Symbol of perseverance and speed. The native Chinese horse is relatively small in stature. Chinese emissaries first came across the monumental horses bred in Ferghana in the second century BC. Under Tang rule the horse came to symbolize power and strength and pottery models of horses became an important part of the funerary regalia of high-ranking officials and members of the imperial family. The best were glazed in sancai lead glazes. Many had saddles, bridles, and other ornaments.
During the Ming dynasty where pottery figures (mingqi) were also used in burials, the horse figures looked different than from the Tang dynasty animal. They were actually ponies from Eastern Siberia, as opposed to the Tang horses, which were thoroughbreds from Central Asia. Since the Ming horses was quite small the figures were also not as hugely out of proportion as they appear to be, where the rider seems to be much larger in proportion to the horse.
Quite possibly the Song dynasty's frontier problems interrupted the supply of breeding stock from Ferghana. The Ming pony horses from Manchuria were a very hardy and reliable alternative. They were used for racing in Shanghai right up into the 30s; every spring trainers would go up north to buy a supply of them.
The 'Horse' is the seventh animal in the Chinese calender and also occupies the position of South on the Zodiac Compass.