Horses in Literature

In the Shi Jing (Book of Songs), which is the earliest existing collection of Chinese poems and songs, dating from as far back as 1000 B.C., horses are mentioned in 51 out of 305 poems, topping the animal list. The writings of Confucius are full of references to the horse; the horse makes a secular appearance in marriage, warfare, transportation, hunting and riding. The animal epitomized an intoxicating combination of national prowess, heroic bravery and fervour for life that provoked intense empathy in readers of the philosopher’s work.


The Zhuangzi is a Taoism classic. It presents the horse’s abstract and spiritual image in symbolizing freedom, ethereality and emancipation. Domestication leading to loss of instincts is seen as being against nature.

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