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

Many people have noticed that none of the Terracotta Warriors wore helmets. Some of them wore hats woven of 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 the Qin soldiers had a metal helmet. Why did this happen since they needed to protect themselves. The following three reasons may help you understand.

Reason 1: Heavy helmet would hinder nimble movements

Qin soldiers were unwilling to wear helmets and considered it as a burden against nimble movements on the battle-field. 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 an enemy’s head during the battle, he would be awarded a promotion of rank, one residence, and several servants, all of which could be inherited by his son if he died. Besides, if a soldier’s parents were prisoners, or his wife was a slave, the heads of two enemies would qualify his parents for release, or his wife to become an ordinary person.

In short, more enemies’ heads meant higher status and better life for his family. This was particularly 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 armor to run faster! Such gallantry of the 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, the Qin Army laid emohasized manufacturing offensive weapons like spears and dagger-axes, instead of defensive items like light armor and helmets. What’s more, the military training was frequently organized to ensure the soldiers’ fitness. Obviously, the Qin Army believed that only through the combination of advanced weapons and strong bodies could make it invincible, so the importance of defensive items 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 the chest and abdomen. Other weapons like axes, which were thrown and could cause injuries on the head, were not commonly used at that time. So, the Terracotta Warriors, like the Qin soldiers, mainly wore armor but not helmets.

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

During the Warring States Period and the Qin Dynasty, soldiers' helmets were made of bronze or iron. But, smelting these two metals was very expensive and the Qin Army didn’t have enough fiscal support at that time. Instead, the Qin Army decided not to manufacture helmets, and only used metal to make spearheads and arrowheads.

The craftsman carefully copied the Qin soldiers without their helmets, so the Terracotta Warriors tourists see now are bareheaded.

 Further Reading:
 Hairstyle and Headgear of Terracotta Warriors
What Are the Terracotta Warriors Wearing?
 Secret Revealed from the Ears of Terracotta Warriors
Let's Smash the 5 Rumors of the Terracotta Army
- Last updated on Feb. 01, 2021 -
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