Shield (phub)

Date: possibly 14th–16th century

Culture: Tibetan

Medium: Cane, iron, brass

Dimensions: Diam. 29 7/8 in. (75.9 cm)

Classification: Shields

Credit Line: Purchase, Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Gift, 2001

Accession Number: 2001.55


Shields were once widely used in Tibet. They were invariably round and consist of two basic types: shields made of cane or wicker, and shields made of leather. Of these, the cane shields seem to have been made in Tibet, while most if not all of the leather shields appear to have come from India, Bhutan, Sikkim, and probably Nepal. Cane shields have two principal forms: flat, as in this example, and domed or convex. This particular cane shield belongs to a rare group, examples of which have been found at Tsaparang in the Ngari area of western Tibet, and in Phyang Monastery, in the Ladakh region of northwestern India. The iron fittings on these shields are extremely similar to those on some types of Tibetan leather arm guards and on Tibetan furniture, especially leather boxes.

Leather shields, sometimes made from rhinoceros hide, are hard, strong, and relatively light. They generally have at least four small metal bosses on the exterior, which anchor the handgrips, and sometimes an arm strap, on the interior. The general type, from India and elsewhere, was probably used along Tibet's southern border.