Pony tales for the new year

By Pauline D.Loh ( China Daily ) Updated: 2014-01-24 07:34:04

In about a week, the Lunar Year of the Horse will canter in, ushering in 15 days of festivities, celebration and much needed rest for China's huge migrant workforce.

It is the year of the Wooden Horse, allocated according to the five elements of metal, wood, water, fire and earth in Chinese geomancy, and just past the halfway mark in the current 60-year zodiac cycle.

According to forecasts, this will be a compassionate animal sympathetic to world peace-expected to soothe away fiscal woes and human conflict, reduce the traumas of war and poverty, and protect the weak and suffering.

In Chinese mythology and culture, the horse is a noble steed respected through the ages. It is the subject of many pieces of ancient art, including a famous bronze that has equus lightly placing its front hoof on the back of a swallow in flight.

This same symbol appears proudly on the logo of the National Tourism Administration, the office responsible for promoting beautiful China abroad.

Green and gold glazed ceramic horses from the Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907) are equally well known among collectors of valuable antiques, and artists from modernist Xu Beihong to Qing court painter Giuseppe Castiglione have captured equine glory in their paintings.

In the common man's lexicon, the horse appears in countless proverbs and phrases like "success gallops in like a horse", "spirit of dragon and horses" and "a fast horse driven by a whip". I only translate examples most often heard during the Lunar New Year.

We are more likely to see a donkey or a mule in the Forbidden City these days but we should remember China was ruled by two dynasties of kings who rode into the capital on horseback-the Mongolians during the Yuan (1271-1368) and the Manchurians during the Qing (1644-1911).

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