Prancing Horse


Prancing Horse, 206 BCE– 220 CE

  • On View


Dimensions: 57 × 46 × 17 in. (144.8 × 116.8 × 43.2 cm)

Museum purchase with funds from the Founders Society and Collection Endowment, 2002.14

The ancient Chinese belief that horses were closely related to dragons led to their association with power, military might, and members of the elite. Native Chinese horses however, were small and unable to survive long military expeditions. It was not until Han Emperor Wudi (reigned 140 – 87 BCE) traveled to Ferghana in Central Asia that he discovered a larger horse known for its strength and stamina. The Emperor saw the Ferghana horse as a divine breed that would facilitate his immortality. The horses were brought back to the capital and became a valuable resource in China during the Han Dynasty. At a time when nomadic tribes threatened the empire, a great equestrian force was essential for defense.

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