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Q: Old Chinese legend and related illustration in Chinese art. ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   5 Comments )
Subject: Old Chinese legend and related illustration in Chinese art.
Category: Arts and Entertainment
Asked by: finler-ga
List Price: $20.00
Posted: 10 Aug 2003 21:57 PDT
Expires: 09 Sep 2003 21:57 PDT
Question ID: 242376
In a book on oriental rugs I once found reference to a rug decoration
(in the authors language as I remember it) described as "the Eight
Horses of the Emperor Mu Wong".  Some years later I encountered a
Chinese rug with eight horses drawn in the weaving.  Still later I
also found an illustration of a Chinese painting containing eight
horses but there was no title or other description.  I tried to find
out something more about this theme but could not locate any related
reference.  Can someone, perhaps familiar with Chinese legends etc,
tell me something about this?
Subject: Re: Old Chinese legend and related illustration in Chinese art.
Answered By: denco-ga on 10 Aug 2003 23:32 PDT
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
Howdy Finler!

We find that horses, and specifically eight of them, are
a common theme in Chinese art. The's
page entitled "Symbolism on Chinese porcelain" expands on

"HORSE - Emblem of speed and perseverance. The legend of
the eight horses of Mu Wang often used as a decorative

The's Glossary of Chinese Symbols,
Gods, & Written Characters tells us when Mu Wang was
of import.

"Horse (Ma) - Eight horses in a painting represents the
famous horses of King Mu from the 10th century BC."

The United Kingdom based Shaolin Society's page titled
"Chinese Horsemanship" goes into a bit more detail of the
legend of the eight horses.

"Tourists are always attracted by the Eight Horses, which
are carved in various materials. The set must be complete,
or it has no value in Chinese eyes. They commemorate the
eight chargers of Mu Wang 1001-746 B.C. the fifth ruler of
the Chou dynasty. The Emperor was extremely attached to
his team, and made all his royal progresses throughout his
realm behind them in a chariot driven by his henchman Tsao
Fu. The animals, each of which had his distinctive name,
were finally pensioned off for faithful service, and turned
out to graze. One of the set is always shown rolling on his
back to indicate his liberation form harness. They are
produced in porcelain, crystal, jade, or ivory, embroidery
and painting and are sometimes cast in bronze."

This Yutopian Online page has a short recap of the rule of
Zhou Mu Wang, and mentions the eight horses.

"Zhou Mu Wang (1,001 – 946 B.C.) ..."

The horses all have names, some of which are shown in this
China Daily March 25, 2002 story on "horse coins" titled
"Legacy of Horse drawn Money" reproduced on the China
Internet Information Center website.

"The horse coins almost include all of the famous steeds in
the Chinese history. For instance, in the early Western Zhou
Dynasty (c. 11th century-771 BC), King Muwang once rode on a
chariot with eight fine steeds.

The names of the eight horses had three different versions
in history, all of which can be found in the horse coins."

Such a coin can be seen at the top of this Department of
History at the  University of California, Santa Barbara
web page by Luke Roberts.

"Here is another copper alloy Chinese charm which I like. I
think of it as the prettiest coin I own. The legend states
that the horse is a great horse from the classical past, Qu
Huang, one of the 8 great horses of the Zhou dynasty king Mu
Wang. The horse prancing on the reverse certainly is special."

Some of the artwork depicting the eight horses can be quite
valuable, as shown in this Butterfields Auctioneers Corp.
press release dated December 15, 2001, "Fine Asian Art at
Butterfields Brings More Than $1 Million in Fall Offering."

"A bidding battle pushed the price for a large 17/18th
century rhinoceros horn libation cup from the collection of
Earl Kingston Lindley of Pasadena, CA to $32,000 (est.
$8/12,000). The cup, nearly 7-inches high, was carved on
the exterior with a particularly rare subject in rhino horn
- the Eight Horses of Muwang at play amid trees and rocks."

The Oriental Rug Review website reproduces the article "No
Slow Rounds At Christie's East September 11th (1991) Sale" 
by George O'Bannon From Oriental Rug Review, Vol. 11/3 and
has an illustration of a rug depicting the eight horses.

"One of the major lots of the evening was 94, Chinese rug
with the Eight Horses design. This was the oldest rug of
this type we have seen. One of the brown colors was
corroded indicating a date much earlier than the catalog
date of "last quarter of the 19th c." The horses were each
disported in different positions and one had a beautiful
Mongolian saddle rug on its back. In previewing the show,
we thought to ourselves for the $2,000-$3,000 estimate we
might even buy this rug. After fierce floor and phone
bidding, it went to a European dealer for $27,000."

A stone rubbing of the eight horses can be seen midway
down this Preservation North Carolina web page.

"Authentic Stone Rubbings, imported from China to Germany
in 1960.  Made with ink on rice paper, high quality."

If you need any clarification, feel free to ask.

Search strategy was Google searches with keywords:

"eight horses" chinese

"Mu Wang" horses

"Mu Wang" history

Searched Google images function with "eight horses"

Looking Forward, denco-ga
finler-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars and gave an additional tip of: $5.00
Perfect - far more than I expected -

Subject: Re: Old Chinese legend and related illustration in Chinese art.
From: denco-ga on 11 Aug 2003 14:15 PDT
Much thanks for the generous tip and 5 star rating Finler!

Greatly appreciated, denco-ga
Subject: Re: Old Chinese legend and related illustration in Chinese art.
From: magnesium-ga on 11 Aug 2003 14:54 PDT
Bravo denco! (or is it "brava"?)

This was a very entertaining and edifying answer. Google Answers is an
education in itself.
Subject: Re: Old Chinese legend and related illustration in Chinese art.
From: denco-ga on 11 Aug 2003 20:01 PDT
Howdy magnesium!

It would be bravo...  And thanks!

From the Manitoba Opera glossary web page.

"Bravo - a form of appreciation shouted by audience members at the end
of a particularly pleasing performance. Technically, Bravo refers to a
male performer, Brava refers to a female performer and Bravi refers to
many performers."

Looking Forward, denco-ga
Subject: Re: Old Chinese legend and related illustration in Chinese art.
From: magnesium-ga on 03 Sep 2003 18:12 PDT

I should have guessed that 'denco' would be a masculine name,
requiring a bravO. Otherwise, you would have chosen 'denca', no doubt.
Subject: Re: Old Chinese legend and related illustration in Chinese art.
From: jeremy78-ga on 08 Sep 2003 13:58 PDT
In Chinese, as in English, certain numbers have implications, omens,
or good luck attached to them.  In Chinese, it is most often the sound
of the word for the number that gives rise to the superstition that
surrounds it.  Eight in Chinese is "ba," pronounced in the same tone
as the word for "to issue forth, or to develop": "fa," which is often
associated with developing or issuing wealth and good fortune.  Some
Chinese in various regions of the country pronounce "b"s and "f"s
interchangably, or very similarly.  Thus eight is always an auspicious
number, and a secondary but significant reason why both Mu and the
paintings had eight horses.

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