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An Ancient Chinese Horse Ritual*

  • Roel Sterckx (a1) and 胡司德


This article examines a section in the Shuihudi 睡虎地 Rishu 日書 (Daybooks) entitled “Horses” (ma 馬) which describes the instructions for the performance of a ritual to propitiate a horse spirit. The text is one of the earliest transmitted ritual liturgies involving the treatment of animals. It reveals a hitherto little known aspect of the role of animals in early Chinese religion; namely, the ritual worship of tutelary animal spirits and the performance of sacrifices for the benefit of animals. Furthermore, it corroborates the existence of magico-religious rituals involving the treatment of animals, and demonstrates that cultic worship of animal spirits, criticized by some masters of philosophy, was part of the religious practices of the elite in the late Warring States and early imperial period. The article presents an annotated translation of the “Horses” section, discusses its contents and significance in relation to equine imagery documented in received sources, and examines its value as a source for the perception of animals and animal ritual in late Warring States and early imperial China.




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I would like to thank Professor Donald Harper for his help with the revision of an earlier draft of this article. I also wish to thank Professor Mark Edward Lewis and the anonymous readers of Early China for their comments and suggestions. This research has received support from the Spalding Trust.



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1. For a general discussion see Erkes, Eduard, “Das Pferd im Alten China,“ T'oung Pao 36 (1942), 2663. The role of the horse in burial practice and its iconography in Han mortuary art is treated in a descriptive survey by Banks, Barbara C., “The Magical Powers of the Horse as Revealed in the Archaeological Explorations of Early China” (Ph.D. diss., University of Chicago, 1989). Discussions of the “heavenly horse” include Dubs, Homer H., The History of the Former Han Dynasty (Baltimore: Waverly Press, 19381955), vol. 2, appendix 5 (“The Blood-Sweating Horses of Ferghana”); Waley, Arthur, “The Heavenly Horses of Ferghana, a New View,” History Today 5 (1955), 95103; and Yoshihiko, Izushi 出石誠彥, Shina shinwa densetsu no kenkyū (Tokyo: Kōronsha, 1943), 187227.

2. See, for example, Creel, Herrlee G., “The Role of the Horse in Chinese History,” in What is Taoism? (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1970), 160–86. On horse, cavalry, and chariot, see Minao, Hayashi 林巳奈夫, “Chūgoku Senshin jidai no basha” 中國先秦時代㊇馬車, Tōhō gakuhō 東方學報 29 (1959), 155284; von Dewall, Magdalena, Pferd und Wagen im Frūhen China (Bonn: Rudolf Habelt Verlag, 1964); Shaughnessy, Edward, “Historical Perspectives on the Introduction of the Chariot into China,” Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies 48.1 (1988), 184237; Goodrich, Chauncey S., “Riding Astride and the Saddle in Ancient China,” Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies 44.2 (1984), 279306; and Cartier, Michel, “Considérations sur l'Histoire du Harnachement et de rÉquitation en Chine,” Anthropozoologica 18 (1993), 2943. On the domestication of the horse, see Chengjia, Xie 謝成俠, Zhongguo yang ma ski 中國養馬史 (Beijing: Kexue, 1959).

3. For the presentation of horses as (exchange) gifts, see Mu Tianzi zhuan 穆天子傳 (Sibu beiyao ed.), 2.1b, 2.4b, 2.5a, 3.2b; Yili 儀禮 (Shisanjing zhushu 十三經注疏 ed., collated by Ruan Yuan 阮元[1764–1849]; rpt. Taizhong: Landeng, n.d.)f 19.14a, 24-10b-11a, 27.2b; Liji 禮言己 (Shiscmjirtg zhushu ed.), 2.29b, 35.16a; and Lunyu 論語 (Shisanjing zhushu ed.), 10.11a. For horses in funeral processions, see Liji, 35.3b; and Xin lun 新論 (Sibu beiyao ed.), 26a.

4. The Hanshu bibliographic treatise mentions a work entitled Xiang iiuchu 相六畜 (Physiognomizing the six domestic animals; see Hanshu [Beijing: Zhonghua, 1962], 30.1775). The excavation of two manuscripts on dog physiognomy at the sites of Yinqueshan 銀雀山 and Shuanggudui 雙古堆 has been reported. See zu, Fuyang Han jian zhengli, “Fuyang Han jian jianjie” 阜陽漢簡簡介, Wenwu 1983.2, 23; Ling, Li 李零, Zhongguo fangshu kao 中國方術考 (Beijing: Renmin Zhongguo, 1993), 7881; and Ling, Li, ed., Zhongguo fangshu gaiguan: xiang shu juan 中國方術概觀:相術卷 (Beijing: Renmin Zhongguo, 1993), 1112. In addition, mention should be made of the Mawangdui Xiangmajing 相馬經 (Classic of horse physiognomy); see n.104. Other examples of technical literature include titles in the Hanshu bibliographic treatise such as the Zhao Mingzi diao zhong shengyu bie 昭明子釣種生魚紫 (Zhao Mingzi's [manual] on fishing, planting, and raising fish and turtles; Hanshu, 30.1773), and a series of works related to tortoise divination (Hanshu, 30.1770). An early Western Han manuscript assigned the title Wan wu 萬物 excavated at Shuanggudui contains technical and medical material, including techniques for catching animals and expelling venomous pests. For a transcription and discussion of this text, see zu, Fuyang Han jian zhengli, “Fuyang Han jian ‘Wan wu’ 阜陽漢簡萬物, Wenwu 1988.4, 3647; and Pingsheng, Hu 胡平生 and Ziqiang, Han 韓自強, “‘Wan wu’ lūeshuo” 萬物略說, Wenwu 1988.4, 4854. Other writings presumably included magico-religious animal lore: for example, a work entitled Za qinshou Iiuchu kunchongfu 雜禽獸六畜昆蟲賦 (Miscellaneous rhapsodies on birds, beasts, the six domestic animals, and various insects; Hanshu, 30.1753), and a work entitled Ren guijingwu Iiuchu bianguai 人鬼精物六畜變怪 (Human and demonic spectral entities and the mutant prodigies of the six domestic animals; Hanshu, 30.1772).

5. Mu-Chou Poo estimated the number of publications on the 1156 Shuihudi slips at roughly 700 between 1975 and 1989. For general bibliographic references to these studies, see his Popular Religion in Pre-Imperial China: Observations on the Almanacs of Shui-hu-ti,” T'oung Pao 79 (1993), 225–48, especially nn. 1–4.

6. The Shuihudi slips are transcribed in xiaozu, Shuihudi Qin mu zhujian zhengli, Shuihudi Qin mu zhujian 睡虎地秦墓竹簡 (Beijing: Wenwu, 1991). This volume includes photo-reproduction s of the slips and supersedes the earlier transcription and repro¬duction of the slips, Shuihudi in Yunmeng Shuihudi Qin mu 雲夢睡虎地秦墓 (Beijing: Wenwu, 1981). The Rishu horse ritual covers slips 156 to 160 on the reverse side of the first Rishu manuscript (Shuihudi Qin mu zhujian, “Transcription,” 227–28; and “Plates,” 115–16). A short commentary on the horse ritual is presented in Zongyi, Rao 饒宗頓 and Xiantong, Zeng 曾憲通, Yunmeng Qin jian Rishu yanjiu 雲夢秦簡曰書研究 (Hong Kong: Chinese University Press, 1982), 4245. Two other short studies with a transcription of the Rishu horse ritual are Runkun, He 賀潤坤, “Cong Yunmeng Qin jian Rishu kan Qinguo de Iiuchu siyang ye” 從雲夢秦簡日書看秦國的六畜飼養業, Wenbo 文博 1989.6, 6367; and Xinfang, Liu 劉信芳, “Yunmeng Qin jian Rishu ‘Ma’ pian shishi” 雲夢秦簡日書馬篇試釋, Wenbo 1991.4, 6667. I have divided the text into three parts based on its content. Lacunae in my transcription and translation are indicated with square brackets enclosing a number which represents the number of missing graphs.

7. On the original slips, the graph ma 馬 is placed above the space for the binding cords in the top register similar to other raised headings in the manuscript; see Shuihudi Qin mu zhujian, “Plates115. The Shuihudi Qin mu zhujian editors read the first two characters together as a compound mamei, which they treat as the section heading. However, the compound meizhu occurs in the Hanshu, where Emperor Wu 武帝, following the birth of a son (ca. 128 B.C.E.), commissions two scholars to write an “Incantation to the (Supreme) Intermediary” (meizhu 祿祝); see Hanshu, 51.2366,63.2741. In the Rishu, ma is surely the heading (as in other sections), followed by the compound meizhu.

8. “Each” translates ge/*klak 各 (I refer to Li Fanggui's 李方桂 reconstructions of Old Chinese as represented in Schuessler, Axel, A Dictionary of Early Zhou Chinese [Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1987]). Possibly 各 is used interchangeably with luo 絡, in which case the instruction would be to tether a horse at the east and south sides. The Erya 爾雅 glosses 絡as lun 輪, which could be a silken cord; see Erya (Shisanjing zhushu ed.), 2.19a. Zongyi, Rao and Xiantong, Zeng, Yunmeng Qin jian Rishu, 44, interpret gel *klak 各 as mo/*mrak 絡, which they equal to ma/*mragh 禪 “to sacrifice a horse.” Mo 絡 indeed appears in the Zhouli 周禮 as the name of a sacrifice performed at a signal post where an army assembled; see Zhouli (Shisanjing zhushu ed.), 19.18a, 29.8b, 29.19a. I suspect, however, that this sentence talks about the display of horses rather than a sacrificial act.

9. I partly follow Liu Xinfang who suggests that zhong 中土 refers to the heaping up of earth to make an altar (she 社) for the ma mei spirit (“Yunmeng Qin jian Rishu ‘Ma’ pian,” 66). Zhong tu possibly means to take earth from inside a location missing in the lacuna.

10. The use of bi 壁 “enclosing wall” suggests an earthen construction which served to ward off influences from outside (compare the term bi xie 辟邪). The use of the graph 直 for 置 is common. If Liu Xinfang is correct in assuming that the previous line refers to the construction of an altar (rather than a figurine), then this line might suggest that a hole was dug through a screen wall set up around the altar or in a wall or partition fence which was part of the altar mound itself, possibly to let in or welcome the horse spirit. My first guess, however, is that it refers to the walls of the stables.

11. Zongyi, Rao and Xiantong, Zeng, Yunmeng Qin jian Rishu, 43, gloss chuo/*trjuat 腺as醒or錢, a “wine libation” or “foodstuff offering.” The core character chuo M is glossed as zhuilian 綴聯 “baste together” in Shuowen jiezi zhu 說文解字注 (annotated by Yucai, Duan 段玉裁 [17351815]; Taibei: Yiwen, 1965), 14B.15a. This leads Xinfang, Liu, “Yunmeng Qin jian Rishu ‘Ma’ pian,” 67, to suggest that the Rishu sentence means, “In the center, take three mats and weave them together,” the idea being that the sacrificial spot is too big to be covered by one mat. My translation is based on a parallel expression in the second Rishu manuscript, in a sacrificial prayer to the road, where the editors interpret san chuo as “to present food offerings three times.” See Shuihudi Qin mu zhujian, “Transcription,” 243, n. 2.

12. I am not sure how to read this sentence. Jiu 觀 “stable, animal pen” occurs in the Shuihudi legal documents. Shuihudi Qin mu zhujian, “Transcription,” 24 (slip 17), mentions the Great Stables (da jiu 大蔽), the Central Palace Stables (zhong jiu 中廒), and the Palace Stables (gong jiu ). According to Han jiu yi 漢舊儀 (Sibu beiyao ed.), 2.3a, there were six different imperial stables (liu jiu 六廄)in the Han, each reserved according to the different quality and function of the horses. A da jiu is also mentioned in the Hanshu along with the weiyang 未央 and jiama 家馬stables; see Hanshu, 19A.729. The Zhouli commentator Zheng Sinong 鄭司農 (Eastern Han) indicates that a jiu can be a term for the collective of 216 horses (Zhouli, 33.1b). It is doubtful in my view that the Rishu text refers to a specific number of horses. Xinfang, Liu, “Yunmeng Qin jian Rishu ‘Ma’ pian,” 67, suggests reading 四廠行大夫 as one term refering to the name of an official, possibly an “officer in charge of the paths of the four stables.” I think this suggestion is not plausible.

13. For the fourth graph, I have followed Runkun, He, “Cong Yunmeng Qin jian Rishu,” 65, and Zongyi, Rao and Xiantong, Zeng, Yunmeng Qin jian Rishu, 44, who gloss it as san 散 “to spread out (the mat).״ However, I don't exclude an alternative reading which takes both graphs as a repetition of 先牧, the “First Herdsman” or the “First Herding.” The fourth graph in this line does look very similar to the mu 牧 graph of the introduction; see Shuihudi Qin mu zhujian, “Plates,” 116. Xi 席 could then be read as the verb (“to sit on a mat,” “to gather on a mat”) and the whole sentence could be rendered “The Grandees at the first herding have gathered on a buffalo mat.” Xinfang, Liu, “Yunmeng Qin jian Rishu ‘Ma’ pian,” 67, suggests reading 先 as xian 跌 “barefooted,” and understands the sentence to mean “to step on the buffalo mat barefooted.” The si has been identified as a bovine animal, most likely a wild buffalo. Its horn was used as a cup and its hides were often used for the manufacture of arms. See Bishop, Carl W, “Rhinoceros and Wild Ox in Ancient China,” China Journal 18 (1933), 322–30. Jean A. Lefeuvre concludes that the hypothesis of the si being a wild buffalo rather than a rhinoceros better matches the textual references. See Lefeuvre, , “Rhinoceros and Wild Buffaloes North of the Yellow River at the End of the Shang Dynasty: Some Remarks on the Graph 冬 and the Character 兕,” Monumenta Serica 39 (19901991), 131–57.

14. I follow the Shuihudi Qin mu zhujian reading. The expression Hang ri 良日 occurs frequently throughout the Rishu. Runkun, Both He, “Cong Yunmeng Qin jian Rishu,” 65, and Xinfang, Liu, “Yunmeng Qin jian Rishu ‘Ma’ pian,” 66, read the second ri 曰 graph as bai 白 together with the next line (白肥豚). The original graph is barely distinguishable from the 白 graph. To my knowledge “white” pigs are not singled out as special victims in other sacrifices. An argument in favor of the He and Liu reading could be the consideration of rhyme (良,粱).

15. The combination of a fat animal offering with pure wine and grain is a standard sacrificial menu in many other incantations. Compare, for example, the prayers for the invocation and expulsion of rain in the Chunqiu fanlu 春秋繁露 (Sibu beiyao ed.), 16.3a and 16.6a. Another pre-Han incantation for the establishment of an earth altar has a very similar phrase: fei tun jia shu qingjiu 肥膝嘉蔬清酒. See Kejun, Yan 嚴可均, Quan shanggu Sandai Qin Han Sanguo Liuchao wen 全上古三代秦漢三國六朝文 (Beijing: Zhonghua, 1965), 14.4a (“Li she zhu” 立社祝, anon.).

16. Gou is a basket used to trap fish. Ping 屏 is a screen or fence. It seems to me that the horses are driven together into a space screened off by a kind of palisade, and a ritual space is created before the subsequent exorcism and blessings are chanted. Alternatively could be read 苟: “If only My Lord would fence off/protect/shelter 屛 the excellent horses.” The use of 苟 for 苟 is attested in the Mawangdui Zhanguoce 戰國策 material. See Heng, Gao 高亨, Guzi tongjia huidian 古字通假會典 (Jinan: Qi Lu, 1989), 339. Zongyi, Rao and Xiantong, Zeng, Yunmeng Qin jian Rishu, 43, gloss gou/*kugx 苟 as ke 铍, “to beat, to thump.” Xinfang, Liu, “Yunmeng Qin jian Rishu ‘Ma’ pian,” 67, suggests the homophone kou 扣, which is glossed in Shuowen, 12A.55a, as “to lead a horse by the rope.”

17. I have followed a gloss suggested by Xinfang, Liu, “Yunmeng Qin jian Rishu ‘Ma’ pian,” 67. He reads tong as jiong/*kwing 驅, following Zheng Xuan's 鄭玄 (127–200 CE.) commentary to a Shijing 詩經 ode, which glosses 鋼 as “good horses” (liang ma 良馬). See Shijing (Shisanjing zhushu ed.), “Jiong” 驅 (Mao 297), 20A.5b./Jiong ma 駟馬 appears to be a standard horse term and is included among the 200 horse entries in the Ming dynasty Bin Yisheng ma ji 擴衣生馬言己 (Bin Yisheng's notes on horses), compiled by Guo Zizhang 郭子章 (ca.1571); see Bin Yisheng ma ji (Congshu jicheng ed.), 1.5. Liu Lexian 蓥樂賢 suggests tong/*dung 侗, glossed in Shuowen, 8A.9a, as da mao 大貌 “large in appearance.” See Shuihudi Qin jian Rishu zhushi shangque” 注釋商榷, Wenwu 1994.10, 42. Another close expression is dong ma 捎馬, the name given by Han Wudi in 104 B.C.E. to an officer who, according to Ying Shao 應勁 (active 165-ca. 204 C.E.), was in charge of milking the horses and churning the milk into a drinkable potion (ma jiu 馬酒). See Hanshu, 19A.729–30; and Shuowen, 12A.35a.

18. I have emended the two lacunae following a suggestion made by the Early China reader; both sentences are parallel.

19. The Shuihudi Qin mu zhujian editors suggest filling the lacuna with yu 御 “ride.”

20. Read 鄉 as 螂, an old graph for xiang 香; see Zongyi, Rao and Xiantong, Zeng, Yunmeng Qin jian Rishu, 44. Xinfang, Liu, “Yunmeng Qin jian Rishu ‘Ma’ pian,” 67, glosses 糗 as 臭, a variant for 噴 (see also Heng, Gao, Guzi tongjia huidian, 741–42).

21. The tianma “heavenly horse” is described as having a double spine; see Hanshu, 22.1060.

22. Possibly the missing graph should be chong 蟲; several final characters have velar nasal *-ng endings.

23. The Shanhaijing 山海經 provides evidence that shamanic healers devoted special attention to the condition of the horse legs. It mentions three plants that were believed to improve and strengthen the gait of horses; see Ke, Yuan 袁呵, Shanhaijing jiaozhu 校注 (Shanghai: Shanghai Guji, 1980), 2.29,4.114, and 5.158. Itō Seiji 伊藤清司 argues that the Shanhaijing reflects an archaic belief that the application of red herbal juices to horses—either to improve health or as an apotropaic device against disease and demon intrusion—had a symbolic significance possibly linked to later symbolism of the red color of the “blood sweating” Ferghana horses during the Han; see Kodai Chūgoku no uma no chōryō jujutsu, Kodai bunka 古代文化 24.4 (1959), 107–13. See also Seiji, Itō, Shanhaijing zhong de guishen shijie 山海經中的鬼神世界, tr. Yeyuan, Liu 劉曄原 (Beijing: Zhongguo minjian wenyi, 1989), 110–12.

24. The Rishu manuscripts contain several lists enumerating days which are “auspicious” (liang 良) or “tabooed” (ji 忌) for activities including a particular domestic animal. According to the list of auspicious or tabooed days for horses in the first Rishu manuscript three hing days are tabooed (丙子,丙午,丙寅; Shuihudi Qin mu zhujian, “Transcription,” 194, slips 82–83). In the second manuscript, another bing day (丙辰) is again listed among the taboo days (Shuihudi Qin mu zhujian, “Transcription,” 235, slips 68–69). The presence of conflicting information in the two manuscripts is probably due to the fact that they combine different divinatory systems and calendrical lists (see Poo, Mu-Chou, “Popular Religion in Pre-Imperial China,” 238–40).

25. A recipe in the Wushier Bingfang 五十二病方 describes “taking the millet food sacrifice from the offering niche by the entrance to the inner (chamber) 取內戶房祠空中黍腿.” See Mawangdui Han mu boshu 馬王堆漢墓帛書, vol. 4 (Beijing: Wenwu, 1985), 53 (columns 239–40); translated in Harper, Donald, Early Chinese Medical Literature: The Mawangdui Medical Manuscripts (London: Kegan Paul, forthcoming), 270. My thanks to Professor Harper for bringing this to my attention.

26. Shuihudi Qin mu zhujian, ”Transcription,” 243 (slips 145–146). On the god of travel in the Rishu, see Motoo, Kudo 工藤元男, “Umorete ita koshin: shu to shite Shinkan Nisho ni yoru, Tōyōbunka kenkyūjo kiyô 東洋文化研究所紀要 106 (1988), 163207.

27. The first Rishu manuscript contains a prayer for exorcising e meng 惡瞢 “bad dreams” (Shuihudi Qin mu zhujian, “Transcription210, slips 13 ver-14 ver.); a similar prayer is included in a section on dreams in the second manuscript (Shuihudi Qin mu zhujian, “Transcription,” 247, slips 194–195). See also Zongyi, Rao and Xiantong, Zeng, Yunmeng Qin jian Rishu, 2829.

28. See also Mu-chou, Poo 浦慕州, “Shuihudi Qin jian Rishu de shijie” 睡虎地秦簡日書的世界, Zhongyang yanjiuyuan lishi yuyan yanjiusuo jikan 中央研究院歷史語言研究所集刊 62.4 (1993), 649.

29. For an excellent study of the role of word magic in Han incantation literature, see Harper, Donald, “Wang Yen-shou's Nightmare Poem,” Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies 47.1 (1987), 239–83.

30. See Ikeda, On 池田溫, “Chūgoku rekidai boken ryakkô” 中國歷代墓券略考, Tōyōbunka kenkyūjo kiyō 東洋文化研究所紀要 86.1 (1981), 193278. Related formulas include移央去咎(270, no.1), and錤解諸咎殃(275, nos.10–11).

31. Shuihudi Qin mu zhujian, “Transcription,” 135 (slip 179). Translated in Hulsewé, A.F.P., Remnants of Ch'in Law (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1985), 171 (D158).

32. Hanshu, 96B.3913. Han Wudi refers to a report (dating to 89 B.C.E.) that the Xiongnu had left tethered horses by the Wall, which had led to various interpretations by court diviners. The fact that the Xiongnu themselves were tethering their horses was seen as highly inauspicious. See also Hulsewé, A.F.R. and Loewe, M., China in Central Asia; The Early Stage: 125 B.C.-A.D. 23 (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1979), 169–72.

33. Shuowen, 1A.13b-14a.

34. Zongyi, Rao and Xiantong, Zeng, Yunmeng Qin jian Rishu, 42. I presume that 稠 in Yunmeng Qin jian Rishu is a mistake and that Rao means the dao 嗣 attested in Zhouli, 26.6a, and Shuowen, 1A.14b.

35. See Liji, 15.4a–b; and Shuowen, 12A.1b-2a. The sacrifice—consisting of a bull, a ram, and a boar–was performed on the day when the swallows (xuan niao 玄鳥) arrived and was attended in person by the emperor. It was still performed in the Eastern Han; see Hou Hanshu (Beijing: Zhonghua, 1965), “Zhi,” 4.3107. The swallow, perching under the moves of houses and rearing its chicks in the presence of the human eye, was a symbol of marriage and childbirth dating back to the legendary tradition of the birth of the Shang ancestor Xie 契 from a mother impregnated by swallowing a swallow's egg; see Shijing, “Xuan niao” 玄鳥 (Mao 303), 20C.12b–15b. See also Misao, Ishikawa 石川三佐男, “Chūgoku kodai ni okeru tsubame no shūkyōteki igi to Shikyō ‘En en’ hen no kô ni tsuite, Nishōgakusha daigaku jinbun ronsō 二松學舍大學人文論叢 9 (1976), 3748.

36. See Bodde, Derk, Festivals in Classical China (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1975), 243–61. On the identity of the Supreme Intermediary, see also Mengjia, Chen 陳夢家, “Gaomei jiaoshe zumiao kao” 高祺郊社祖廟考, Qinghua xuebao 清華學報 12 (1937), 445–72.

37. See Huainanzi (Wendian, Liu 劉文典, ed., Huainan honglie jijie 淮南鴻烈集解 [Taibei: Wenshizhe, 1992]), 4.143; and Da Dai Liji 大戴禮記 (Han Wei congshu ed.), 13.7a.

38. Zhouli, 33.3b–4a. Apart from the above-mentioned sacrificial duties, the Commander of the Stables was also responsible for classifying the royal horses in six categories: the horses suited for breeding, warfare, ceremonial display, travel, hunting, and finally the weak horses (Zhouli, 33.1a). He also decorated the horses for the ruler's burial carriage and buried the animals with the corpse of the ruler (Zhouli, 33.5a).

39. “He who first drove a horse carriage” (shi cheng ma zhe 始乘馬者), according to Zheng Xuan.

40. Zheng Xuan interprets the mabu as a malign spirit that causes harm to horses. The term is possibly related to a malign bu 酺 spirit, propitiated in autumn; see Zhouli, 12.12a–b. The compound bu ma 步馬 occurs in the Zuozhuan in the sentence “The Master of the Left saw a man who bu ma 步馬”—“caused-to-waIk the horses” according to Karlgren's translation (Karlgren, Bernhard, “Some Sacrifices in Chou China,” Bulletin of the Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities 40 [1968], 17), or “exercised the horses” according to the Zuozhuan commentary. See Zuozhuan 左傳 (Shisanjing zhushu ed.), 37.12a. According to Sun Yirang (1848–1908), the 馬歩 was the “road for exercising the horses” and the winter sacrifice was an offering to the Horse Road, similar to a roadside sacrifice. See Yirang, Sun, Zhouli zhengyi 周禮正義 (Beijing: Zhonghua, 1987), 2616–17.

41. Mu Tianzi zhuan, 6.4b. The text reads: 天子東征食馬于潔水之上,乃鼓之棘,是曰馬主. Mathieu, Rémi, Le Mu Tianzi Zhuan. Traduction Annotée, Etude Critique (Paris: Mémoires de l'Ecole Des Hautes Etudes Chinoises, vol. IX, 1978), 98, translates: “… il fit paître ses chevaux sur la rivière de Ta. Puis il y fit planter des jujubes. Aussi nommaton (le roi??) Mazhu, Protecteur des chevaux.”

42. See Liji, 15.15a; Yi Zhoushu 逸周書 (Sibu beiyao ed.), 6.8a; and Huainanzi, 5.166. Precisely at this time the ruler also ordered the performance of exorcistic ceremonies (nuo 儺) to ward off baleful influences and to stop off the spring vapors before the commencement of the summer. As indicated in the Rishu horse ritual, animals presumably were also exorcistically freed from disease during such rituals.

43. See Da Dai Liji, 2.7a. For an introduction to animal breeding and pasture husbandry in Qin and Han times, see Huaqing, Xu 余華青 and Tinghao, Zhang 張廷0§, “Qin Han shiqi de xumu ye” 秦漢時期的畜牧業, Zhongguoshi yanjiu 中國史研究 1982.4, 1630; and Yue, Ma 馬躍, “Zhongguo fengjian shehui qianqi de ma zheng he yang ma shi” 中國封建社會前期的馬政和養馬史, Zhongguo nongshi 中國農史 1990.1, 9399.

44. Liji, 16.6a; Lūshi chunqiu 呂氏春秋 (Sibu beiyao ed.), 5.2a; Yi Zhoushu, 6.9b; and Huainanzi, 5.169 (cf. Major, John, Heaven and Earth in Early Han Thought [Albany: State University of New York Press, 1993], 236).

45. See Poo, , “Popular Religion in Pre-Imperial China,” 238.

46. Zuozhuan, 10.15b–16a.

47. The first Rishu manuscript stipulates that on certain days there is a taboo on “letting out or taking in horses and cattle出入馬牛.” See Shuihudi Qin mu zhujian, “Transcription,” 197 (slips 108, 110).

48. The origin of this text is uncertain. It is incorporated in the Xiangniujing 半巨牛經 (Classic on cattle physiognomy), whose putative author is Ning Qi 甯戚 (Spring and Autumn period). The incantation itself is attributed to Guimeng, Lu 陸龜蒙 (Tang). See Wei Jin xiaoshuo daguan 魏晉小說大觀 (Taibei: Xinxing, 1950), vol. 2, 600601.

49. See Broman, Sven, “Studies on the Chou li,” Bulletin of the Museum of Var Eastern Antiquities 33 (1961), 189; especially nos. 12–14,133,177–79, 218, 221, 230–33, 262–68, 280–81, 319–30.

50. Zhouli, 33.7b. The souren mainly supervised the training of horses in the royal parks and chose horses for various royal uses. Similar tasks were executed by another horse trainer entitled zouma 趣馬 (33.6a).

51. Zhouli, 30.4a.

52. Zhouli, 33.6b. The Tang commentator Jia Gongyan 賈公彥 (8th cent.) refers to thecombined use of shamanic healing and medicine in the treatment of horses by statingthat the sorcerer is familiar with demonic horse afflictions (ma sui, 馬祟) which are treatedby prayer (qt 祈)while the doctor knows horse disease (ma ji 馬疾) and provides treatment with medicine (yao 藥).

53. Zhouli, 13.1a–2b; 13.5b–6b; 33.7a; and 33.8a.

54. Shuihudi Qin mu zhujian, “Transcription,” 76, 81. Hulsewé, , Remnants, 99100 (B27, n. 2), 107 (C6).

55. Shijing, “Ji ri” 吉日 (Mao 180), 10C.8a. Translation based on Karlgren, B., The Book of Odes (Stockholm: Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities, 1950), 124. Cf. Legge, J., The She King (rpt. Taipei: SMC Publishing, 1991), 291.

56. Shuowen, 1A.14b.

57. Zhouli, 26.5a–6a.

58. Erya, 6.14a.

59. Bilsky, Lester, The State Religion of Ancient China (Asian Folklore & Social Life Monographs 70; Taipei: The Orient Culture Service, 1975), 4849.

60. Shijing, “Huang yi” 黃矣 (Mao 241), 16D.15a.

61. Erya, 6.14a.

62. Legge, J., She King, 455.

63. Liji, 12.4a.

64. Shuowen, 1A.14b.

65. See Bilsky, , State Religion, 55; on the ma as war-sacrifice, see 177–78.

66. Bohutong (Han Wei congshu ed.), 1.29a. Som, Tjan Tjoe, Po hu t'ung: The Comprehensive Discussions in the White Tiger Hall (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 19491952), vol. 2, 411.

67. Shuowen,

68. In a commentary to Hanshu, (1008.4269:馬者兵之首,故祭其先神也.

69. Hou Hanshu, 24.840–41. See also Dongguan Hanji 東觀漢記 (Sibu beiyao ed.), 12.2b-3a; Creel, The Role of the Horse,” 172–73.

70. Huainanzi, 5.181; Major, John, Heaven and Earth in Early Han Thought, 252.

71. See Shangshu尚書 (Shisanjing zhushu ed.), 13.3b-4a: 犬馬非其土性不畜,珍禽奇獸不育于國.

72. Zuozhuan, 14.4b–5a. Cf. Legge, J., The Ch'un Ts'ew with the Tso Chuen (rpt. Taipei: SMC Publishing, 1991), 167–68.

73. Shangshu, 20.8a. Cf. Legge, J.. The Shoo King (rpt. Taipei: SMC Publishing, 1991), 623. See also Shiji 史記 (Beijing: Zhonghua, 1959), 33.1524.

74. Zuozhuan, 30.21b. Du Yu makes a similar criticism of the use of sacrificial victims to ward off a flood in 668 B.C.E. (Zuozhuan, 10.6a).

75. See kaogudui, Hubei sheng Jing-Sha tielu, Baoshan Chu jian 包山楚簡 (Beijing: Wenwu, 1991), 37, slip 248. Mu Tianzi zhuan, 1.2b, records how a priest performs a drowning sacrifice of a horse, an ox, a ram, and a pig to the river god. Following the advice of a diviner, Emperor Er Shi 二世 (209 B.C.E.) sacrificed four white horses to the River Jing after he dreamt that a white tiger had killed one of his carriage horses; see Shiji, 6.273–74.

76. For example, an official named Wang Zun 王尊 (ca. 50 B.C.E.) controlled the floods over the Huzi Golden Dike §子金陽 by drowning a white horse in the Yellow River as a sacrifice to He Bo; see Hanshu, 76.3237. See also Lai, Whalen, “Looking for Mr Ho Po: Unmasking the River God of Ancient China,” History of Religions 29.4 (1990), 335–50.

77. Shiji, 28.1402; and Hanshu, 25B.1246.

78. Bilsky, , State Religion, 329.

79. Kametarō, Takigawa, Shiki kaichū kōshō 史言己會注考證 (Tokyo: Tōhō bunka gakuin Tōkyō kenkyūjo, 19321934), 28.85.

80. Liji, 5.19b.

81. Zuozhuan, 14.22a and 45.21b. See also Granet, Marcel, Danses et Légendes de la Chine Ancienne (Paris: Librairie Félix Alcan, 1926), 153–54.

82. Shao, Ying, Fengsu tongyi 風俗通義 (beiyao, Sibu ed.), 8.2a.

83. See his commentary to Zuozhuan, 45.21b:馬非常祭戶斤用. The origins of the term Iiuchu are uncertain. The Zhouli mentions the terms liu shou 六獸 “six beasts,” liu qin 六禽 “six birds,” and Iiuchu 六畜; see Zhouli, 4.6b. The first Rishu manuscript lists lucky days for the horse, ox, sheep, pig, dog, and chicken (Shuihudi Qin mu zhujian, “Transcription194); these must be the animals designated by the term liuchu in both Rishu (for occurrences, see Shuihudi Qin mu zhujian, “Transcription,” 192, 195, 212, 213, 233, 237). According to Zheng Xuan, liuchu refers to the same set of animals covered by the term liusheng 六牲 “six sacrificial animals.” They were called liuchu in the initial process of breeding and liusheng when they were about to be used for sacrifice; see Zhouli, 4.6b and 13.1a. Wusheng refers to the liusheng minus the horse.

84. Zhouyi 周易 (Shisanjing zhushu ed.), 1.21a. Translated in Wilhelm, Richard, I Ching or Book of Changes, tr. Baynes, C.E (London: Routledge, 1951), 11.

85. Zhouyi, 1.22a.

86. Zhouyi, 9.7a; Wilhelm, , I Ching, 273. See also Rousselle, Erwin, “Dragon and Mare, Figures of Primordial Chinese Mythology,” in The Mystic Vision. Papers from the Eranos Yearbooks, ed. Campbell, Joseph (Bollingen Series XXX.6; Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1989), 103–19.

87. See Songchang, Chen 陳松長 and Mingchun, Liao 廖名春, “Boshu Ersanzi wen, Yi zhi yi, Yao shiwen” 帛書二三子問易之義要釋文, Daojia wenhua yanjiu 道家文化研究 3 (1993), 432.

88. Misao, Ishikawa, “Shikyō ni okeru uma matsuri no fukugen ni tsuiteNishō-gakusha daigaku jinbun-ronsō 二松學舍大學人文論蕺 12 (1977), 7584. Ishikawa's conclusions are based on Mao 9, 50, 53, 57, 186, 216, 284, and 297.

89. Zhouli, 33.5b.

90. Shiji, 28.1389. Usually sacrificial horses were buried in mats. Confucius mentions that worn-out curtains (wet 帷) should not be thrown away because they can be used to bury a horse; see Liji, 10.24b–25a. The Zuozhuan recounts how aristocrats occasionally wrapped up dead horses for burial. Duke Zhao 昭公 (in the year 512 B.C.E.) buried his favorite horse Qifu 啟服 by wrapping it in a curtain (wei 幃); see Zuozhuan, 53.2a-b. The Huainanzi refers to the burial of meritorious animals, notably the horse and the ox. Horses were wrapped up in cloth and oxen were stretched out on a carriage after death; see Huainanzi, 13.460. For animal burial in later periods, see Eliasberg, D., “Pratiques funéraires animales en Chine ancienne et médiévale,” Journal Asiatique 280.1-2 (1992), 115–44.

91. See Jue, Sun 孫穀 (ca. 1640), Gu wei shu 古微書 (jicheng, Congshu ed.), 11.226. The last sentence is an allusion to a passage in the “Great Treatise” of the Yijing; see Zhouyi, 8.7a.

92. On the rain sacrifice, see Loewe, Michael, “The Cult of the Dragon and the Invocation for Rain,” in Chinese Ideas About Nature and Society, ed. Blanc, Charles Le and Blader, Susan (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 1987), 195213.

93. Chong, Wang, Lunheng jiaoshi 論衡校釋, ed. Hui, Huang 黃8軍 (Beijing: Zhonghua, 1990), 22.285.

94. Hanshu, 22.1061.

95. Zhouli, 33.8a; and Shuowen, 10A.7b. On the hybridization of the “dragon-horse,” see Dragan, Raymond A., “The Dragon in Early Imperial China” (Ph.D. diss., University of Toronto, 1993), 238–45.

96. Xunzi (Sibu beiyao ed.), 18.9a. Knoblock, J., Xunzi: A Translation and Study of the Complete Works, vol. 3 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1994), 199200. See also Erkes, , “Das Pferd,” 58.

97. Soushenji 捜神言己 (jicheng, Congshu ed.), 14.9394. The goddess is also known as Matou Niang 馬頭娘 (The Girl with the Horse's Head). See Bodde, , Festivals, 271; and Birrell, A., Chinese Mythology (London: John Hopkins University Press, 1993), 199200. The same story is also preserved as the “Taigu canma ji” 太古冀馬言己, attributed to Zhang Yan 張儼 (third century); see Wei Jin xiaoshuo daguan, vol.1, 63. Vestiges of a similar narrative possibly underlie the motif of the horse and the Fusang 扶桑 mulberry tree depicted in Han iconography; see Banks, , “The Magical Powers of the Horse,” 281–85. The association of the horse with the silkworm might well have been partly inspired by an economic reality. Creel, Herrlee, “The Role of the Horse,” 180–82, points out that silk was indeed a major commodity exchanged for the procurement of horses from nomadic tribes on the periphery of the Chinese heartland.

98. Runkun, He, “Cong Yunmeng Qin jian Rishu,” 6567, considers the Rishu text to be the earliest transmitted text on horse physiognomy.

99. See Lūshi chunqiu, 20.19a. See also Xin lun, 12b, 17b; Enzhi, Chen 陳恩志, “Xiang ma shu yuanliu he gudai yang ma zhi ming” 相馬術源流和古代養馬之明, Nongye kaogu 農業考古 1987.2, 339–46; Cuihua, Gou 苟萃華 et al., eds., Zhongguo gudai shengwuxue shi 中國古代生物學史 (Beijing: Kexue, 1989), 18.

100. Liezi 列子 (Sibu beiyao ed.), 8.8b.

101. The contents of one of the most detailed compendia on horse treatments, the Ming dynasty Xinke mashu (compiled ca. 1594 by Yang Shiqiao 楊時喬 et al,), confirm that texts on horse husbandry (ch.1), physiognomy (ch. 2) and veterinary horse treatment (ch. 3 ff.) were closely intertwined. It also substantiates the use of incantatory texts and rhymed songs in horse physiognomy as well as in dealing with horse ailment diagnosis, and provides extensive lists of such texts. See Xinke mashu, ed. Xuecong, Wu 吳學聰 (Beijing: Nongye, 1984). Similar materials are collected in Guo Huaixi's 郭懷西 (ca. 1785) Xinke zhushi ma niu tuo jing daquanji 新刻注釋馬牛駝經大全集, ed. Changle, Xu 許長樂 (Beijing: Nongye, 1988). For a bibliographic survey of post-Han sources related to the horse, see Chen, William Y, An Annotated Bibliography of Chinese Agriculture (Taipei: Chinese Materials Center Publications, 1993), 223–45.

102. The bibliographic treatise of the Suishu 隋書 mentions a Xiangmajing 相馬經 in one scroll; see Suishu (Beijing: Zhonghua, 1973), 34.1039. Both the Jiu Tangshu 舊唐書 (Beijing: Zhonghua, 1975), 47.2035, and the Xin Tangshu 新唐書 (Beijing: Zhonghua, 1975), 59.1538, mention a Xiangmajing in one scroll attributed to the famous horse physiognomer Bo Le; a work with the same title in sixty scrolls is attributed to Zhuge Ying 諸葛穎 et al. in the Jiu Tangshu, A physiognomic treatise named Tong ma xiangfa 銅馬相法 is attributed to the Eastern Han warlord Ma Yuan 馬援, who became a horse spirit in Tang times; see Schafer, E., The Vermilion Bird (Berkeley & Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1967), 99. Physiognomy was probably closely related to animal healing. Some early veterinary manuals were attributed to animal physiognomers; for example, a work entitled Bo Le zhi ma zabing jing 伯樂治馬雜病經 (Bo Le's classic on the treatment of various horse ailments; Suishu, 34.1048).

103. See Hanshu, 30.1774 and 30.1775.

104. For a transcription of the 5200 character text, see xiaozu, Mawangdui Han mu boshu zhengli, “Mawangdui Han mu boshu ‘Xiangmajing’ shiwen” 馬王堆漢墓帛書相馬經釋文, Wenwu 1977.8,1722; and Ling, Li, ed., Zhongguo fangshu gaiguan; xiangshu juan, 110. Major parts of the text focus on the physiognomy of the horse's head. The editors suggest that it might have been written in Chu 楚 during the late Warring States. Runkun, He, “Cong Yunmeng Qin jian Rishu66, suggests the text should be dated to the early second century B.C.E. See also Chengjia, Xie 謝成俠, “Guanyu Changsha Mawangdui Han mu boshu ‘Xiangma jing’ de tantao” 關於馬王堆漢墓帛書相馬經的探討, Wenwu 1977.8, 2326; and Hulsewé, , Remnants, 26 (A7, note 2). The problematic nature of the text is reflected in the remarkable silence of secondary scholarship on this manuscript since its excavation.

105. See Chu xue ji 初學記 (Beijing: Zhonghua, 1962), 29.703. See also Taipingyulan 太平御覽 (Sibu congkan ed.), 896.5b.

106. See Qimin yaoshu jinshi 今釋, annotated by Shenghan, Shi 石聲漢 (Beijing: Kexue, 1957), vol. 2, 353, no. 56.11.1.

107. See Shijing, “Jiong” 詗 (Mao 297), 20A.5a-10b.

108. See Shuihudi Qin mu zhujian, “Transcription,” 24, 31 (feeding instructions), and 86 (on wounding horses); and Hulsewé, , Remnants, 2728 (A9), 30 (A10), 74 (A74), 99–100 (B27), 107 (C6), 113–14 (C17-C18).

109. Liji, 26.8b. Zheng Xuan comments: “welcoming (the animals) means welcoming their spirits.” For reference to this subject in Tang times, see Spring, M. K., Animal Allegories in Tang China (American Oriental Series, vol. 76; New Haven: American Oriental Society, 1993), 6163.

110. Shiji, 28.1386; Hanshu, 25B.1218. We have no further details on these spirits.

111. The section is entitled “Jie” 詰 and is included in the first Rishu manuscript (Shuihudi Qin mu zhujian, “Transcription,” 212–16; “Plates” 104–107; slips 24 ver.-59 ver). Animalistic ghosts and spirits include the hui worm (huichong 會蟲, 39 ver.), earth locusts (dinie 地璧, 31 ver.) and earth worms (dichong 地蟲,53 ver.), a spirit dog (shengou 神狗, 48 ver), and a spirit worm (shenchong 神蟲, 34 ver.). See also Harper, D., “A Chinese Demonography of the Third Century B.C.,” Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies 45 (1985), 459–89. For a recent annotation of the “Jie” section, see Lexian, Liu 劉樂賢, “Shuihudi Qin jian Rishu ‘Jie jiu pian’ yanjiu” 睡虎地秦簡日書詰咎篇硏究, Kaogu xuebao 考古學報 1993.4, 435–53. For a full translation of the “Jie” section, see Harper, D., “Spellbinding.” in Religions of China in Practice, ed. Lopez, Donald S. Jr. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996), 241–50.

112. The two hymns in question are among nineteen sacrificial hymns performed at the jiao 郊 sacrifice; see Hanshu, 22.1060–61, and Shiji, 24.1178. They maybe dated to 120 B.C.E. and 101 B.C.E., and were allegedly composed after a horse was reported to have been born in the midst of the Wuya 渥涯 river. See further, Hanshu, 6.176, 6.184,6.202, 6.206,61.2693–94,61.2697–2704,96A.3894–95,96B.3928. The “heavenly horse” is described as transforming like a demon, encompassing the earthly and heavenly realms, roaring over endless distances, coming and going, appearing and disappearing. See also Yilin 易林 (Sibu beiyao ed.), 10.4b, 13.5b, 13.22b.

113. This is reflected in Couvreur's translation, which interprets the sentence as referring to tutelary animal spirits: “on n'immolait pas l'un des six animaux domestiques au génie protecteur de ce même animal.” See Couvreur, S., ‘Tch'ouen Ts'iou’ et ‘Tso Tschouan’ (rpt. Paris: Belles Lettres, 1951), vol, 1, 320.

114. Guoyu (Shanghai: Shanghai Guji, 1978), 4.165170.

115. Zuozhuan, 18.14b; the bird was named yuanju 爰居.

116. Zhuangzi jishi 莊子集釋, annotated by Qingfan, Guo 郭慶藩 (1844–1897; Taibei: Guanya wenhua, 1991), 18.621–22 and 19.665–66.

117. Zhuangzi jishi, 9.330.

118. Huainanzi, 18.619.

119. Lunyu, 10.11a.

120. Lunyu, 10.10a.

121. Lunyu, 14.13b.

* I would like to thank Professor Donald Harper for his help with the revision of an earlier draft of this article. I also wish to thank Professor Mark Edward Lewis and the anonymous readers of Early China for their comments and suggestions. This research has received support from the Spalding Trust.

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