Chinese New Year – The Year Of The Horse
Is it too late to say “Happy New Year?” Maybe not. January 31, 2014, marks the beginning of the Chinese New Year. While last year’s celebrations focused on the benevolent, mythical dragon, this year represents a powerful and real zodiac symbol, the horse.
Although traditions vary around the world, the horse is an almost universally revered and honored creature from the Far East to the New World. Today, the legacy of equine nations is preserved in their art and artifacts.
Horses in History
For conquerors, nomads and warriors, horses represented transportation, freedom and sustenance. The Scythians, the Assyrians and the Huns built their vast empires on horse power. From the earliest depictions onward, horses were a symbol of status. Saddles and luxurious hand-knotted horse covers became the ultimate way for successful generals and high-ranking citizens to show off their status and differentiate themselves from common horsemen. The more elaborate the saddle, the more prestigious the rider. In modern times, horse tack is a unique and surprisingly nuanced area of study that appeals to collectors and to students of the world who want to experience foreign history and culture.
In tribal areas, horse covers featured flat-weave sections and pile faces that doubled as saddle bags. In China, Mongolia and Tibet, saddles were created in fantastical shapes with sweeping contours that would have been extraordinarily difficult to create with right-angled warp and weft. In addition to the rich colors, symbolic flowers and lush decorations seen in hand-knotted horse covers, some early saddles were embellished with intricate embroidery, hand-carved ornaments and precious metals.
The vast lands of Persia, Arabia and the Asian Steppes weren’t the only areas the benefited from horses. China placed great value and esteem on these creatures. Forty years ago, the famous Terra Cotta Army of China’s first emperor was unearthed. Among the soldiers, who date back to the 3rd century BCE, is a vast collection of clay horses. The famed pits in Xi’an contain more than 150 fully outfitted war horses plus an additional 520 horses that pull some 130 chariots in teams of four. Although the role of the horse has changed, the animal lives on as the ultimate symbol of power, majesty and 2014.
See some of our favorite antique Chinese rugs here:
This post about The Year of the Horse was published by Nazmiyal Antique Carpets.