An Asian Bestiary | Horse
HORSE WHIP, ORNAMENTED
Catalog No: 70 / 8505
Known to many of their neighbors as the people of the horse, the Sakha (formerly Yakut) inhabit an eastern Siberian landscape, a region they entered on horseback in the 13th and 14th centuries. Horses have remained central to the symbolic universe of the Sakha. A century ago, a wealthy Sakha woman might ride to a Mid-summer Festival on a finely decorated saddle and carry a horsewhip trimmed with silver as a mark of pride and a central symbol of Sakha identity. Sakha still celebrate the Mid-summer Festival with drinks of fermented mare’s milk and those who can, proudly wear traditional costumes.
SHADOW PUPPET, MANMADA RIDING HORSE
Catalog No: 70.2/ 5894
Horseback riding, a common theme in Indian shadow puppetry, was considered a mark of nobility and power. Horses were not native to the geography of India and were fantastically visualized as images and clay or cement objects that were given as offerings to the Hindu gods in rural temples. Shadow puppets, as a theatrical mode of performing nobility, became increasingly satirical. In Andhra Pradesh, performers, mainly traveling storytellers, peddlers, and entertainers, wander across Indian villages singing ballads, telling fortunes, doing acrobatics, and putting on puppet shows.

Shadow puppetry has been used to transmit knowledge of Hindu epics, local folktales, and news across the nearest and most remote villages in India. Often referred to as the dance of leather puppets, Tholu Bommalata, its characters are made out of three types of animal skin: antelope reserved for gods and epic heroes, spotted deer for warrior and demonic figures, and goat for all others.
 
SHADOW PUPPET (HORSE-LOWER LEGS MISSING)
Catalog No: 70.2/ 7131
Horseback riding, a common theme in Indian shadow puppetry, was considered a mark of nobility and power. Horses were not native to the geography of India and were fantastically visualized as images and clay or cement objects that were given as offerings to the Hindu gods in rural temples. Shadow puppets, as a theatrical mode of performing nobility, became increasingly satirical. In Andhra Pradesh, performers, mainly traveling storytellers, peddlers, and entertainers, wander across Indian villages singing ballads, telling fortunes, doing acrobatics, and putting on puppet shows.

Shadow puppetry has been used to transmit knowledge of Hindu epics, local folktales, and news across the nearest and most remote villages in India. Often referred to as the dance of leather puppets, Tholu Bommalata, its characters are made out of three types of animal skin: antelope reserved for gods and epic heroes, spotted deer for warrior and demonic figures, and goat for all others.
NETSUKE, JURO STEALING A HORSE
Catalog No: 70.3/ 671
In Japan, horses were historically associated with Samurai warriors, whose code of conduct was known as “the way of the horse and bow.” Samurai were expected to master the difficult task of shooting a bow and arrow from the back of a galloping horse. Made of carved ivory, this netsuke shows one of the famous Soga brothers – Juro and Goro – stealing a horse from a farmer to avenge their father’s murder at the hand of a cousin who had sided with the reckless and corrupt shogun. Based on a real life event in 1193, the story of the two brothers remains popular in Japan, revealing the everyday familial contexts that drive complex relations of power, honor, and vendetta.
 
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