as "kardiophylax" (Greek) or "apezak" (Armenian) and were popular with various Bronze Age civilisations, as well as the Central Asian tribes such as the Saka and Yuezhi, and also among the Sasanians.

Late mirror armour took the form of a mirror cuirass, helmet, greaves, and bracers worn with mail. There were two alternative constructions of mirror cuirass:

  • with discs - two large round mirrors surrounded by smaller mirror plates
  • without discs - typically having four mirror plates - frontplate, backplate, and two sideplates joined by hinges or laces, similar in construction to the Japanese sendai or yukinoshita dou (dō). The main difference from sendai or yukinoshita dou (dō) was that the right plate in Yukinoshita Dô/Sendai Dô consisted of two overlapping plates. Another difference is that the mirror cuirass may have three or five plates, instead of four, and open from the front.

Early types of this armour were known among the Celtiberians,[1] by the Romans, in the Middle East, Central Asia, India, Russia, Siberia (where it was worn by Siberian natives before the Russian conquest), Mongolia, Indochina and China (including Tibet too).

Later types of this armour were known in the Middle East, Central Asia, India, and Russia. The mirror cuirass with discs was popular in Turkey and Russia, while that without discs was popular in Persia, Central Asia and India.

In India, there was a popular form of brigandine with a few mirror plates riveted to it.

According to Bobrov[2] round metal mirrors worn by Mongolian warriors as armour reinforcement are shown in Persian miniatures of 13c. This is verified by archaeological finds in Central Asia and the Far East. This kind of armour prevailed in Central Asia during 15-17c, and could be worn over any armour including brigandines, lamellar armour, chainmail and even plated mail. In 16c in Persia mirror plates become much larger and changed their shape to rectangular in order to improve body protection. This improved mirror armour gradually spread during 16-17c to Central Asia and North India. Further improvements were made during the 1640s when mirror plates evolved into mirror cuirass, which sometimes had additional mirror plates used as pauldrons for protection of the shoulder laces. Besides separate mirror plates laced as reinforcement to other armours there were small mirrors that were sewn or riveted to brigandine. Brigandines with such integral reinforcements were very popular at the end of 15c, but their use had practically been abandoned by the end of 17c.

Many modern army ballistic vests resemble "Chahar-Aine" layout with basic soft anti-fragmentation armour (analogue of chain mail) covering large area and two, four or even more bulletproof plates ("mirrors") worn above it, thus combining weight saving and freedom of movement with high level of protection of vital areas.

Sometimes mirror armour is wrongly referred to as "Krug", while in Russian: Круг (krug) means "round" (e.g. Russian: металический круг "metall round"). The Medieval name for such an armour was "зерцало" ("zertsalo"), and the modern scientific name is Russian: зерцальный доспех ("zertsal'niy dospekh"), where Russian: зерцальный} ("zertsal'niy") - "mirror′" and Russian: доспех} ("dospekh") - "armour′". While the name "krug" was used only for a central round plate of mirror armour made from few plates, a single-plate mirror armour was just called "zertsalo".


Mirror armours
Brigandines reinforced by mirror plates


  1. ^ War & Society in the Celtiberian World, M. Almagro-Gorbea & A. Lorrio (2008)
  2. ^ Леонид Бобров "Защитное вооружение среднеазиатского воина эпохи позднего средневековья" (Leonid Bobrov "Panoply of a Late Medieval Central Asian Warrior") illustrations of some kinds of mirror armour

External links

  • The Silk Road Designs Armoury (same site at the internet archive)
    • The Silk Road Designs Armoury : Mirrors and Brassier Plates
    • The Silk Road Designs Armoury : Chahar-Ai-Ne
    • The Silk Road Designs Armoury : Disc Armour
  • Russian medieval arms and armour
  • Simple Mirror Armour (Tibetan)
  • Transitional (from round to rectangular) Mirror Armour (Persian)
  • Indian Brigandine with Mirror Plates
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