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Crossbow in Ancient China: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Tammie Mihet

Tammie has taught elementary school for 14 yrs. and holds an MA in Instructional Technology

The power of the crossbow changed the ancient battlefield forever. In this lesson, discover the advantages of this simple yet dominant weapon, and imagine its power in your own hands!

Ancient Crossbow

The bow and arrow was the projectile, or missile-like weapon, of choice in ancient warfare. But there was a problem. Use of this weapon required training from youth and large amounts of brute strength to pull back the 180-pound bow! All of that changed when the Chinese developed the magnificent crossbow. Through its simplicity and power it changed the art of warfare forever.

The Ancient Crossbow
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The Revolutionary Invention

Exactly when and who invented the crossbow is up for debate. Most believe it was the ancient Chinese who invented this device, with archaeological evidence suggesting a date of 600 B.C. or so. One of the greatest archaeological finds was in the tomb of Qin Shi Huangdi, the First Emperor of China. This tomb consisted of almost 8,000 life-size warriors made of clay, and guess what many of these warriors had in their hands? Crossbows!

Terracotta Soldiers of Emperor Qin Shi Huangdi
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The crossbow was drastically different from the bow and arrow, and these differences made it far superior:

  • Easier to shoot - You did not need to use your hand to pull back the string, as it had a mechanical, or machine-like, device involving a lever that pulled back the string for you. It required much less training!
  • Muscle men weren't needed - Because the lever pulled and held the string back, you didn't need giant muscles to work this weapon!
  • Quick attacks - Because the string was held back by a lever, it could be loaded and ready in case of sudden attacks.

The Ancient Battlefield

How exactly did the crossbow change the battlefield? Well, imagine you are part of a legion of soldiers carrying crossbows. You are suddenly attacked by an oncoming enemy. However, you don't panic because you know several things!

One, you are cocked and loaded, so you fire off immediately. Second, your bolt, or arrow, flies further and faster than an arrow fired from a bow. Therefore, you can pierce through almost any type of armor or shield on the battlefield. Finally, you can shoot shorter projectiles than your bow-carrying enemy. This makes it impossible for your enemy to pick up your bolt and fire it back at you. See, you're not scared, because you have the greater advantage!

Crossbow on the Battlefield
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