I know little about horses. Did the Chinese think horses were arrogant? Why?

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Above is Yellowbridge above. Below is Oxford Chinese Dictionary (2010) p 365.

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3 Answers 3


A horse might not directly represent 'arrogance', but status, wealth, power, elite, proudness, and unruliness are all potential cause of arrogance

  • Owning horses was a sign of wealth and power in the time most of the population were farmers

  • The number of horses you were allowed to use for a carriage indicated your status, No matter how wealthy you were, if you were not a noble, you could not have a four horses carriage and only the emperor could use a six horses carriage

  • Only Elite warriors ride horses

  • Wild horses are proud, unruly

Notice: 'proud' and 'arrogant' are very similar, differ mostly in degree of outward expression. 'proud' is more likely the original meaning of 骄 and 'arrogant' is a logical extension


Tl;dr: Simply put, yes (point 1.). But there are etymological uncertainties (points 2. and 3.).

  1. I do not think ownership or riding of a horse (i.e., the horse-owner or -rider) contributes etymologically to the meaning of the character. That is to say, I believe this is rather far-fetched.


  1. The above is the Shuowen explanation for : a six-feet horse. 'Sturdiness' (or 'strength', see 驕陽, 'scorching sun') and 'pride; arrogance' are probably derived from its impressive stature. (Shuowen also gives the explanation 'a wild horse'. Duan Yucai (段玉裁) from the Qing Dynasty thinks 'arrogance' arises from here: 一曰野馬。凡驕恣之義當是由此引伸。) At any rate, there is semantic extension from an equine adjective to a general adjective.

  2. How credible is Shuowen? It gives the Shijing citation 我馬唯驕, but this is not found in existing versions of Shijing. We find in place of in Brilliant are the Flowers (皇皇者華):





    here functions like a copula,1 suggesting syntactical equivalence between 我馬 ('my horse') and the characters containing the 馬-radical. It is therefore fairly certain that , , , and are types of horses, or equine adjectives. In fact, they mean 'young horse', 'piebald horse', 'white and black-maned horse', and 'gray horse' (trans. James Legge) respectively.

  3. We are certain that should also be a type of horse, or an equine adjective; the only uncertainty is whether there is equivalence between (a six-feet horse) and (a young horse). Duan Yucai, with the help of two other Odes, argues the original character should be , but it was changed to for the sake of rhyme (with and ; 三詩義皆當作驕而俗人多改作駒者,以駒與蔞株濡諏爲韵。驕則非韵。). Logically, young horses can yet be ridden (駒未可駕車。故三詩斷非用駒本義。); therefore Duan is a proponent of retaining in the verse.

1 呂珍玉(2007)《詩經》「維」字用法與詞義研究。興大人文學報,38,33–72。


I found this this, is simplied 驕.

马高六尺为骄……本义为马壮健。引申指“自满,自高自大,不服从” 、“猛烈”

A horse with six (ancient Chinese) feet hight is 骄 whose original meaning is "strong horse", gradually it was used to describe pride / arrogant or unruly related meanings.

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