It is now Chinese New Year, as from 21 January last, and 2014 is the Year of the Horse, in the Chinese Zodiac. This astrology is based on cycles of 12 years, with each year representing a certain animal. People born in these years are supposed to embody the characteristics of the animal in question, and to have certain personality traits in common. As it happens, due to the year of my birth, I am a Horse, so it appears that this year should be a lucky one for me!
According to Chinese astrology, people born in the year of the horse are said to have horse-like characteristics, inasmuch as we are active, energetic and quick to become independent (foals can walk minutes after they are born), and to have a positive and straightforward attitude towards life. We are also said to be very good communicators, and it's well-known that horses are highly communicative animals. Horse people cannot bear much constraint and are often hot-blooded and impatient. They have a lot of endurance but a quick temper. Yes, I would say all of those qualities apply to me!
The spirit of the horse is symbolic of the ethos of the Chinese people, i.e. always making continuous efforts to improve themselves. People in ancient times called an able person 'Qianli Ma', a horse that covers a thousand li a day (one li equalling 500 meters).
One of the most famous historical people born in the Year of the Horse was Genghis Khan, the infamous 12th century emperor (Khan) of the Mongol empire. He came to power by uniting many of the warlike nomadic tribes of north-eastern Asia. Khan and his armies were very accomplished and skilled horsemen, hence all of their far-reaching military successes and conquests. In fact Khan is quoted as once saying: "It is easy to conquer the world from the back of a horse."
The modern day Mongolian horse breed is substantially unchanged since the time of Genghis Khan. These small horses have great stamina and can reportedly gallop up to 10 km without a break, which makes it no wonder the Mongol armies used them as the vehicles for their conquests. Horses are greatly valued in Mongolian culture to this day, and in fact there is a saying: "A Mongolian without a horse is like a bird without wings." In Khan's time, horses also had a great spiritual significance, and commanders would sprinkle mare's milk on the ground before setting forth on military expeditions to insure victory.
So it is clear that Genghis Khan and his descendents could never have conquered and ruled the largest land empire in history without the aid of their small but extremely sturdy mounts. We can see that it was highly appropriate for Khan to have been born in the Year of the Horse.
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Picture courtesy of www.imdb.com