Are Beardless Terracotta Warriors Evidence of Teenage Soldiers in Qin Empire?

The Terracotta Warriors of Xi'an

Although each of the Terracotta warriors was sculpted to be unique, one common physical trait they all share is a beard. But a new discovery has found that a handful of statues bear no facial hair, suggesting that the Terracotta army had teenaged soldiers enlisted in its ranks.

The Terracotta Army was built at the behest of China’s first emperor more than 2,000 years ago, when beards were a must for all adult males. To have one was a matter of respect, and one way of dealing with criminals at the time was cutting off their beards as a form of punishment.

So to find statues beardless likely indicates that they were of a young age said Yuan Zhongyi, an honorary curator of the Museum of the Terracotta Warriors.

In a news article Yuan said, “Some warriors have no beards, but for ancient Chinese, facial hair was part of the culture, so those warriors could be considered to represent soldiers under 17 years old.”

During the rule of the first emperor, the military age for males was 17, and child soldiers were not common. But there is some evidence in historical documents that say males older than 15 were enlisted in a battle to defeat the Zhao kingdom.

More than 1,000 Terracotta warriors have been discovered. But of those, less than 10 have faces sculpted without beards. The find was presented during a 35th anniversary commemoration of the Terracotta Army’s discovery near Xi’an, China.