home > Terracotta Army > Why Is There a Green-Faced Terracotta Warrior

Why Is There a Green-Faced Terracotta Warrior

On September 10th, 1999, a special figure was found in the No. 2 Pit of the Terracotta Army, the only green-faced warrior excavated from Emperor Qin’s imperial site so far.

This unique green-faced soldier has been attracting much attention since the day he was discovered. Experts, scholars and visitors have raised various questions and opinions, but the debate about the reason why the warrior’s face is green continues today.

Guess 1: Artisans’ Prank

In ancient times, the ceremony of exorcism, called “nuo (傩)” in Chinese, was common in the army.

Nuo was associated with the military, and Emperor Qin’s terracotta army simulated the real army in the Qin dynasty. So the person who performed nuo was a military officer.

The culture of Qin and the culture of Chu were closely related, and mysterious witchcraft was a feature of the Chu state.

Guess 2: An Exorcist in the Army

A total of over 4,100 arrowheads have been found, easily the most abundant weaponry from the pits of the Terracotta Army.

The bronze arrowhead is the sharp part mounted on the front of the arrow shaft and shot using the bowstring of a crossbow. The head is very sharp, with a triangular pyramid shape and narrow blades.

Guess 3: to Frighten Enemies

During the Warring States period, some states tied knives to the horns of cattle and painted the faces of soldiers with different colors to mystify and scare the enemy. So it may be that the faces of some terracotta figures were painted green. But otherwise there is no scientific evidence for this.

Guess 4: the Artisan Might Have Been Color-Blind

One possibility is that the artisan simply made a mistake, or the artisan who made this statue was suffering from color-blindness and used the wrong color.

Guess 5: a Creative Work

The terracotta warriors are both troops guarding the underground empire of Qin Shihuang and a work of art combining pottery and colored drawings. Thus the Qin terracotta figures integrated artisans’ subtle observations of life and their understanding of different characters’ personalities. The green face may have been the result of an artisan’s creativity.

Some people, however, believe the Qin dynasty made very strict requirements of the craftsmen who made the terracotta army. Artisans had to be responsible for their own work, and it may have been dangerous for them to indulge in such creativity. They may even have risked their lives to do so.

Guess 6: a Special Amulet

The ancients paid great attention to propitious activities, like auspicious prayers. The most important thing for soldiers fighting on the battlefield was to return home safe and sound. Therefore, painting one’s face green was likely to be a kind of special talisman, guaranteeing “safety” and protecting the soldier from injury. Still, this idea has no other supporting evidence.

Guess 7: a Sign of Minority

In traditional opera, red represents loyalty, white represents treachery, black represents uprightness, while green and blue represent vassal states, symbols of ethnic minorities.

From the geographic point of view, the Qin people lived in the eastern part of Gansu in the early days of the state. It was a multi-ethnic area at that time, which means the Qin people had a close relationship with ethnic minorities.

According to historical records, the subjects of the Qin state were composed of different ethnic groups.

From the military perspective, the Qin army had extensively learnt and absorbed various tactics of different nationalities.

Therefore, the green-faced soldier is likely to be a symbol of ethnic minorities.

Guess 8: Color Changing

Someone proposed that since the terracotta army has been buried underground for more than 2,000 years, the pigments applied to the soldier’s face may have changed from the original pink to green. After research and analysis, however, it was established that the painted colors of the terracotta warriors and horses have not changed. If changed, they should only have faded, rather than changing into another color.

Guess 9: a Soldier for Jungle War

In ancient times, there must have been field battles and wars in jungle areas. Painting soldiers’ faces in green would definitely make it easier for them to hide. Perhaps the other parts of the soldier were in normal colors because they had not yet arrived at the battlefield, so they dressed in the same uniform as others.

Guess 10: a Sentry in the Army

According to guess 9, if there were many green-faced soldiers, it might be that they were field forces; if there was only one, he might just be a sentry in the army.

Terracotta Army Tour with Beijing and Shanghai