Bareheaded! Why didn’t the Terracotta Warriors wear helmets?

Many people have noticed that none of the Terracotta Warriors wore helmet. Some of them wore hats weaved by straw; some senior soldiers wore hats made from cowhide; and the majority chose to make their hair into a bun and wore nothing. Actually, the prototype for Terracotta Warriors, the Qin soldiers during Warring States Period (475BC-221BC) and Qin Dynasty(221BC-207BC) were truly bareheaded. That’s to say, none of Qin soldiers had a metal helmet. Why did this happen because they needed to protect themselves after all. The following three reasons may help you figure this out.

Reason 1: Heavy helmet would hinder nimble movements

Qin soldiers were unwilling to wear helmet and considered it as a burden against nimble movements at the battle fields. Every soldier was eager to kill more enemies and cut off their heads as quickly as possible. Why? Didn’t they care about their own heads? Such eagerness was closely related to the reward system at that time. In order to boost morale, the government promised that if a Qin soldier cut off one enemy’s head during the battle, he would be awarded rank promotion of one level, one residence and several servants and all these things could be inherited by his son if he died. Besides, if a soldier’s parents were prisoners, or his wife was a slave, only two enemies’s heads would qualify his parents to get released, or his wife become an ordinary person.

In short, more enemies’ heads meant higher status and better life for his families. And this was even more attractive for those from humble origins. Therefore, every soldier wanted to move freely and flexibly on the battlefield, and a heavy metal helmet could act as a burden but not a protection. Some brave soldiers even took off their armors to run faster! Such gallantry of Qin Army was truly the first reason why it could successfully repel its enemies and later unify the whole country.

Reason 2: Qin Army laid emphasis on offense instead of defense

In order to improve the fighting ability, Qin Army laid emphasis on manufacturing offensive weapons like spear and dagger-axe, instead of defensive facilities like light armor and helmet. What’s more, the military training was also frequently organized to ensure the soldiers’ fitness. Obviously, Qin Army believed that only through the combination of advanced weapons and strong body could make itself invincible, so the importance of defensive facilties had long been downplayed.
In addition, at that time, the common weapons on the battlefields were swords and halberds. These weapons could only work through the user’s movement of thrust, and accordingly the wounds were mainly in chest and abdomen. Other weapons like axe, which was used through the movement of hew and could cause injuries on the head had not been massively used at that time. So, the Terracotta Warriors, like the Qin soldiers did, mainly wore armors but not helmets.

Reason 3: It cost a fortune to smelt bronze and iron for helmets

During Warring States Period and Qin Dynasty, soldier’s helmets were made of bronze or iron. But, smelting these two metals were very expensive and Qin Army didn’t have enough fiscal support at that time. Instead, Qin Army decided not to manufacture helmets, and only used metals to make spearhead and arrowhead.
Qin soldiers with no helmet were carefully copied by craftsmen, so the Terracotta Warriors tourists see now are bearheaded.
- Last modified on Mar. 31, 2020 -
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