Ssang-young-chong, horse rider. 5-6th c. Korea, Three Kingdoms Period. The John C. and Susan L. Huntington Archive of Buddhist and Related Art

Horses and humans have shared joy and sorrow for many years. Ever since people tamed the wild animal and trained and used them for transportation, they have become attached to each other. 

When horses were used as a means of transportation, they were important assets managed by the government. Only people with status could ride horses and a horse was equivalent in value to two or three servants. A symbol of status, horses were used as a means of transportation when they were alive, and after death, their mane was used to make traditional hats, their skin was used to make shoes and their tendons were used to make bows. 

Horses were also recognized as being guides for the soul. Images of horses are seen in stone statues surrounding old tombs and are painted on folding screens. Horse-shaped bamboo-made goods were used during funerals and horse-related burial accessories were often found in ancient tombs. Horses were commissioned to carry village spirits and they also appeared in the myth of Bakhyeokgeose, founder of the Silla Kingdom (57 B.C.- A.D. 935). In the story they acted as messengers, informing people that an important person had been born. According to legend, the founder was hatched from an egg which was carried by a horse that flew down from heaven. 

East Asian nations, including Korea, China, Japan and Vietnam, have a long tradition of associating each lunar year with one of the 12 animals under the Chinese zodiac – rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog and pig - and placing certain meanings on them. 

It is believed that people born in the year of horse are open-minded, optimistic and outgoing. They are also said to be humorous and attractive, and that when they have a goal, they tend to devote themselves to achieving it without changing course. Next year’s lunar year, which begins on January 31, 2014, is the year of the blue horse, which comes only once every 60 years. Astrologers say it will be a more dynamic year than ever before. 

Year of the Horse seen through Korean tradition, 

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