Languages › Mandarin The Purpose and Meaning of the Chinese Character for Horse Share Flipboard Email Print The horse is an incredibly important part of Chinese characters. coolbiere photograph / Getty Images Mandarin Understanding Chinese Characters Mandarin History and Culture Pronunciation Vocabulary By Qiu Gui Su Chinese Language Expert Qiu Gui Su is a native Mandarin speaker who has taught Mandarin Chinese for over 20 years. our editorial process Qiu Gui Su Updated November 04, 2019 Horses are a big part of Chinese culture. Countless ancient Chinese paintings and sculptures are of horses due to the animal's importance in military excursions as well as being one of the 12 animal zodiac signs. The word for horse also plays a large role in the Chinese language. From its use as a radical to sounding out Western names in phonetic translations, the Chinese character for the horse has a wide range of use. Learn how to write and say horse in Chinese. You will be surprised by how learning this simple word can help you recognize other Chinese characters and phrases with more ease. Character Evolution The Chinese character for the horse used today derives from a pictograph of a rearing horse with its front legs in the air and its mane flowing in the wind. Using your imagination, you can still recognize the shape of a horse when looking at the traditional character for horse, 馬. The horizontal strokes that make up the upper half of the character look like the horse's mane. The four shorter strokes at the bottom represent four legs. And the stroke on the lower right that looks like a hook is supposed to be the horse's tail. However, the simplified form replaced the four legs with a single stroke and removed the horizontal lines on the top. In its simplified version, the character for a horse in Chinese looks like 马. Radical Chinese radicals are the part of a character that categorizes words based on definition or pronunciation. The character for horse, 馬/马 ( mǎ), can also be used as a radical. The horse radical is used in more complex characters, many of which are used to describe characteristics of horses. As an example, here is a short list of characters that contain the horse radical: 騵 - yuán - chestnut horse with white belly 騮 / 骝 - liú - bay horse with black mane 騣 - zōng - bristles; horse's mane 騑 - fēi - horse with yellow back 駿 / 骏 - jùn - spirited horse 駹 - máng - black horse with a white face 駱 / 骆 - luò - camel 駔 / 驵 - zǎng - powerful horse Mandarin Vocabulary With Mǎ Besides vocabulary related to horses, 馬/马 (mǎ) is commonly used as a phonetic in foreign names, some of which are included in this table. Traditional Characters Simplified Characters Pinyin English 阿拉巴馬 阿拉巴马 Ā lā bā mǎ Alabama 奧克拉荷馬 奥克拉荷马 Ào kè lā hé mǎ Oklahoma 巴哈馬 巴哈马 Bā hā mǎ the Bahamas 巴拿馬 巴拿马 Bā ná mǎ Panama 斑馬 斑马 bān mǎ zebra 大馬士革 大马士革 dà mǎ shì gé Damascus 羅馬 罗马 luó mǎ Rome 馬達加斯加 马达加斯加 mǎ dá jiā sī jiā Madagascar 馬來西亞 马来西亚 mǎ lái xī yà Malaysia 馬蹄鐵 马蹄铁 mǎ tí tiě horseshoe 喜馬拉雅山 喜马拉雅山 xǐ mǎ lā yǎ shān the Himalayas 亞馬孫 亚马孙 Yà mǎ sūn Amazon Continue Reading Do You Know the Chinese Character for "Left"? What Does "He" in Chinese Really Mean? How Do You Say and Write "You" in Chinese? What Does the Chinese Character 日 (rì) Mean? Why Are Fish So Important in Chinese Language? Learning the Building Blocks of Chinese Characters Here's How to Talk About the Chinese Zodiac in Mandarin Choosing Chinese Baby Names for Boys How Are Strokes Used in Chinese Writing? Is There a Specific Stroke Order for Writing Chinese Characters? How Many Chinese Characters Do You Really Need to Know? What Does the Chinese Character 早 Mean? Learning to Write Chinese Characters by Hand "Rice"; "Food"; "Meal" in Chinese Tips on How to Read Chinese What Does the Chinese Character 家 Mean?