2014 is the Year of the Horse: Chinese New Year
Horse in Chinese Culture
The horse is admired by countless people all over the world because of their strength, grace, elegance, and power. Horses led soldiers into battle, pulled ploughs and served as transportation prior to the invention of vehicles. The natural companionship between a man and the horse in both art and work is a special one! You would not be where you are today without these wonderful animals. Serving man in war, agriculture, productivity, mobility and development of all kinds; horses are considered to be one of the largest contributors to the enhancement of civilization.
As one of the symbols in the Chinese zodiac animals, horses played a crucial role in the development of the Chinese empire. Horses symbolize energy in Buddhist religion.
In China, the first evidence of horses comes from the “Longshan culture”. Several fire pits dating at about 5000 BCE were excavated in Miaodigou (Henan Province) and contained the remains of horses. It is believed that these horses were used for mystical sacrifices and domestic purposes. During the Shang Dynasty (1600 – 1100 BCE), horses were entombed with their owners to pass over with them into the afterlife. This practice was then replaced with a more humane way for an emperor to “protect or defend” his mausoleum. 1000 years ago, hunting, polo matches and horse performance were already popular activities in the Tang dynasty. Lifelike figures of saddled horses as well as the riders in the Terracotta Army unearthed from the mausoleum of Qinshihuang emperor (r.221 – 210 BC) indicate the contemporary features of the warhorses and their horsemen.
China invented three of the most important innovations in equestrian history: the horse collar, the stirrup and a reliable and effective harnessing system based on the breast strap. The artistic efforts of Mongolian were channeled into portable works of art such as, bridles, saddles and personal jewelry. Until today, the Mongols spend much of their lives on horseback.
Silk was traded for horses during the Han Dynasty (157 – 87 BCE). However, China faced several periods where horses were of short supply. Tea was the commodity of trade during the Song Dynasty (681 – 907 CE), and so began the history of “Tea for Horses” markets. Tea production was controlled by China and they attempted to maintain the prices of tea at an artificially high level in order to acquire more horses. During the Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1644 CE), these markets were again used when horse populations were once again depleted.
1918, 1930, 1942, 1954, 1966, 1978, 1990, 2002, 2014
The sixth animal in the Chinese zodiac is the horse. Power, beauty, and freedom symbolize the horse in the Chinese culture. People born in the year of the horse are very high-spirited, active and energetic. Their enthusiasm and cheerful personalities make people like them. People born in the year of the horse are the center of attention and are enjoyable to be around.