Top 10 Weapons of Terracotta Army

The terracotta army pits have yielded almost 40,000 bronze weapons including swords, spears, billhooks, arrowheads and crossbows. Unlike the terracotta soldiers that are made of clay, most of these actual combat weapons were made of bronze while a few were made of iron. Despite being buried for over 2,200 years, these military weapons still glitter and their edges are as sharp as of old. This reflects the high level of metallurgical technology of the Qin Dynasty (221 BC - 206 BC). 

Jian in Chinese. Over 20 pieces of bronze swords unearthed in Pit 1 and Pit 2 are smooth and sharp in the color of yellow gray. Looking like the shape of willow leaf, the slim body part is around 80 to 95 centimeters (31 to 37 inches) in length, with protruding ridges in its middle and cuspidal tip to increase the force of puncture. Some parts have inscribed numbers in Chinese rather than written inscriptions. The discovered bronze swords have no signs of use. Therefore, some experts surmise that they were put into the funerary pits from the Qin arsenal immediately. 

Qin bronze sword in terra cotta museum
Bronze Sword
Bronze Hook
Bronze Billhook


Called ‘Jin Gou’ in Chinese. Two bronze billhooks found in the east of Pit 1 have a shape similar to a machete. Equipped with an oval cylindrical hand shank, the bronze hook is manufactured as a double-edged weapon to wound people in both directions. It is also named the Wu hook because it was firstly created in Wu State. 


Mao in Chinese. The bronze spears unearthed in the funerary pits are sharp and exquisite with silvery white color. Qin spears focus on actual combat performance, which reflects the spears’ simple and fluent lines, strong body, wide and flat shape as well as its sharp blade.

Bronze Spears


Known as Ge in Chinese, the dagger-axe is a pointed weapon commonly used in combat during the Shang and Zhou Dynasties (1600 BC - 256 BC). It is found in a long style and short style depending on the length of the handle. Archaeologists also find a few long inscriptions containing annals and names of the manufacturers on several non-Qin dagger-axes.  


Ji in Chinese. Regarded as the combination of Mao and Ge, the halberd has spear and dagger-axe heads for soldiers to stab and catch their combatant. Four halberds found in Pit 1 have decayed wooden handles but some inscriptions can still be seen on the heads. 


Its Chinese name is Yue. As one of the ritual weapons, the excavated bronze battleaxes are shaped similar to broad axes.  

Qin Halberd
Bronze Battleaxe
Bronze Battleaxe


Shu is the Chinese name. Almost 31 cylindrical Shu were discovered in Pit 1 and Pit 3. Its triangle cone head measures 10.5 centimeters (4.1 inches) long, and 2.3 to 3 centimeters (0.9 to 1.2 inches) in diameter. It was assembled with a wooden handle. Compared to combat weapons, such as spears and halberds, Shu is non-lethal and usually used only in ceremonies.


Pi in Chinese. Compared to a spear head, the 16 bayonet heads unearthed from Pit 1 are sharper and have stronger piercing force. They are about 35 centimeters (14 inches) long and have the same appearance as a dagger. The main part of the bronze bayonet is the bilateral hexahedral flat blade. Ended with a hole, the stem of the bayonet is compressed to be connected on the handle with a bronze nail.  

Qin Weapon Shu
Qin Bayonet

Nu in Chinese. As king of cold arms, Qin Nu is more powerful than the Qin bow because of its faster speed and further shooting distance. It not only has accurate aim, but also extended shooting range. The crossbow and bow were linked together when they were found. Both the bow and crossbow arm are wooden to take more tension and have a long effective range. The approximately 140-centimeter-long (55-inch-long) bow is covered by lacquer and strap, evident from remains of garment found on the crossbows. The bowstring length is between 108 and 124 centimeters (43 and 49 inches). 


Jiancu in Chinese. It is used with the crossbow. There are about 40,000 arrowheads unearthed from the terracotta warriors pits, including two iron arrowheads. The bronze heads are triangular pyramid and made up of head, shaft and vane.

Crossbow of Qin Army
Crossbow of Qin Army
Bronze arrow-heads
Bronze Arrowheads

How Advanced Were Qin Weapons Back Then?

As the earliest bronze weapons, the Qin weapons are considered to be the world's most powerful in its time by a lot of people. However, it's not true. The reason is that both of the quantity and quality of Qin weapons were left behind in that time, not only compared with other empires worldwide, but also compared with the previous states it conquered. In addition, the Qin bronze weapons manufacturing technique is proved to be not so advanced as well. More important reasons for the mightiness and prosperity of the Qin Empire are the correct military tactics, well-trained soldiers, and physical quality of the Qin soldiers.  

You can take a free shuttle bus from the Terracotta Army Museum to the Exhibition Hall of Historical Relics of Emperor Qin Shihuang's Mausoleum to appreciate these weapons. The entrance fee is included in the through ticket of the Terracotta Army.

 See also Where are the weapons used to be in Terracotta Warriors' hands?

- Last updated on Feb. 05, 2023 -
Questions & Answers on Top 10 Weapons of Terracotta Army
Asked by echo | Jan. 26, 2023 06:04Reply
why were these weapons important
Answers (1)
Answered by Daniel | Feb. 05, 2023 16:41

They tell people how the ancient weapons are really look like.
Asked by Zack cox from USA | Nov. 07, 2015 18:36Reply
Where are there weapons of Terracotta Army?
Answers (2)
Answered by Wicky from ICELAND | Nov. 08, 2015 02:13

Most weapons had corroded and decayed, and the existing ones are displayed in the museum, you can still view them.
Answered by Kelly from CANADA | Mar. 02, 2016 16:10

a lot of the weapon were still sharp and shiny because they had been coated with Chromium dioxide.
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