Evolution and function of the Chinese carved horse hitching stone post

  • Ke Bai Shaanxi Institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage
Keywords: horse hitching post; wards off equine plague; Bi-ma-we; evolution; functions changing


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.

Author Biography

Ke Bai, Shaanxi Institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage

Shaanxi Institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage
Key Scientific Research Base of Stone and Brick Conservation
NO.35, Keji 1 Road
Gaoxin District


An, L. 1998, 齐国瓦当艺术. 人民美术出版社, Beijing, 129 p. (in Chinese) (“Art of eaves tiles of Warring States Qi”)
Ban, G. 105 CE, 汉书. 中华书局, Beijing, 4273 p. (in Chinese) (“Book of Han”)
Chen, X. 1981, 四川成都曾家包东汉画像砖石墓. 文物, 27(10): 25-32, 100. (in Chinese) (“Eastern Han Carving Bricks of Zengjiabao in Chengdu, Sichuan”).
CNKI doi:CNKI:SUN:WENW.0.1981-10-005
Cheng, Z. 1998, 元代石狮趣谈. 文史知识, 18(9): 49-51 (in Chinese) (“Studies in Stone Lions in Yuan Dynasty”)
Chikash, K. 1996, 日本马事文化の源流. 芙蓉书房, Tokyo, 291 p. (in Japanese) (“Origin and Development of Japanese Horse Culture”)
Editorial Committee of the complete works of Chinese portrait stone 2000, 中国画像石全集 -陕西山西汉画像石, 山东美术出版社, Jinan, 259 p. (in Chinese) (“Complete works of Chinese portrait stone- portrait stones in Shaanxi and Shanxi”)
Eiichiro, I. 1942,河童駒引考, 筑摩书房, Tokyo , 273p. (in Japanese) (“Study of Kappa”)
Fu, J. 2002, 中国瓦当艺术. 上海书店出版社, Shanghai, 964 p. (in Chinese) (“Art of Chinese eaves tile”)
Gao, W. 2011, 中国画像石棺全集. 三晋出版社,Taiyuan, 671 p. (in Chinese) (“The Complete Collection of Chinese Portrait Sarcophagus”)
Hu, W. 2015, 拴马桩, 南方都市报, 28th Dec, GB07. (in Chinese) (“Horse hitching stone”)
Jia, S. 533-544 CE, 齐民要术. (in Chinese) (“QiminYaoshu”)
Komatsu, S. 1978, 石山寺绘卷, 日本の絵巻. 中央公论社, Tokyo, 147p. (in Japanese) (“Japanese painting collection”)
Li, S. 1552-1578, 本草纲目. (in Chinese) (“Compendium of Materia Medica”)
Lin, T. 2004, 从职贡图到八蛮进宝和回回进宝-陕西关中拴马桩人驭狮雕像试读. 美术观察, 10(1): 98-100. (in Chinese) (“From Ching Gong tribute map to tribute of Huren and Muslim-try to read the statue of Huren on a lion in the Guanzhong area in Shaanxi”). doi:10.3969/j.issn.1006-8899.2004.01.030
Sun, J. 1991, 汉代物质文化资料图说, 文物出版社, Beijing , 644p, (in Chinese) (“Illustration Explanations of the Material Culture of the Han Dynasty”)
Wang, N. & Dang, R. 1985, 渭北拴马石艺术考察记, 美术研究, 11(3): 37-40; 49-62. (in Chinese) (“Study Record on Horse Hitching Stones in Weibei Area”)
Wang, X. 1998, 鄂尔多斯猴子骑马青铜饰与《西游记》中弼马温的由来, The fortieth anniversary Symposium of Shaanxi archaeology Institute, p. 431-434, 陕西人民美术出版社, Xi’an, (in Chinese) (“An Erdos Monkey-riding Bronze Decoration and the Origin of Bi Ma-we in Journey to the west”)
Wang, Z. 2014, “猿骑”考-借助汉代画像资料的探索, 文物, 60(5): 56-62+1. (in Chinese) (“On the ‘Yuanji’-the Research Referring to the Pictorial Materials of the Han Dynasty”)
Wu, C’e. 1984, Journey to the West. 2nd edition, translated by W.J.F. Jenner, Foreign Language Press, Beijing, 630 p.
Wu, C’e. 1994, 西游记. Hainan Publishing House, Hainan, 372 p. (in Chinese) (“Journey to the West”)
Wu C’e. 1961, Monkey, translated by Waley, A., Penguin Books, London, 351 p.
Wu C’e, 1987, Adventures of the Monkey God, translated by Waley, A. & Waley, A., Graham Brash, Singapore, 233 p.
Wu, X. 2002, 话说栓马桩, 收藏界, 1(1): 15-17. (in Chinese) (“Talking about horse hitching stones”). CNKI DOI: CNKI:SUN:SCJE.0.2002-01-003
Xu, C. 2017, 弼马温、马上封侯与射爵—汉画像中的细节内涵, 中国国家博物馆馆刊, 171(10): 69-89. (in Chinese) (“Details in Han Carvings: The Horse Keeper, Monkey on the Horse and Bird Shooting”)
Yan, X. 1991, 渭北拴马桩初探, 文博, 36(3): p.35-39. (in Chinese) (“Preliminary study in horse hitching stone in Weibei area”). CNKI DOI: CNKI:SUN:WEBO.0.1991-03-007
Ye, H., Meng, B. 2017, 关中民俗艺术博物院拴马桩的艺术形象与价值, 长春师范大学学报, 36(8): 169-173. (in Chinese) (“The Artistic Image and Value of the Horse Hitching Stones in Guanzhong Folk Art Museum”). CNKI DOI: CNKI:SUN:CCSS.0.2017-08-045
Zhang, Y. 1992, 渭北拴马桩-美术史上一个不可忽视的文化现象, 西北美术, 11(3): 34-37. (in Chinese) (“Horse hitching stone in Weibei area: An Important Cultural Phenomenon in Art History”). CNKI DOI: CNKI:SUN:XBMS.0.1992-03-007
Zhou, D., Wang, J., Yao, Z. 2011, 陕西关中民间桩柱石雕的生成时代新论, 长沙理工大学学报(社会科学版), 26(6):117-121. (in Chinese) (“The New Theory of Folk Carved Horse Hitching Stone in Guanzhong Area in Shaanxi”). doi:10.3969/j.issn.1672-934X.2011.06.022
Zhu, X. 2008, 拴马桩形成与发展的历史文化内涵研究[M], Xi’an: Shaanxi Normal University. 47p, (in Chinese) (“Research on the Historical and Cultural Connotation of the Formation and Development of the Beast Pillar”)
How to Cite
Bai, K. (2020). Evolution and function of the Chinese carved horse hitching stone post. Journal of Lithic Studies, 7(3), 14 p. https://doi.org/10.2218/jls.3077
Articles from the 2nd Meeting of the Association for Ground Stone Tools Research