How To: Make Terra Cotta Armor!

Check out the previous post The Clothes Make the Warrior to learn how to decipher the armor on the Terra Cotta Warriors now on display at HMNS. Then, try your hand at making your own!

Materials:
Large paper grocery sack
Scissors
Cardboard
Hole-punch
Brads
Tape
Paint (optional)

Procedure:
armor1. Cut 150 squares out of cardboard.  The squares should be 1.75 x 1.75 inches a piece.  You may cut one and use it as a template to trace the rest. 
2. Cut the paper bag into a tunic shape that can be slipped over the head.  You may have to experiment and find out what works best depending on the size of the child.
3. Cut out two rectangular pieces (you can use the left over pieces from making the tunic) and tape them to the shoulders.  These will be the guards. 
4. If you wish to paint your armor, you should do this prior to assembly.  I do not recommend painting the bag, but you can paint the square pieces.
5. Use the hole-punch to punch a hole in the top-middle of each square.
6. Starting at the top of your tunic, attach the squares one at a time by placing a brad through the pre-punched hole and then poking it through the bag.  Make sure to put the squares close together.
7. Continue this process until you have the front and back completely covered.  You may have to trim some of the squares to make them fit properly.
8. Next move onto the guards.  These are the rectangular pieces attached to the shoulders of the tunic.  Attach the squares to the guards in the same manner.  You may need a sharp object to start the holes in this area.  This should be done by an adult.
9. Slip the armor on your favorite child and have them stand sentinel!

Kneeling Archer_resized

Background:
Armor was made of small plates of leather, covered in lacquer to stiffen them.  On the top and bottom of each plate are double close-set-holes.  These plates were attached by knots of leather or thong.  Depending on the size of plates, a suit of armor could have up to 250 plates.  The smaller the size of the plates, the higher the rank of soldier.  The armor of higher ranking soldiers had more decorative straps and ribbons in a geometric pattern.  The armor opened up on the right side allowing it to be slid over the head.

Heavy infantry and low ranking soldier’s armor covered the front of the torso from shoulder to waist, curving in the front.  In the back, armor went from the shoulders to the lower back.  Attached at the shoulders were shoulder and upper guards.  To allow for movement, plates at the waist and shoulder guards were loosely sewn.  This armor would be made from larger leather plates and would have no straps or ribbons for decoration.

The Clothes Make the Warrior

kneeling archer close up cropped
An archer with a top knot haircut

It is said you can tell a lot about a person by the clothes they wear.  Clothing speaks to us, albeit quietly, but if you know how to “listen” you can glean loads of information.  Recently, I toured our Terra Cotta Warrior Exhibit with an expert on clothing styles. She told me about all of the Warriors and what these different styles “tell” us.

She first drew my attention to the different hairstyles of the warriors.  Three distinct styles can be seen; the top knot, the coil, and the flat braid.  In the Emperor’s army, your hairstyle would depend on your rank. The warrior would wear a top-knot, which is much like a bun; the higher the knot was worn on the head, the greater the number of kills made by that warrior. An officer’s hair would be braided flat.  Can you tell the warriors from the officers?


Chariot Driver_close up
Chariot driver with cap and chin strap

The headdress also speaks volumes about a soldier.  It tells you what military branch the individual belongs to and their status.  Warriors in the infantry wore a kerchief cap over their top-knot hairstyle.  A cavalryman wore a close-fitted cap with a chinstrap made from leather.  The charioteer wore a headdress made from metal and silk with a pointy top. A general might sport an elaborate headdress in the form of a double-tailed bird.  The pheasant-tailed cap of the general speaks of his bravery and skill on the battlefield.  Can you identify the different kinds of warriors by what they wear on their head?

Armored General_close up
A Terra Cotta general

When considering the clothing of a warrior, you just must also check out his shoes – the longer the toe on the shoe, the higher the status of the individual.  Most shoes were made with animal hide, stitched with flax thread.  Straw was used as padding.  How many different types of shoes can you identify in the exhibit?

No well-dressed warrior would be seen without his armor, right?  Well, not exactly.  Whether you wore armor or not depended on your job.  Armor was made from plates of leather, shellacked with lacquer to give them strength.  The size of the plate indicated your importance; the smaller the plate, the higher your rank.

I hope you come by to check out the Terra Cotta Warrior Exhibit before the opportunity passes you by and if you do, I hope the warriors “speak” to you in their own amazing way!

Make sure to come back next week and check out an activity on how to make your own armor!