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Fashion in Qin China: until 1974, scholars couldn't have imagined the richly detailed fashions and hairstyles of the Qin dynasty--or even the life-sized figures that revealed this style story.

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Before China's Terracotta Army was discovered in Xi'an, China, in 1974, scholars knew little about the fashions and hairstyles of the Qin dynasty. They could never have imagined the incredible windfall that came their way in the army's meticulously detailed life-like postures, hair and beard styles, and gorgeous, brightly coloured costumes.

Though most of the figures are generals and soldiers, they can nevertheless tell us much about fashions of the common people. That's because, except for their armour, the Qin army had no uniforms. The soldiers simply wore their regular civilian clothing.

From what little was known about the Qin (221-206 BCE), scholars believed that these people would heavily favour the colour black. Some Chinese dynasties worshipped one of the five elements, each of which, according to Confucian interpretation, relates to a specific colour. The Eastern Zhou dynasty (770-221 BCE), which ruled prior to the Qin, worshipped fire, represented by the colour red, and accordingly, red was prominent in the Zhou people's attire. The Qin dynasty chose water as their element of worship--water kills fire and so symbolized the Qin victory over the Zhou. Because Confucians associate water with the colour black, scholars assumed that black would be the dominant colour of the Qin wardrobe.

While black was indeed one of the main colours of the Qin, it was just one of more than 15 different hues found among the dress of the terracotta figures.

Herewith, a look at what we've discovered about Qin fashion.

HAIRSTYLES, HATS & BEARDS

Nowadays, along with their uniform dress style, soldiers all wear the same short hairstyle. But in ancient China, this was not the case. In China, people believe that hair is part of the body given ? by their parents at birth and should not be cut for the sake of fashion. It is cut only for a specific reason, such as punishment or encouragement.

Though almost all Qin soldiers had long hair, there are a dozen different hairstyles among the Terracotta Army figures. As the traditional hairstyle of ancient China, the bun is most popular. It typically featured hair gathered without braiding. Most of the terracotta warriors had their long hair braided before being wound into a bun--likely an adaptation meant to keep the hair from falling free during fighting.

The hairstyle a warrior chose depended on the kind of hat or helmet he wore, which in turn ? signified his status in the army. Drivers and. officers of middle and lower rank wore a long crown with a flat braided bun, cavalrymen wore a leather crown with a flat braided bun, higher-rank officers wore an unbraided bun to accommodate the swan crown they wore, and armoured warriors wore a conical cap with a round bun on the right side of the head.

The terracotta warriors tell us that Qin men attached as much importance to their facial hair as to the hair on their heads, although not all men wore whiskers. The style of facial hair seems to have been determined simply by personal preference. The styles can be roughly divided into seven types, but the details and possible meaning of these styles are still to be discovered.

CLOTHING

Men's clothing styles during the Qin dynasty were not particularly varied. Only three types of garment were worn on the upper body--long, short, or pleated. The soldiers and some officers wore the long, knee-length top, a traditional clothing item in ancient China dating from the Shang and Zhou dynasties (1600-1046 BCE). Depending on the weather, a single or double layer was worn. The short garment isn't much in evidence in the Terracotta Army. But all the cavalrymen wear the pleated garment--a knee-length costume convenient for horse riding.

Before the Spring and Autumn period of the Eastern Zhou dynasty (770-476 BCE), men did not wear trousers. They wore a kind of skirt, called a shang. During the later part of Eastern Zhou--the Warring States period (475-221 BCE)--war became frequent, and because skirts were not convenient for horse riding, trousers emerged. All the terracotta soldiers wear trousers: the middle- and high-ranking officers wear long ones, the soldiers short ones. The warriors also used fabric wrappings to protect their legs during battle.

DECORATION & ACCESSORIES

While the cut of clothes was fairly simple, the colour, cuffs, collar, hem, belt, and other details gave Qin clothes their personality. Colours were as important to the aesthetic as the clothing itself, with red, green, purple, and, of course, black being the most common. Most ancient Chinese clothes had a collar edge and lapel and during the Qin the colour of these contrasts sharply with the clothing. A red garment, for example, would usually have a green or purple collar and lapel. Hem and cuffs on both tops and bottoms would also contrast in colour. Quite decorative scarves were sometimes worn inside the neckband of the garment.

Because the clothes were loose and robe-like, a belt was essential. This waist decoration, developed centuries earlier, can be seen as the jewellery of the Qin dress. Belts bore a variety of designs expressing people's interests and worship behaviours, while the hooks that fastened them were decorative works of art.

ARMOUR

Armour was critical for protecting the soldiers, but its style was another identifier of a warrior's status. The four different types of armour were based on rank--generals, middle-rank officers, lower-rank officers, and cavalrymen. While generals and officers had armour that was stitched onto leather, the others wore armour directly overtop of their clothes. Cavalrymen's armour was made with larger metal pieces and additional armour on the sleeves. Predominantly red and black, armour also came in purple, green, yellow, and white. Paired with a black robe, the colourful armour exuded power and majesty.

WOMEN & THE WESTERN HAN

Women are not represented in the Terracotta Army, but we can surmise a great deal about their clothing because people of the Western Han dynasty (206 BCE-25 CE), which followed the Qin, appear to have adopted the Qin dynasty's fashions and hairstyles. Western Han pottery figures uncovered from archaeological sites at Yangjiawan and Han Yangling show us that the only real difference between men's styles during the Han and Qin is that Han warriors did not wear braided buns.

The female figures unearthed from Han Yangling wore long gown-style clothing tied at the waist with the skirt flared at the bottom, showing off the female form. Skirts covered the feet, and cuffs and collars were decorated in contrasting bright ? colours. Many Western Han women wore a bun placed very low on the neck, a style that reveals the beauty of this classical Oriental coiffure. Others wore a bun higher on the back of the head or on top of the head, or wore their hair loose with no bun.

Since its discovery, the Terracotta Army has provided many surprises and insights into the Qin dynasty. Though the fashions and hairstyles are just a small part of ? that, they do provide a window into understanding Qin and Han clothing culture. The research findings to date are just a start--many more details are sure to emerge to tell us much more about this time in Chinese history.

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1, 2. Braiding appears to have been worn by the terracotta warriors so their hair would not fly loose while fighting. Two of the many hairstyles are shown here: a left-side braided bun (1) and a flat braided bun (2).

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3,4. The type of hat worn by a terracotta warrior indicated his rank in the army. Long crowns like this one (3) were worn by drivers and officers of lower and middle rank. Armoured warriors wore conical caps (4) with a round bun at the right side of the head.

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5,6. Not all warriors had facial hair. The style of whiskers appears to have been a matter of choice.

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7. The long knee-length garment was a traditional piece that was worn for centuries.

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8. The short garment is not seen on many of the terracotta figures.

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"9. A pleated garment was worn by cavalrymen.

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10. In colder . weather garments ? would be layered like this long garment worn under a short garment.

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11,12.A terracotta general wearing his decorated colourful armour, shown front and back. Though most of the terracotta figures appear to be grey and clay-coloured, they were once very colourfully decorated. New conservation techniques are helping to preserve these bright colours on recently excavated terracottas.

The type of armour worn was also an indicator of one's rank.

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13. Armour worn by middle-rank officers.

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14. Armour worn by generals.

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15. Armour worn by lower-rank officers.

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16. A female figure unearthed from Han Yangling shows dress style during the Han dynasty. It's likely that women's dress was similar during the Qin, with collar and cuffs banded in contrasting colour arid a flared skirt.
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Author:Qin, Xiaoli
Publication:ROM Magazine
Date:Jun 22, 2010
Words:1497
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