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Glossary
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ancestor: someone from an earlier generation; for example, a parent, grandparent, or great-grandparent.

archaeology: excavation of artifacts and objects from ancient times, used to develop plausible hypotheses about the lives and times of past civilizations.

artifact: any object made by people in the past.

barbarians: the word ancient Chinese used to describe all non-Chinese, in particular the nomads who lived north and west of the Great Wall.

bixie: guardian figures, usually imaginary beasts.

bronze: a metal made from copper, tin, and lead.

Buddha: (means "the Enlightened") the Prince Siddhartha of the Guatama clan (ca. 563-483 BC) in northern India. According to tradition, he tried and rejected first the life of luxury and then a life of poverty and in 528 BC achieved enlightenment and began to teach.

Buddhism: a religion that spread from India to China.

calligraphy: the art of writing beautifully.

chariot: a horse-drawn vehicle that usually has two wheels and is used in battles.

chop: a stamp or printing block used in Asian art as a form of signature or as a designation of quality.

concubines: women of lower legal and social status than wives, who were, however, fully recognized mates. They were brought into a man's home in part to produce heirs, and their children were fully legitimate.

Confucianism: a philosophy of life developed by Confucius. It stresses the proper relationships in society, such as father/son and subject/ruler.

Confucius: (551-479 BC) classical philosopher. He was an itinerant scholar-official, trying to influence the policies of the great lords of the various classical states. He propagated a philosophy of life that was to be very influential throughout Chinese history.

culture: the ideas, customs, skills, arts, etc. of a given people in a given period; civilization. Can also refer to archaeological objects of a culture.

Daoism: a philosophy of life founded by Laozi. It draws on nature as a guide.

dynasty: a succession of rulers from the same family or line; a family group that maintains power for several generations.

emperor: Imperial ruler of all lands.

Emperor Qin Shi Huang: first emperor of all China; the ruler/warrior responsible for the unification of China under one rule. He brought about changes still in practice today: standard measurement, currency, language, characters, etc.

equine: a horse (n.) or something related to horses (adj.). Common for equus. Correctly speaking, the term includes all members of the family Equidae: horses, zebras, and asses.

Equus: The genus Equus includes horses, asses, and zebras. The horse is the species Equus caballus.

eunuch: a castrated male servant.

excavate: to carefully dig up buried objects to find information about the past.

foot binding: the practice of wrapping the feet of female children very tightly so that they would remain small. It often crippled Chinese women so they could walk only with pain.

glaze: a liquid that is painted on to the surface of a piece of pottery. It gives a smooth, shiny finish after firing.

Great Wall: a long wall that the Chinese built to keep out nomadic tribes from the north and west. It was expanded and rebuilt several times under different dynasties.

jade: a hard, white to green stone used for making jewelry and ornaments.

junk: a Chinese sailing ship.

kiln: an oven in which pottery and porcelain objects are dried and hardened at very high temperatures.

Manchus: a tribe of the Jurchen group, originally from the northeast part of present-day China. In 1644 they invaded China and established the Qing dynasty.

Middle Kingdom: The Chinese name for their country, so called because they believed it was the center of the world.

minqgi: spirit goods; small objects or animal figures buried in tombs as stand-ins for the real things.

Mongols: generic term for a number of Inner Asian tribes that were united by Genghis Khan in 1206.

nomad: someone who does not lead a settled life but moves from place to place, usually seeking pasture for herds of grazing animals.

oral history: the practice or tradition of passing cultural or familial information to further generations by word of mouth or storytelling. Oral histories often contain information not available in other historical forms and serve to enrich written history with human feelings and personal accounts of global events.

peasant: a person who works the land, usually for someone else.

philosophy: the study of truths about reality; the search for wisdom.

pictogram: a picture that represents a word.

porcelain: a fine, hard china, baked at a very high temperature.

Qin Dynasty: the first dynasty to unify all of China under one ruler, Emperor Qin Shi Huang (221-206 BC).

sculpture/object: three-dimensional figures or forms made by carving, casting, modeling, or assembling materials.

Silk Road: a trade route through Central Asia (200 BC-900 AD) that connected China with the nations farther west.

society: a group of human beings, broadly described as being separate from other groups by mutual interests, beliefs, and common cultural bonds.

steppes: a large grassy plain, usually without trees.

terra-cotta: brownish earth clay, from terra"earth") and cotta ("baked").

Three Great Truths: Buddhism, Confucianism, and Daoism.

vessel: a hollow container used to carry liquids; a person considered as a receptacle or agent of some quality (e.g., "a vessel of mercy"); or a voyaging craft, generally larger than a rowboat.

Xiongnu: a nomadic people of the steppes north of China who frequently invaded during the Han Dynasty. The Xiongnu are often identified with the Huns who invaded the Roman Empire in the 5th century AD.

Yin and Yang: in Chinese philosophy, the two opposing forces in the universe. Both are equal and necessary for harmony. Yang includes such principles as strong, active, bright, and male. Yin is weak, passive, dark, and female. The concept of Yin and Yang is represented by a circle with interlinking black and white halves.

Measures, Weights, and Currency

li: roughly a third of a mile or a fifth of a kilometer.

mu: a sixth of an acre or a six-hundredth of a hectare.

catty: 1.1 pounds, or roughly half a kilogram.

yuan (¥): the Chinese unit of currency, divisible into 100 "fen" and exchangeable for roughly 0.30 British pounds or $0.45. It will currently buy about six pounds of rice or wheat flour or a dozen eggs.


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