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The Bare-Handed Army in the Qin dynasty

  Among the 8000 terra-cotta warriors unearthed from the Qin Army Pits, some are clad in battle robes; some dressed in suits of amours; some have their hair done up in buns, others wear their hair in plaits. But not a single one of the warriors is wearing a helmet. Because of this, some people try to deny the character of the Qin army pits as battle formations, arguing that soliders without helmets are unable to fight. They do not know that these warriors without helmets are a vivid portrayal of the “ bare-headed” army of the Qin dynasty.

Helmets were called zhou in ancient China. Archaeological data confirmed that helmets had already been used by soldiers in battles in as early as Shang Dynasty. Inscriptions on bronze of the Western Zhou Dynasty illustrate that metal helmets made with bronze were widely used in the Zhou dynasty by countries on the Central plain as well as the minorities in the northwest area. During the spring and autumn and the Warring States Periods, amour and helmets were both indispensable for soldiers.

of all states except Qin state. In the state of Qin , the soliders without helmets. It is not difficult to guess that there was a fairly large contingent of bared-headed troop in the Qin dynasty.

After comparing and analyzing the characteristics of soldiers in the various states, Xun Zi, a well-known thinker and military scientist in the Warring States period, concluded that although the army of Qin state was good at using special skills in fighting, it could not withstand the strictly trained and well-equipped soldiers of Wei State. The Wei soldiers were “ tough and full-armed, equipped with strong amour, powerful crossbows, long spears and sharp swords, and they marched with a ration of three days’ food and could cover 50 kilometer in half a day. However, even these soldiers were not match for the brave and valiant bare-headed army of Qin State.

Zhang yi , a political strategist, spoke highly of the bare-headed army of Qin State: Qin’s armored soldiers amount to more than one million, its chariots number thousands, its horses tens of thousand. Numerous are its brave soldiers, wearing battle robes without helmets and charging with long halberds. Thousands of Qin state’s bare-headed soldiers, wearing neither helmet nor amour, charged the enemy swiftly and violently. This scene form a striking and violently. This scene forms a striking contrast with that of the soldiers in the six eastern states who were fully protected by amour and helmets.  That was why Zhang Yi compared the soldiers of other six states to cowards, but praised the brave bare-headed soldiers of the Qin state as tigers. Although he was somewhat exaggerating, the words indeed reflected the spirit of the Qin soldiers who shunned internal conflicts but devoted themselves to the cause of the country.

In the mighty battle formation of the Qin tterra-cotta army pits, those clay warriors clad in battle robes and with buns on their bare heads are the very reproduction of the bare-headed soldiers in the Qin dynasty. Looking at the group of sculpture carefully, one may find that all clay warriors are brave, energetic, strong in character and high in moral. They seem to be absolutely confident of winning the battles. The reason why they had this mental attitude is closely related to the set of reasonable and strict military exploit system adopted since the political reform launched by Shang Yang in the Qin dynasty. As stipulated in the Book of Shang Yang “ an soldier who cuts off the head of lesser enemy officer would be granted a title of nobility, a hectare of land and nine mu of land for him to build a house on”.  It might also become a qualification for him to be promoted. It is also stipulated that if the meritorious soldiers dies in war, the above-mentioned rewards could be inherited by his family members or even by his later generations. This handsome rewards is in sharp contrast with that of the State of Qin which granted a soldiers eight liang(approximated an ounce) of copper if he cuts off the head of an enemy. Specific stipulation are also made on the rewards and punishment “if not a single one of the enemies heads is cut off, the general and officers would be punished by getting their own heads cut off. Only when the chopped-off enemy heads amounted to thirty-two could the generals and officers be granted titled of nobility. It is just because the State of Qin was strict and fair in meting out rewards and punishments that its soldiers became an all-conquering and ever victorious force in the battles fought to annex six states and unify the country.”




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