Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.



Degree Program

Humanities, PhD

Committee Chair

Lai, Delin

Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)

Fulton, Christopher

Committee Member

Fulton, Christopher

Committee Member

Pranke, Patrick

Committee Member

Vogt, Paul Nicholas

Author's Keywords

Art; horses; Han; temporality; space; language


This dissertation examines the horse in ancient China, from before its domestication in the 13th century BCE to the fourth century CE. The revolutionary utilization of the mounted horse influenced contemporary concepts of time and space. The topics include the history of equid domestication in Eurasia, horse-drawn vehicles and riding, the introduction of the horse-drawn chariot from Shang China to its decline in Eastern Zhou; the rise of cavalry in China in the fourth century BCE; and the administrative, martial, symbolic and religious roles given the horse up to the Han dynasty; the early Chinese world view as dictated by space and geography, and how the horse came to help to expand that world; early concepts of time and how they evolved up to the Han; changes in the rendition of the horse from the Late Shang to the post-Han periods, an evolution which reflected and echoed changes in perceptions of time, speed and duration. The evidence provided by this research into the art, language, historical sources and philosophical writings support the writer's conclusion that the horse, as a revolutionary technological mechanism of communication and war, was instrumental in the formation of empire, and that the horse, due to its inherent characteristics of speed and power, came to expressed, through its artistic renderings, in writing and language, as embodying a vector for change, in bringing distant provinces and new conquests closer together in the temporal sense, by breaking down barriers of time and space, and that the horse became the ideal vehicle upon which the deceased could travel to the world beyond death.