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Archer


Archer used to be a very active force on the stage of war. In his article “The army”, Friedrich Engles pointed out that “the strength of an army lies in its infantry, especially in its archers”. The clay archer discovered in the Qin army pits are not only varied in type and well-equipped but also occupy important positions, demonstrating the special role of archers in battle arrays.

In the Qin Dynasty, only those young men who were tall, strong and brave could be selected to become archers. They were “guards” in the first year, and “archer officers” in the second year, learning to shoot arrows, drive chariots and ride horses. The clay archers unearthed from the Qin terra-cotta army pits are the very images of strictly selected Qin archers. The light archers in battle robes are about 1.8 meters in height and of proportional build. They seem to be just in the prime of life. With their hair put up in buns, the archers wear short boots. They carry crossbows in the right hands while their left hands hang down. The heavy archers clad in battle robes with suits of armour on top. Although not as tall as light archers, they look strong and sturdy. With plaits at the back of their heads and square-opening , shallow shoes on their feet, they carry crossbow in their right hands and their left droop on the side. On the back of each archer, there are two symmetrical clay quivers, number of bronze arrows carried by soldiers in the State of Wei. In battle formations, light archers and heavy archers have different positions. For example, in the square battle formation of Pit number 1. The light archers are put in the vanguard position. The main body of the thirty-eight files is made up of heavy archers while the surface and sides are composed of light archers. When a battle starts, the light and brisk archers will change the enemy first, followed by the heavy archers who cooperate with the vanguard to combat the enemy, thus bringing into full play their respective tactical advantages.

In the Qin dynasty, the archers had developed into an independent branch of the services which cooperated with the charioteers and cavalrymen in tactics. To guard and protect the capital, Xianyang, the second emperor ordered the fifty thousands archers be conscripted and taught the skills of shooting. The archers were of two categories- the heavy archers and the light archers. And their names yingqing and chaizhang were given according to the different ways in which they drew the bow. Yingqiang referred to the archers who drew the bow with arms whereas chaizhnag those who drew the bow with feet.

One of the several small independent square formations in Pit number 2 is made up 334 archers. What merits attention is that the four sides of the square formation are lined with standing archers carrying crossbows and in the center of the formation are kneeling archers carrying bows. In real battles, the standing archer would alternate with the kneeling ones to make sure that arrows are shot continuously into the enemy troops and, in this way, firepower is concentrated and the combat effectiveness is increased. The archers in Pit 1 are mixed with other branches of the services, reflecting the tactical principle of “archer ranging strong crossbows in the front and placing spears and halberds.”

The archers in the Qin Dynasty underwent very strict training. It was stipulated in the law that if the officers in charge of the shooting of the crossbow missed the aim, he would be punished by paying the amount of money for two suits of amour as well as being relieved of his position. There were also strict requirement and standards for the training. According to The spring and autumn of the states of wu and yue, Chen Yin relates to the King of Yue that the correct way of shooting an arrow is to stand in a positive manner, the feet lightly apart, with the right foot turned outwards and left hand seems to be laid on a branch and the right hand appears to be carrying a child. The right hand sets off the arrow without the knowledge of the left hand. The shooting skills of the terra-cotta archers in the Qin army pits have reached the level of standardization. Take the standing archer for example. Facing the right, the archer stands with his left hand slightly arched his right leg stretched tight, his feet in the shape of a letter T. He flexes his right arm in front of his chest and holds his left arm at the side but slightly forward. His palm is extended and turned upside down. This is the typical way in which a standing archer shot. The posture of the kneeling archers in the Qin terra-cotta army pits embodies the method of shooting prevailing in the spring and autumn period, the key of which was to brace up the left knee and kneel on the right knee. The kneeling archer unearthed from Pit 2 squats on his left leg and knees on his right leg, with the left knee raised and the right knee touching the ground, making up a vivid and tangible picture of correct way of shooting in kneeing position in ancient times. This method seemed to be quite scientific in keeping the balance of the body. And surprisingly, two thousand years later, the firing of the small-calibre rifles in kneeling position completely coincides with it.

 
 
 

 

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