Wu(午), Year of the Horse
The horse is considered as the most elegant and free animal among all twelve zodiac animals. It has a beautiful body with slim curves, supported by well-developed muscles with bushy hairs and a long swishing tail. The horse walks with a casual leisure and suddenly gallops with boundless energy. Due to their intelligence, courage, loyalty, and diligence, horses are mankind’s reliable friends and assistants. They were among the earliest domestic animals after mankind had entered into the agricultural society and stopped living their life mainly on fishing and hunting. Moreover, horses have served a pivotal role in agricultural transport as well as battlefields. Their contribution to mankind makes them the most popular compared to the other five domestic animals.
In the traditional Chinese society, the horse was of great significance to its owner. It meant much more than a tool for transport. farm work. leading chariots or battling and has gradually gained various cultural connotations. For instance, the swift horse is often used to refer to talented people. This combination stems from the legendary story of King Mu of Zhou and his eight fine horses. King Mu liked to travel in the company of his eight legendary horses. These horses were magical in different ways, among which one had the world’s brightest hair color; one had a pair of wings: one walked with ten shadows: one could cover a thousand Li (Li, ancient measurement unit for distance, I Li equaled 500 meters) over a single night; one could walk in the air; one could run faster than a flying bird; one was able to chase the sun and the last one was capable of riding clouds and mounting the mist. Although the descriptions of these eight fine horses were over exaggerated, King Mu’s Eight Fine Horses was still a popular subject to represent people of virtue and talents adopted in many artistic creations (e. g. Chinese painting).
Among all messages carried by the horse in the system of Chinese zodiac signs, Vigor of Dragon-horse is of great importance, as it symbolizes the Chinese people’s vigorous spirit. Dragon-horse is created out of sheer imagination when people combine dragon culture with horse culture: it either has a dragon head on a horse body or has a horse body covered by dragon scales. The dragon-horse was born in water and has become the spirit of Yellow River. It is eight feet five inches high with a pair of wings and at the edge of the two wings grow brushy colorful hairs. According to legendary stories, the roar of dragon-horse is rather pleasant, and if it appears in front of people, it means that the present emperor is a wise leader and will bring peace and prosperity to his country. Later the significance of dragon-horse has gradually changed into a symbol of brightness, energy, and prosperity. Horse, in addition to symbolizing the spirit and good merits of Chinese people, is also commonly seen in traditional Chinese literary and artistic works. Many great scholars have depicted horse in their poems and paintings: there is a Chinese poem which has recorded one’s joy when succeeding in an imperial examination-in the spring breeze my horse will take me to visit all flowers in Chang’an City and I’ll be back in a single day. In this poem, even the horse feels happy for its owner on this great news; while in the Tang poetry Song of Youth, “It is my great pleasure meeting up and drinking with you, for a good time I will tie my horse to the weeping willow next to our resting pavilion” has best expressed the poet’s joyfulness when getting together with his best friends. So many literary works have more or less mentioned horse, and one can therefore tell people’s affection for this loyal friend.