Evolution and function of the Chinese carved horse hitching stone post
This article focuses on a typical artefact in Mainland China: carved stone horse hitching posts and their distribution, history, types, and cultural meaning. It tries to interpret their evolution and the relationship between their functional and social change. This type of post was made exclusively for tying horses, from the Han Dynasty to the Yuan Dynasty (approximately 1st-13th century CE). Initially, posts were a practical tool used for simply tying horses, with no added symbolism. Later, the stone posts were carved with many decorative patterns. In the 1980’s, tens of thousands of stone posts were rediscovered next to gates of rural residential houses and seldom in cities. Both archaeologists and artists try to organize this sequence and interpret the symbolism. Patterns used on the posts, originating from fairy tales, religion and life, have different meanings. Nowadays because of the beautiful patterns and implied meaning, the posts were transported to cities and collected by museums, universities, parks and artefact shops. A collection of stone posts was put together and merged into the roadside landscape. The posts are treated as an antiquity and as a symbol of culture, art and taste. The function and symbolism of Chinese carved stone hitching post changed with the development of agriculture and transportation. Some of its original functions vanished, and the value changed from a practical implement to a standard of wealth, good taste and culture.
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