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Military Formation of Terra Cotta Army

In Shaanxi Province, at the Museum of Qin Shi Huang's Terracotta Army, rows of exquisitely made and fired terracotta figures stand in order in the massive pit, each with a different bearing. The arrangement of the army elicits a sense of majesty and awe. More than seven thousand military clay figures, over six hundred steeds, more than 130 chariots, tens of thousands of weapons - all serve as a miniature of the Qin Army, which was over million strong. They fall into rigorous and orderly columns, ready for any military action. The terracotta formation is an awe-inspiring and majestic proclamation to defend the empire.

The Formation of Qin Terra Cotta Army

The pits provide an incredible amount of information of the army's forces, dispositions such as the distribution and formation of ranks, the use of weapons and the application of military tactics.

"The clever combatant looks to the effect of combined energy, and does not require too much from individuals. Hence his ability to pick out the right men and utilize their combined energy.

When he utilizes combined energy, his fighting men become like unto rolling logs or stones. For it is the nature of a log or stone to remain motionless on level ground, and to move when on a slope; if four-cornered, to come to a standstill, but if round-shaped, to go rolling down." - Sun Tzu

Victory or defeat on a battlefield depends on a well-organized military formation together with a well thought out strategy. Ancient military strategists advocated an agile vanguard preceding a formidable main echelon, which consists of chariots, infantrymen and cavalrymen. The formation was adaptable to changing conditions on the field.

The terra cotta warriors armed with different weapons played supportive roles in a variety of scenarios so that the combined strength of the army was brought into full play. The soldiers are divided into infantry armed with swords and spears, archers, crossbow archers, cavalry, chariot drivers and officers. Among the infantrymen there are some with armor and others without. Chariots are respectively designed for commanders, aide officers as well as for a squad of three or four soldiers. In the Art of War, it illustrates that more horses rather than chariots should be used when the battle is going to be a difficult one and vice versa. When the danger is at its greatest archers should be deployed.

Excavations indicate that the cavalry functioned as an independent force in battle, with chariots playing a vital strategic role. It oppugned the opinion that use of chariots in battle had ceased with the end of the Warring States Period. During the Battle of Changping between the Qin and Zhao states in 260 BC, this well-designed military disposition enabled the Qin defeat the enemy troops and thereby slaughtered 400,000 Zhao soldiers.

Extract from the Art of War

Military tactics are like unto water; for water in its natural course runs away from high places and hastens downwards.

So in war, the way is to avoid what is strong and to strike at what is weak.

is victory in relation to the foe that he is facing.

Therefore, just as water retains no constant shape, so in warfare there are no constant conditions.

Water shapes its course according to the nature of the ground over which it flows; the soldier works out hHe, who can modify his tactics in relation to his opponent and thereby succeed in winning, may be called a heaven-born captain.

Pit 1 occupies an area of 14,260 square meters and is oblong in shape. It is estimated that more than 6,000 Terracotta Army soldiers were situated here, most of them infantrymen. The soldiers are arrayed in a practical battle formation.

Pit 1 is divided into 11 latitudinal corridors by ten earth-rammed partition walls. 38 columns of warriors stand here, with horse-drawn chariots in the center. These were probably the main body of the formation, representing the principal fighting force of the army. At the east end of the pit, there are also three rows of Terra-Cotta Warriors, facing east, 70 in each row, totaling 210 altogether. Armed with bows and arrows, they constitute the vanguard of the army. There are also single rows of warriors to the south, north and west of the main body, facing outward. These are probably the flanks and the rear guard. Holding crossbows, arrows and other long-distance shooting weapons, they were the main defense of the whole battle formation.
Pit 2 is 20 meters to the north of the eastern end of Pit 1. The pit covers an area of 6,000 square meters. The pit is L-shaped and consists of four different mixed military forces in four arrays. It is estimated that there are over 1,000 pieces of pottery figures, and 500 horse-drawn chariots and saddled horses. The four battle arrays are closely connected to constitute a complete formation and can be divided easily to act independently, capable of both self-protection and rapid response to attack. The chariots occupy most of the battle formation. Charioteers were discovered in three of the four arrays of Pit 2. There are clear traces in the clay of the tracks the shafts and wheels had left. Many bronze parts of chariots were also discovered. This provided evidence that charioteers were the principal fighting force of Qin Dynasty.

Pit 3 is located 25 meters to the north of Pit 1 and to the west of Pit 2. It is of concave shape and totals about 520 square meters. From this pit, one chariot, four terra-cotta horses and 68 warriors were unearthed. The arrangement of the pottery figurines and the weapons held by the warriors are quite different from those in Pit 1 and 2. The warriors stand opposite each other along the walls. In Pit 3 only one kind of weapon was discovered, the "shu", which has no blades and is believed to have been used by the guards of honor of the emporer.  Archaeologists also found deer-horn and animal bones in this pit. It is thought that this was the place where sacrificial offerings were made and war prayers were chanted. Judging by the layout of Pit 3, it is most likely the headquarters which directed the mighty underground army.  

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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