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Flying Horse, East Han Dynasty.Bronze. Gansu Provincial Museum. Gansu Museum 2007 257.jpg
Flying Horse, East Han Dynasty.Bronze. Gansu Provincial Museum.

Tianma (天馬Tiānmǎ, "heavenly horse") was a winged flying horse in Chinese folklore. It was sometimes depicted with chimerical features such as dragon scales and was at times attributed the ability to sweat blood, possibly inspired by the parasite Parafilaria multipapillosa , [1] which infected the highly sought-after Ferghana horse (大宛馬), sometimes conflated with Tianma.

In the Western Zhou Empire, Tianma referred to a constellation. [2] Tianma is also associated with the Han dynasty emperor Wudi, an aficionado of the Central Asian horse, [3] and the famous poet Li Bo. [4] The bronze statue Gansu Flying Horse is a well-known example.

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  1. Schafer 1985, p. 295, note 19.
  2. Rutt, Richard (2002). The book of changes (Zhouyi): a Bronze Age document. Routledge. p. 331. ISBN   0-7007-1491-X.
  3. Kuwayama, George (1997). Chinese ceramics in colonial Mexico. University of Hawaii Press. p. 32. ISBN   0-87587-179-8.
  4. Wong, Laurence (2019). Thus Burst Hippocrene: Studies in the Olympian Imagination. Cambridge Scholars Publishing. p. 269. ISBN   9781527526150.