Horses in Ancient China
Horses were amongst the most important animals in Ancient Chinese Culture and mythology. Horses have been present from the very beginning of Chinese culture, both on a mythical and symbolic level and they represent speed, perseverance, imagination and symbolize pure male strength – Yang.
Horses in Tang Dynasty Culture
Originally the horse was considered the mightiest of all creatures, and it was thought to embody the spirit of the Yellow River, the second largest river flowing in China. During the Tang Dynasty (618-690, 705-907), the “golden age” of Imperial China, horses were particularly praised, not only for their fundamental aid in warfare, but also because of their aesthetic beauty. At this time, fine breeds of horses were imported from the West Asian territories and this resulted in a growing enthusiasm for the depiction of these beautiful animals.
Symbol of Power, Rank and Wealth
Along with the slender figure of the foreign breeds, the colour of a horse was a very important feature, and the emperor’s favourite animals were addressed by their colour. A symbol of power, rank and wealth, during this dynasty’s rule the horse became one of the most loved subjects for art and funerary figures, which were crafted with highly naturalistic detail and decorated with multicolour glazes. Also the composition of the saddles and the bridles grew more and more complex and Tang horses are to this day one of the most recognizable subjects of Ancient Chinese art.