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China Greets 21st Century's First Year of Horse

The coming Tuesday marks the beginning of the Year of the Horse, according to China's lunar calendar, ushering in all the strength and determination of the noble animal that claims an important position in Chinese culture.

When the word ma, which means horse, is mentioned, most Chinese can rattle off idiom after auspicious steed-related idiom, such as "ma dao cheng gong", which means winning success immediately upon arrival, "wan ma ben teng", or 10,000 galloping horses, and "ma bu ting ti", which is forging ahead without stopping.

These phrases developed over the past 5,000 years and reveal the close connection between Chinese and horses since ancient times.

Horses were the main form of transportation back then, and for centuries played an important role in wartime. Indeed, without horses to carry soldiers across mountains, it would have been impossible for Qin Shihuang, China's first emperor, to unify China 's vast territory and establish the country's first dynasty, the Qin Dynasty (221 BC-206 BC).

And horse tales are the stuff of many Chinese legends.

The most famous is the story of "Bo Le and his Qianlima." Bo Le was a minister during the Qin Dynasty, charged with choosing war horses for troops. Qianlima was Bo Le's finest horse, able to run 1,000 li (500 kilometers) in the twinkling of an eye.

Though the 20th century replaced horses with automobiles on China's city streets, the animals are still the best means of travel for herdsman in the vast countryside.

(Xinhua News Agency February 11, 2002)

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