Discovery revives legend of 'blood-sweating' horse

08:25, February 22, 2011      

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A woman cleans soil from horse skeletons in a sacrificial pit inside the mausoleum in this file photo. [Photo/Xinhua]

Recently, bones of 80 horses were unearthed from two subordinate tomb pits of Emperor Wudi, who lived more than 2,000 years ago in the Han dynasty. The discovery may rekindle a legend about the "blood-sweating" horse in ancient China, Xinhua reported.

The story of Wudi, "Emperor of the Silk Road," and the "blood-sweating" horse has already become a legend of Chinese culture, and many people are interested in the legendary horse, which disappeared long ago.

Yang Wuzhan, an archaeologist who took part in the excavation of the mausoleum of Emperor Wudi, said they started excavating the two pits in September 2009 and unearthed 40 bones of horses from each pit.

Each of the two pits has a huge cavern containing 20 caves and each is guarded by two stallions and a terracotta warrior, Yang said.

He said archaeologists have conducted laboratory work on the skeletons and confirmed all were adult male horses. "Scientists will soon carry out DNA tests hoping to determine the genus of the horses."

The finding was likely to rekindle a centuries-old Chinese legend about the mysterious blood-sweating horse from Central Asia, Yang said.

"The legend goes that Emperor Wudi offered a hefty reward for anyone who could find him a mysterious 'blood-sweating' purebred horse that was said to have roamed Central Asia, but was rarely seen in China," he said.

Workers ship out dirt from the sacrificial pit in this file photo. [Photo/Xinhua]

Today, the horse is identified as the Akhal-Teke, one of the world's oldest and most unique breeds.

Wudi left China's earliest written record of the breed, in a poem he composed for his Akhal-Teke mount, describing it as a "heavenly horse."

The horse is known for its speed, endurance and perspiration of a blood-like fluid as it gallops along. It was also believed to be the horse ridden by Genghis Khan (1167-1227).

Wudi was best known for his opening of the Silk Road, an ancient trade route linking Asia and Europe.

Construction of his mausoleum began in 139 BC, a year after he was enthroned at 16 years of age. It took 53 years to build.

The mausoleum had more than 400 sacrificial pits, more than the mausoleum of Qin Shihuang, the "first emperor" of a united China.

China Daily contributed to the story.

By Wang Hanlu, People's Daily Online


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