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October 14, 2009

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Terracotta warrior youths discovered

BEARDLESS warriors have been discovered among China's terracotta army, providing evidence that some soldiers were quite young when the army was created more than 2,000 years ago.

"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," said Yuan Zhongyi, honorary curator of the Museum of the Terracotta Warriors and Horses of Qin Shihuang in northwest China's Shaanxi Province.

At the time of Qin Shihuang (259-210 BC), the first emperor of a united China from 221BC, beards were a sign of status, and adults without beards were considered outcasts, Yuan said. Cutting off the beard was a punishment for criminals, he said.

Each warrior had a unique face and expression and most had beards, but less than 10 of the more than 1,000 warriors discovered had no beard.

"Many warriors lost their vivid facial expressions over time, but a young warrior holding a spear ... still looks extremely spirited," he said.

Others with sparser beards and baby faces were also considered to be young soldiers by experts, Yuan said.

The research was revealed at a commemoration of the 35th anniversary of the discovery of the terracotta warriors in Xi'an, capital of Shaanxi.

It was not usual for ancient Chinese rulers to recruit soldiers under the age of 17, but historical documents showed that in the Changping Battle, in which the Qin kingdom defeated the Zhao kingdom, all men over the age of 15 were recruited, said historian Wang Zijin, of the Renmin University of China in Beijing.

Men aged 17 to 60 could be recruited under Qin law and the discovery of the juvenile warriors supported the historical records, Wang said.

The discovery also reflected Qin's power as it could motivate the entire population to defeat the other six kingdoms - the Han, Zhao, Wei, Chu, Yan and Qi - to unite the country, he said.

Zhang Mingqia, secretary-general of Chinese Qin and Han Dynasty History Society, said that in the Han Dynasty (206BC-220AD), the children of dead bodyguards of the emperor were trained to be young warriors as an independent guard for the emperor.


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