Horses and China

Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor (246 to 208 BC)

Throughout Chinese History horses have been a central part of Chinese art. Some of the earliest paintings from China were of horses. Horses were thought to be related to dragons. During the Warring States Period (475-221 B.C.) Zodiacs started to become common, this is one of the origins of the horse as an important symbol.

The importance of horses was also related to the military necessity on horses, however they were also a symbol of power. With large borders and other civilisations often at war the horse was necessary for security, by the middle of the 7th Century, Emperor Taizong had a pool of 700 000 horses. Previously the Chinese had even fought a war to win horses, the War of the Heavenly Horses in 104 BC was fought to win some Ferghana horses. The horse has continued to be a central part of Chinese culture.

Most of the earliest representations of horses from China are pottery, stone, or bronze sculptures found in the graves of the elite and intended to accompany the deceased into the afterlife. Later, horse painting became a major genre.

A horse of the Later Han Dynasty (1st–2nd century AD)

One of the horses of Emperor Taizong. 7th Century

12th-century painting by Li Gonglin

Ming Dynasty


Xu Beihong, 1895-1953

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Source: Horses-and-China

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