Previous page  
List of subjects |  Sources |  Feedback 

Share |

Discover in a free
daily email today's famous
history and birthdays

Enjoy the Famous Daily

The terracotta army of Shi Huangdi: 210 BC

There are several thousand full-sized warriors in the terracotta army guarding the tomb of the first Chinese emperor, Shi Huangdi. For more than 2000 years they stand underground and unseen (until their discovery in 1975) in what appears to be their battle formation. So they provide a fascinating glimpse of the Chinese at war in the 3rd century BC.

The vanguard of the army is a fighting force unmatched in any other part of the world at this time - three rows of sharpshooters armed with a weapon unique to China, the crossbow.

The crossbowmen wear only light cotton garments, because they will not come into close contact with the enemy. Their arrows have a range of about 200 yards. After firing their volleys, they will move to the flanks to let the columns of infantry run forward to engage in hand-to-hand combat.

The terracotta infantry wear heavy coats of rivetted iron plates as protection against the arrows of the enemy. It is known from written sources that Qin soldiers remove their armour before closing with the enemy, to give them greater mobility in the thick of the fighting. A terracotta toggle by the left shoulder of the coat of mail reveals how it is slipped off.

At intervals in each column there is a chariot, drawn by four terracotta horses. The crew of three consists of a charioteer to control the horses, a spearman with a long bamboo lance whose task is to protect the horses from attack and an officer who uses the chariot as a command post for his own company of troops.

Two of the chariots have a different and broader function. They carry drums and bells, by means of which a commander can convey orders and changes of plan to a wide body of men on the battlefield. The Chinese author of the world's first military treatise has already explained the value in the field of Gongs and drums, banners and flags.

Previous page