It’s officially Chinese New Year in China.

People I know over there got together for the Eve and have been sending me “wake up” messages to wish me a new and prosperous year.

I’m about half a day behind where I live. When they’re awake, I’m a sleep.

Instead of getting to sparring class tonight, I’ll be going to the Chinese neighborhoods and eating. Yum, yum.


Some Interesting Facts About the Chinese Calendar, Horses, and the Mongols:


— This is the Year of the Horse. The horse is a favorite animal and symbol in Chinese history and lore. No doubt you’ve seen a number of horse paintings by Chinese artists, maybe hanging on the wall at your favorite Chinese restaurant?

— In traditional times, the horse provided quick transportation and helped win battles. So today, the horse is a symbol of fast travel and victory… Speedy Success. Who doesn’t want that?

— The year 2014 in Christendom is also the year 4711 in the traditional Chinese calendar. They’ve been around for a while, haven’t they?

— Digging deeper, 2014 (4711) is the Green or Wood Horse year (green representing wood). This oddity comes from the ancient Stem-Branch system combined with the Five Elements theory.


The Chinese Calendar


According to ChineseFortuneCalendar.com it works like this: Chinese calendars use the Stem-Branch system to count the days, months, and years. There are 10 Stems and 12 Branches in this system.

Stems are named by the Yin-Yang and Five Elements (Metal, Water, Wood, Fire and Earth). The Stem sequence order is Yang Wood, Yin Wood, Yang Fire, Yin Fire, Yang Earth, Yin Earth, Yang Metal, Yin Metal, Yang Water, and Yin Water.

Branches use animal names. The Branch sequence order is Rat, Cow, Tiger, Dragon, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey, Chicken, Dog, and Pig.

Stem and Branch are used together to form a 60 cycle counting system which begins with Wooden Rat and ends with Water Pig. The last cycle ended in 1983.

The year 2014 is the Male (Yang) Wood Horse, spot number 31 on the Stem-Branch cycle. We’re half way through this cycle.

I hope you got all of that because there’s going to be a test.


Mongols and Their Horses


The horse played a vital role in founding the Mongol Empire by Genghis Khan, and the Yuan Dynasty in China by his grandson, Khubilai, and pretty much taking over and harassing most of the known world starting in the 1200s.

In the book, Genghis Khan: and the Making of the Modern World, you learn that the Mongols were expert horsemen and depended on horses to dominate much more advanced and powerful societies.

What’s interesting is the Mongolian horse is short and bred for endurance, not speed.

Yet the Mongolian army quickly stormed across the Eurasian continent, often catching their prey by surprise.

Genghis Khan and his kin reached out and dominated far-flung cultures found in today’s China, India, Russia, Korea, Persia, Iraq, Turkey, Vietnam, and parts of Central Asia, Eastern Europe, and South East Asia.

They even sailed across the ocean to take over Japan, twice, but typhoons sunk their fleet each time. The Japanese word, kamikaze, originates from this period. It means ‘divine wind’.

Medieval Mongolians and their horses were a force of nature made for marching and fighting:

** The Mongolian horse can travel long distances without stopping;

** Mongolian horses running in the center of a group can sleep while running;

** Each cavalryman was assigned three or four horses while on the march so he could rotate riding them and give them rest;

** Cavalrymen could sleep riding in their saddle;

** The Mongolian army would basically march 24 hours a day, weeks at a time, and still have the energy to fight and take over a city.

The Mongolian army traveled light:

** Cavalrymen would drink mares milk, rather than carry milk;

** They would make a small cut into the horse’s neck and drink the blood for sustenance;

** In a pinch, they would slaughter a horse in the field, dry the meat while marching, and eat jerky on the move;

** Because their theater of war was the Eurasian continent, the horses grazed on the grass naturally found on the vast steppe. Which meant the army wasn’t weighed down by hay or grain for the horses;

** The Mongolian army was 100% cavalry, no foot soldiers.

Horses are so cool.

Happy Chinese New Year!