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Forum LockedHeight of ancient Chinese

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The Charioteer View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Quote The Charioteer Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: Height of ancient Chinese
    Posted: 26-Apr-2007 at 21:55

Lets examine the height of today's Chinese first, the following is a statistic for men from year 2005

1-Beijing-174.17(cm)
2-Liaoning-174.15
3-Heilongjiang-174.13
4-Shandong-173.61
5-Ningxia-173.03
6-Neimenggu-172.50
7-Hebei-172.48
8-Gansu-172.22
9-Tianjin-171.91
10-Jilin-171.80

11-Shanxi-171.64
12-Xinjiang-171.61
13-Shannxi-171.59
14-Shanghai-171.17
15-Jiangsu-171.03
16-Henan-171.01
17-Qinghai-170.35
18-Anhui-169.24
19-Zhejiang-169.00
20-Fujian-168.90

21-Hubei-168.89
22-Guangdong-168.83
23-Yunnan-168.67
24-Jiangxi-168.34
25-Xizang-168.31
26-Hainan-167.55
27-Guangxi-167.48
28-Guizhou-167.25
29-Chongqing-167.16
30-Hunan-167.09
31-Sichuan-166.68

Now, we know the average height of Terracotta army of Qin dynasty is 183cm

Some say only the Qin people could grow to that height, they have even proposed that it was due to Qin's "racial superiority" over other Chinese feudal states made it the one conquered the rest and unified China.

I dont know how significant the stature of Qin people played in their military success, but proposition like that seem to
forget and neglect other important aspects, such as the impact of Shangyang's reform, perfection of bronze weaponry, seizure of rich agriculutral plains of Guanzhong and Sichuan etc.

Anyway, in their eyes to be able to grow to that height is somehow "unique" and distinct of the Qin people who lived to the north-west.

But archeological evidences suggest otherwise of such stereotypical view.

This is a Shang dynasty chariot

now look at these two photoes of the remain of Shang chariots


you can see the height of Charioteer buried alongside the chariot almost reached the length of the distance between the two wheels, notice the two archeologists seem short compared to skeleton of charioteer.

quote 1- "陕西老牛坡出土的双马輓引独辀车,无兵器同出,也为乘车. 轨距2.25米,轴长3.15米,轮径1.4米,轮辐16根,与殷墟出土车制无大异"

quote 2- "1986~1987年在安阳花园庄南地发现一个大废骨坑,坑口兽骨层表面有十四条宽0.1~0.15、深0.05米的车辙,有的经车轮多次滚轧,被挤压得十分紧密、滑硬。其中有两条车辙相平行,长19.3米,间距1.5米。今知商代马车的轮距均在2.3米上下,与此显然不符,故这种车辙似应为另一种人力推拉双轮小车辗出。"

according to the above texts, the average length between the two wheels of Shang dynasty chariot is around 2.3 meters.

It appears that this Shang Charioteer was no "short" person.

Another piece of collaborating evidence is from a Shang archeological site called Daxinzhuang, a Shang male skeleton(possibly a warrior) also reached 185cm.
http://www.people.com.cn/GB/wenyu/68/20030419/975876.html

However, im not saying that these cases acutally represent the average height of ancient Chinese, but we shouldnt hold any prejudice against the fact ancient people could reach to certain height, not that modern men must be better than the ancients.



Edited by The Charioteer - 26-Apr-2007 at 21:59
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Omar al Hashim View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Omar al Hashim Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27-Apr-2007 at 08:08
Hey great post Charioteer. It would be my guess that the terracotta warriors were deliberately made to be a bit taller than average humans. Its just a guess but it makes sense. If you wanted your army to be immortalised in pottery, you'd want your soldiers to look big and impressive. In the same way that they make statues 7ft tall now.

Do you have any idea of what the diet of the Qin people may have been? I have noticed that people who grow up on east asian diets are often shorter than people who have grown up on meat & dairy diets. I notice it alot here when 180cm tall Vietnamese guys have 150cm tall parents. Perhaps as chinese diet has changed over the millennium, the average height decreased. I wonder if height statistics were ever made in previous dynasties...
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Killabee Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27-Apr-2007 at 12:42
Originally posted by Omar al Hashim

Hey great post Charioteer. It would be my guess that the terracotta warriors were deliberately made to be a bit taller than average humans. Its just a guess but it makes sense. If you wanted your army to be immortalised in pottery, you'd want your soldiers to look big and impressive. In the same way that they make statues 7ft tall now.

Do you have any idea of what the diet of the Qin people may have been?
 
Qin People originated in North-Western China plateau, so I would assume meat and daily product were their main diet. In the ancient times, population was really scarce in China. So presumably animals and herds were quite abundant at that time..  There were many records that many ancient Chinese were extremely tall. For example, Confucius was recorded to be around 6' 6". General Guan Yu from Three Kingdom Period was recorded to be almost 7'.  The recent excavation of a Han tomb discovered the Jade Burial Suit dated back in Han Dynasty. The owner was Prince Liu Sheng. His height was almost 1.88cm.
 
Originally posted by Omar al Hashim

I have noticed that people who grow up on east asian diets are often shorter than people who have grown up on meat & dairy diets. I notice it alot here when 180cm tall Vietnamese guys have 150cm tall parents. Perhaps as chinese diet has changed over the millennium, the average height decreased. I wonder if height statistics were ever made in previous dynasties...
 
It is a misconception that East Asia Diet food can stem you from growing. Northern Chinese diet which centers around meat, wheat and barley provide sufficient nutrition to grow. If you go to Northern China, you will be surprised that many Chinese especially the young generation are no shorter than the Scandinavian. I was told by someone who is 1.78cm and he went to Shandong area in Northern China and he told me that everyone over there on average tower over him.
 


Edited by Killabee - 27-Apr-2007 at 13:01
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Post Options Post Options   Quote The Charioteer Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27-Apr-2007 at 23:28

Originally posted by Omar al Hashim

It would be my guess that the terracotta warriors were deliberately made to be a bit taller than average humans. Its just a guess but it makes sense. If you wanted your army to be immortalised in pottery, you'd want your soldiers to look big and impressive. In the same way that they make statues 7ft tall now.

The average height of terracotta warriors is over 180cm, but i dont think they were made "in the same way that they make statue 7ft tall now".

Individuality and realism are distinctive features of the terracotta army, for instance, each soldier's facial appearance is unique, its certain they were modelled after real Qin soldiers of the time, other details such as the  hairstyle, shoes, belts etc are also different from each other.

The height of individual warriors actually varies,

 
from the shortest which is 172cm to highest which reached 197cm, if they were made deliberately accord with certain standard which intentionally would make them appear taller, then why should the sample of 172cm figure be included? as its inconsistent with that intention.

Furthermore, the terracotta horses are made according to real-life size, the weapons accompanied to the army are also actual weapons.
The entire army is presented with the idea of realism, from unique personalities of each figure , distinction in small details like the difference of belts,  to overall layout of the army which is after real battle formation,  different army groups carry different weapons indicating their specific functions in war. 
Anyway, It would seem unusual that everything is realist about the army except their height. Not to mention the soldiers would appear 'incompatible' with their weapons and horses since the latter two are 'real-sized'.

I agree that they wanted their army to look "big and impressive", but not necessarily by exaggeration of the stature, since by making a pottery army to this size and level of realism, its arguable that they have already achieved that 'goal'.

Besides, if compare modern sample to ancient, for instance my family(which is from north)
grandfather-175---father-173---brother-188
                                                  self-176
                              uncle-175---cousin-184
average height is 178
for third generation is 182

Consider terracotta figures were soldiers, i dont think 183cm is something need to be exaggerated.

anyway,  its a good guess.
 
Do you have any idea of what the diet of the Qin people may have been.

The main crops for Qin (and for north China at large) are wheats and millets, cattles and sheeps etc.

Perhaps as chinese diet has changed over the millennium, the average height decreased

Wheat and millets are the predominant crops for north China since neolithic Age, many influential Chinese cultures such as Yangshao and Longshan; dynasties such as Xia,Shang,Zhou,Qin, Han were all cultivated in northern agricultural sphere.
Before entire north China was overrun by nomadic invaders during the Jin dynasty, the centre of Chinese culture was the north, even southern states like that of Chu or Wu (spring-autum- warring states period)desired moving to the north. Prior to Jin dynasty, the south was relatively speaking less developed and populated.

But invasions triggerred wave of migration from north to the south, as the southern agricultural basis is rice, those once feed on northern crops have to change their diet.

Im not sure how this may affect height. but as one can see from modern statistics, those from northern provinces are on average taller compared to those from southern provinces.

Originally posted by killabee

I was told by someone who is 1.78cm and he went to Shandong area in Northern China and he told me that everyone over there on average tower over him.
 
My family originated from Shandong province, but if trace it back to the time before the founding of Qi state, then we originally came from north-west.


Edited by The Charioteer - 28-Apr-2007 at 01:22
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Post Options Post Options   Quote pekau Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27-Apr-2007 at 23:50
I think the youth's background in Far East is also a problem. Most of students these days in South Korea, Japan and some populated regions in China sleeps only about 3 hours because all they do is studying. They don't move much, sleep significantly less compared to other students... and the pollution level there is quite severe.
     
   
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Post Options Post Options   Quote The Charioteer Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28-Apr-2007 at 14:14

The figures accompanied to the statistics i have regarding the height of Chinese also says South Korea actually is the tallest nation among East Asian(and Asian at large) countries.

Overall average height for South Korea reached 173.3cm(which almost is comparable to European countries like that of Spain 173.4 or Portugal 173.9), while the average for Japan is 170.7, also taller than overall average of the Chinese which is 169.7.
 
I think besides the difference in diet, by comparison Japan and South Korea are relatively speaking more developed Asian countries, the grant of higher living standard and sufficient nutrition is consistent with the improvement of height.
 
This pattern is also noticeable from the figures for different Chinese provinces, while overall the north is taller than the south, the tallest for both north (which is Beijing) and south (which is Shanghai) are also relatively speaking the places more developed. 
 
Though since both Beijing and Shanghai are municipality rather than province, the populace of them are much less compared to provincial figures which could somehow affect the result of average height, the same couldbe argued with China's total population versus that of South Korea or Japan's.
 
This is also evident if one compare South Korea with North Korea. Because the economic condition greatly differs, the average height for North Korea is only 158, way shorter than the south and its one of the shortest nation among East Asian(and Asian) nations, despite both are Koreans.
 
Coming back to the case of Qin state, since they seized 2 out of total 3 rich agricultural plains of China at the time, there are enough food for the Qin people.
 
Which granted them steady growth of manpower, so Qin could achieve their eventual goal of unifying China.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Omar al Hashim Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29-Apr-2007 at 22:44
I'd agree with that reasoning. An average height of 183cm for men is really tall by todays standards, I suppose this only begs the question of why the heights have decreased nearly 10cm over time.

It might make sense if you chose your close combat soliders to be tall people (meaning the true Qin average was not 183), although I don't know of any reason why archers, horsemen, or charioteers need be exceptionally tall.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote The Charioteer Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01-May-2007 at 02:15
Originally posted by Omar al Hashim

An average height of 183cm for men is really tall by todays standards.
It is, the tallest nation today is Holland, with average height for men reached 182cm.
 
Thats why the average height of terracotta army is startling and questionable to many.
 
It might make sense if you chose your close combat soliders to be tall people (meaning the true Qin average was not 183)
 
During the "unification war", Qin mobilized more than half of its adult male, the army size reached 1 million as result. If terracotta army represent the image of Qin army, then i wonder what would be the average height for Qin?
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Omar al Hashim Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01-May-2007 at 05:02
I haven't seen the Terracotta army yet, but if the Qin army was 1 million strong at one point, then it cannot possible reflect the entire army. I know in William of Oranges army he created special units exclusively of people over 6'6" tall, and I am told that nowadays when the Chinese army is on parade they arrange their units according to the height of the soldiers (which is apparently very impressive).
Do you think that the Terracotta army could be modeled on certain special units of the Qin army that had a higher (intentionally or accidentally) average height than the true Qin average?
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Post Options Post Options   Quote The Charioteer Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01-May-2007 at 06:07
but if the Qin army was 1 million strong at one point, then it cannot possible reflect the entire army.
 
Yes, i would expect decrease in average as well, thats precisely why i mentioned the example of how less populace of Beijing and Shanghai may affect their average height when compared to provincial figures.
 
But there the difference, those 1 million men are soldiers, since the shortest figure from terracotta army is 172, the basic requirement of height for army recruits should be 172 at minimal.
 
I know in William of Oranges army he created special units exclusively of people over 6'6" tall, and I am told that nowadays when the Chinese army is on parade they arrange their units according to the height of the soldiers (which is apparently very impressive).
 
I actually thought about this, but obviously, the shortest is only 172, while
there are soldiers over 180, there are samples also under 180cm. As i said before their height varies, if they were selected the way like the two examples you just mentioned, how do we explain those samples with stature of 172+. And i would emphasis again they are not an army for parade, but a combat army.
 
Do you think that the Terracotta army could be modeled on certain special units of the Qin army that had a higher (intentionally or accidentally) average height than the true Qin average?
 
The warriors without armors in the first three lines are the lowest ranking soldiers, there are strict ranking system in Qin army. The only way to get promoted to next level of military ranking is to score in the battlefield.
 
The lowest ranking soldiers can be viewed as new recruit. The terracotta army is a condensed version of entire Qin military, from the lowest ranking recruit to highest ranking officers, all the specialized army groups are included in this 7000 terracotta army. Their formation as i have said before is positioned after real battle formation, ready to spread out for battle.
 
Actually, i have thought about this as well. Indeed i have seen others asked the same question, they assume they are some "special force" of Qin.
 
"units assigned to guard the palace", "units assigned to protect the capital", "elite force", etc, but none to me is convincing.
 
Unless someone explain it to me why recruits are in this "elite force"?
and how their ready to spread out combat formation is gonna useful in a place like palaces or the capital city?
 
 
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Omar al Hashim Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02-May-2007 at 06:52
Originally posted by Charioteer

But there the difference, those 1 million men are soldiers, since the shortest figure from terracotta army is 172, the basic requirement of height for army recruits should be 172 at minimal.

Perhaps not 172 at the minimum, it would depend on the sample of the Qin army. Even if it was a random sample, 172 may not be the minimum for the entire army. But it does make alot of sense that there would be a minimum height requirement for the army.
As i said before their height varies, if they were selected the way like the two examples you just mentioned, how do we explain those samples with stature of 172+. And i would emphasis again they are not an army for parade, but a combat army.

William of Orange's unit was a combat unit used in battle. It was made up of elites in this case, but the Qin may have had reason to create units of tall men regardless of experience. Alternatively and probably more likely, the units were all drawn from a similar area, and the units we are seeing in the Terracotta army only represent a small region of the Qin states men who passed army medical requirements.

I'm glad I had this discussion now, I'm going to see Xi'an in mid july and I'll have a lot more to pay attention to when I see Qin Shi Huangdi's tomb now.Big%20smile
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Bioanth Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07-May-2007 at 14:34
Stature is directly related to calories and protein.  We know that when cultrues move to agriculture they almost immediately begin to lose stature and get bad teeth (caries and dental abcesses) accompanied by massive change in the amount of tooth wear.  If the warriors were better fed than others in the population they conceiveably could have been taller than average.  Tall warriors have a greater arm reach and hence are more difficult to get to for close-in fighting.  Even a 2 inch additional reach would make the warrior more deadly.  However, the idea that the statues were made slightly taller than actual living people has merit because many of the art and funerary offreings were intended to impress both gods and people wiht the prestige of the ruler.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote The Charioteer Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08-May-2007 at 01:12
Originally posted by Bioanth

Stature is directly related to calories and protein.  We know that when cultrues move to agriculture they almost immediately begin to lose stature and get bad teeth (caries and dental abcesses) accompanied by massive change in the amount of tooth wear.  
 
So many agriculture based cultures then and now, so many "bad teeth" i guess.
 
If the warriors were better fed than others in the population they conceiveably could have been taller than average. 
 
This could apply to the Shang dynasty charioteers, as they are noble birth themselves and were fed better than commoners and slaves, so their stature could reach 180+cm.
 
Nevertheless i doubt this can apply to Qin army, see the lowest ranking soldiers with stature of 180(+)cm, dont tell me they are nobles...
but you could argue the entire Qin state was "better fed" than others. Perhaps thats why they have more taller adult males, not just taller "warriors".
 
Tall warriors have a greater arm reach and hence are more difficult to get to for close-in fighting.Even a 2 inch additional reach would make the warrior more deadly.
 
Despite their stature could had being taller, the longest combat weapon Qin army used is close to 7 meters, even their bronze swords are longer than swords from other Chinese feudal states. Stature alone doesnt necessarily make a formiddable army. Or that  "racial superiority" of Qin state wouldnt had took them centuries and another century even after their late social reform (which was the decisive factor made them one of the strongest if not the strongest and wealthiest Chinese state of the time) to unify China.
 
However, the idea that the statues were made slightly taller than actual living people has merit because many of the art and funerary offreings were intended to impress both gods and people wiht the prestige of the ruler.
 
"But archeological evidences suggest otherwise of such stereotypical view."
 
At least to me, the word stereotype can also be interpreted as "generalization". Im trying to follow the opposite of that, not the other way around it.
 
And there are no convincing evidences or arguments to prove that the stature of Qin terracotta army were deliberately made taller, whatever all those seemingly "common sense" but actually "less specific(ly common sense)" comments are.
 
If one wants to consider 172cm stature of Qin soldier would impress both gods and people, then i could argue no more. 
 
besides, "this function of terracotta army" would be in conflict with the function of "gold  men" of Qin dynasty, isnt it?


Edited by The Charioteer - 08-May-2007 at 01:27
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