Origin of the Horse

The Origin of the Horse, ho ʐua33 kɣ33 in Naxi, is a story that forms part of the Dongba ceremonial scripture used for redeeming the souls of the deceased, known as ‘presenting the funerary horse’. On the day of the ceremony, a funerary horse is presented to the deceased by their surviving children, to thank their parents for their upbringing. The funerary horse acts as a means of travelling to the land of the ancestors in the underworld.

You can see the scripture in full in the scriptures section of the website.

During the ceremony, the bereaved buys the funerary horse; and whilst the Dongba reads the Origin of the Horse story, the horse is cleansed, and presented to the deceased. The deceased then rides the funerary horse toward the ancient kingdom of the ancestors. Thus the happiness and positive energy of the deceased is passed onto their descendants.


The horse’s origins as related by Naxi researcher 和力民 He Limin:


In the very beginning, the great roc and the peacock were the father and mother of the horse. Together they laid nine pairs of white eggs, which many animals came to try and incubate, but none could hatch the horse. In the end, the eggs were carried to a lake by a stream of water, where the White Wind and the Black Wind blew, creating a large wave. The wave crashed the eggs against a cliff face, causing the eggs to crack, and the horse was born.

The horse, the wild horse and the yak were all brothers from the same father but different mothers. The horse and the wild horse held a test of strength, which the wild horse lost, and the horse and the yak fell out. The horse said to the wild horse, “go and throw in your lot with man”, but the wild horse replied “man eats the meat of the animals, wears the skin of the animals; I will not throw in my lot with them, but turn instead to Shu [the Naxi God of nature].” The horse said “man will feed me wheat in a silver dish, and bring me water in a golden bowl”, so the horse threw in his lot with man, and became the domesticated horse.

A ball of fire fell from the sky, landing on the palm tree to which the domesticated horse was tied. The palm tree burnt to the ground, and the horse fled. Man went into the mountains looking for the horse, taking with him a lump of salt and grains of red wheat. When man found the horse, the horse said that it had had three nightmares. Man consoled the horse, saying that the dreams were not nightmares, but good portents. Man also promised in front of the Gods that he would care for the horse, and never eat its meat or wear its skin. Man then helped the horse take revenge on its brothers, killing the yak and shooting the will horse. He then used the yak’s meat and the wild horse’s heart as a sacrifice to the God of Victory, and used the blood of the wild horse to purge the God of Victory of uncleanliness.


The wild horse is substituted for a wild donkey in some versions of the story.

2 thoughts on “Origin of the Horse

  1. Hello,
    I am very interested in THE ORIGIN OF THE HORSE.
    I love the short version.
    I want to know the full version of this story.
    With my thanks in advance
    French artist

  2. Hello,
    If you are interested, I painted a picture of “The origin of the horse” after the Dongba script, which you can find on my website: http://www.philhelm.com

    Thank you in advance

    92 rue Mélanie
    67000 STRASBOURG
    French artist

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