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The Colorful Uniform of Qin Terracotta Figures

The most fascinating archeological discovery of modern time is the Terracotta Army in Shaanxi province, China. The Terracotta Army is made out of with terracotta. Terracotta literally means “baked earth”, which is made from natural clay. The color of it is usually reddish brown; however, the color may vary depending on the way the clay is used. It was first discovered by farmers but the figures were reburied because of ominous superstitious about the figurine past down from elders. This discovery was never reported and was only known as “pottery man” and a legend.


The terracotta army figures were manufactured both in workshops by government laborers and also by local craftsmen. The head, arms, legs and torsos were created separately and then assembled. Studies show that eight face moulds were most likely used, and then clay was added to provide individual facial features

Once assembled, intricate features such as facial expressions were added. It is believed that their legs were made in much the same way that terracotta drainage pipes were manufactured at the time. This would make it an assembly line production, with specific parts manufactured and assembled after being fired, as opposed to crafting one solid piece of terracotta and subsequently firing it. In those days, each workshop was required to inscribe its name on items produced to ensure quality control. This has aided modern historians in verifying that workshops that once made tiles and other mundane items were commandeered to work on the terracotta army. Upon completion, the terracotta figures were placed in the pits in precise military formation according to rank and duty.


The terracotta figures are life-like and life-sized. They vary in height, uniform and hairstyle in accordance with rank. The colored lacquer finish, individual facial features, and actual weapons and armor from battle used in manufacturing these figures created a realistic appearance. The original weapons were stolen by robbers shortly after the creation of the army and the coloring has faded greatly. However, their existence serves as a testament to the amount of labor and skill involved in their construction. It also reveals the power the First Emperor possessed, enabling him to command such a monumental undertaking.

The city-sized mausoleum and terracotta warriors took over thirty-six years to build using over 700,000 craftsmen. The Emperor’s tomb is in the center of the mausoleum while four pits of battle ready warriors are stationed near the tomb. The first pit which is as large as a two football fields had approximately 6000 warriors made up of archers, cavalry horses, charioteers, and foot soldiers in battle ready formation. A smaller second pit nearby was filled with approximately 900 warriors who are more powerful and have higher rank such as generals. A third pit nearby is pit where scholars believes that strategist and scholars are located to discuss battle formation. The fourth and final pit was discovered empty and scholars have no idea what it is for. Other than terracotta warriors created, terracotta civilians, government officials, servants, acrobats, dancers, singers, strongmen, and animals were also excavated. These figurines server as entertainment to the Emperor while the warriors protect the Emperor and his afterlife kingdom.
Despite the size of the Emperor’s army, no two figures have the same facial feature, hair styles, and design on their clothing, each figure is as unique as a person can be. Archeologist believed that all the warriors were brightly color to distinguish the family and rank of the figure. However as the figures were excavated, the paint were either faded or chipped away because of exposure of air. Studies have showed that the terracotta figures were made separated and then assembled, similarly to a modern day assembly line. Face moulds were discovered and is believed to be the based on the soldier’s face and clay was added to give distinctive facial features.
Upon completion, the assembled figure would place in the mausoleum according to rank and position. The clothing the terracotta figures worn also distinguished it from a citizen, foot soldier, and general. The warriors uniforms were replica of what was worn: knee length robes, armors that look like fish scales, and have top knot hairdos. Not only were the soldiers dressed accordingly, they were also given real weapons to hold, such as bronze sword, daggers, battle axes, and arrowheads. The placement of the soldiers in the pits are all placed facing east. This is because when the Emperor was alive, he had unconquered land in the East and in fear of foreign armies; the warrior faces east to fend off foreign invasion.

The range of terra-cotta figure types represented in QinShihuangarmy is more extensive. There are about seven main categories as follows: high-ranking officer, officer, armored and unarmored soldiers, charioteer, cavalryman, kneeling archer and standing archer. The officer class is identified by their greater size and more ornate armor including headgear and small tabs or sashes which may be emblems of rank. The cavalryman is immediately identifiable by the tight fitting helmet tied under the chin, together with tight fitting armor to the waist and flared robe to facilitate riding. The charioteer is identifiable by the fully armored sleeves and the position of the hands, held firmly out in front as if to hold the reins.


[High Ranking Officer] Possibly A General
Height 197 cm,
From Pit 2 Qin Terra-cotta Museum

The offer gesture and size give him a majestic presence. He is wearing double-layered robes covered by shoulder plates. Evidence suggests that his outer robe were painted dark purple and the robe beneath vermilion. His trousers were in green and his square-toed shoes black. The headgear he is wearing was painted brown. The colorful fish-scaled armor protected the chest, back and shoulders. The armor was usually painted brown and dotted with vermilion thread for linking the pieces.

The collar, chest, shoulders and edges of the armor were decorated with colorful patterns. There are eight knots made of ribbon to decorate the armor, three knots on the front plate, and three on the back and one knot each on the shoulder. His carefully groomed mustache and sideburns convey a sense of authority, solemnity and dignity.

[Officer]
From Pit 2, Qin Terra-cotta Museum

The officer was wearing red trousers and a high-collar robe in green under an armor cape originally. The collar and cuff were decorated by white and red patterns. Both his flat hat and square-toed shoes should be in black color. The figure wears chest armor, which is fastened by cross-straps on the back, over a flared battle robe. The ornate scarves around the neck possibly signify his commissioned rank.

From the position of the hands and arms, it clear that this figure held weapons.

The Armored and Un-armored Soldiers: A large quantity of soldiers has been discovered from the terra-cotta pits. Some of them wear armor, some don. The colors of their uniform were much different when they painted. But the armors were all painted brown, without the colorful patterns on. The robes varied in colors as vermilion, green or blue, and the trousers green, white or pink.

[Un-armored soldier]
From Pit 1 Qin Terra-cotta Museum

The figure wears knee-length robe without armor-plated uniform. Around the waist of the robe is a belt linked with a distinctive belt hook. The soldier also wears the short trousers and his shoes curve upward. The hair is tightly coiled into a neat bun on the right top of his head. The fact that he wears no armor allows for unrestricted movement.

[Armored Officer]
Height 182 cm,
From Pit 3 Qin Terra-cotta Museum

The figure wears a battle robe with full body armor including shoulder pieces. He also wears short trousers, curve-toed shoes. The right arm is raised and would evidently have held spear.

[Charioteer with His Attendant Soldiers]
From Pit 2 Terra-cotta Museum

The figure was provided with a special uniform with extra armor to protect his arms, hands, neck and upper body. This was necessary because he needed to use both hands to hold the reins, and thus could not defend himself. His hands held firmly out in front to hold the reins.

The attendant soldiers, who flank the charioteer, wear long robes in different colors; one is in red, another in green. Both soldiers carry long weapons in one hand while grasping the chariot with the other.

[Cavalryman with His Saddled War-Horse]
From Pit 2 Qin Terra-cotta Museum

The cavalry was an important element of Emperor Qin army, providing it with speed and agility. The figures of cavalrymen so far discovered were placed in Pit 2, together with their horses.

The figure wears the short dark brown tight-fitting armor, green narrow-sleeved knee-length robe originally. Beneath the belted waist the robe appears full with pleats and folds. The small tight-fitting cap fastened under the chin was originally painted reddish brown, suggesting leather. The stitched leather shoes are represented in some detail with laces and ties. The figure holds the reins in one hand and a crossbow in the other.

The molded saddle on the horse back with hand-finished carved probably represents a leather originally. A series of black circles symbolizing tacks are molded on the surface of the saddle, which were painted red, white, brown and blue. The saddle was held in place by a girth underneath the belly of horse.

[Kneeling Archer]
Height, 120cm
From Pit 2 Qin Terra-cotta Museum

The figures of kneeling archers were discovered from Pit 2. They own quite similar characteristics.

The figure wears green battle robe covered by armor together with shoulder pieces. The battle robe was distinguished by the series of pleats and folds as it rests over the legs, As with all of the terra-cotta figures, the archer was highly detailed, even showing the pebbled surface texture on the soles of his shoes. The hair was plaited on the back of the head and then coiled into a bun tied with vermilion ribbons.

He kneels on the right knee with the left knee raised. The right arm is held with the hand open, the left arm rests on the raised left knee and the hand extends across the chest. The pose of both hands evidences that this figure held one crossbow originally. The head is held firm and the eyes look directly ahead. The straight back emphasizes the impressions of concentration and discipline.

[Standing Archer]
Height, 178 cm
From Pit 2 Qin Terra-cotta Museum

There is a large number of standing archers discovered in Pit 2. Their uniforms were colorful painted when made.

This figure was dressed in an unarmored red robe fastened around the waist with shin guards and short boots. His hair was coiled into a neat bun on the right top of his head. The archer displays a posture: the feet stand apart with the right foot turned outwards and the left foot forward. His body is carefully titled to the left with his pendant left arm and raised right arm in front of the chest as if to hold a crossbow.

Terracotta Warriors Finding the Terra Cotta Warriors
warriors Cotta Pot No. 1.   Production process of Qin Terracotta Army
Third Excavation of Pit 1  Lifelike Terra Cotta Figures
Terracotta Army Pit No.2   Military Formation of Terra Cotta Army
Terra Cotta Pit No. 3  Exquisite Weapons of Terracotta Army
Bronze Chariots  Terra-cotta warriors show their true colors.
terracotta warriors Accessory Pits The Colorful Uniform of Qin Terracotta Figures
  Stone Helmet and Armor near Emperor Qin mausoleum The Statue of Kneeling Archer
 Stories of Terracotta Warriors  Qin Shi Huang Tomb

 

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