By Cal Widdall
Ma Yuan, a Han General, once claimed, “Horses are the foundation of military power, the great resources of the state but, should this falter, the state will fall.” However, after almost two thousand years of protecting the northern and western borders, China is gradually putting its once-vital cavalry out to pasture.
As of 2009, China has less than 150 horses for military use, but this number was once in the hundreds of thousands. Since the 4th century BC, the effective use of mounted soldiers regularly changed the course of battles in Asia, shifting the balance of power between civilisations and forming the countries and borders we know today.
A variety of weapons, from simple bamboo staffs to crossbows, were wielded by these mounted warriors and, due to the time and effort taken to train each war horse, the animals were often adorned with intricately designed armour to protect them as well as their rider.
As with much of China’s heritage, technological advancements have displaced traditional methods. In an age of tanks, stealth bombers and atom bombs, the Chinese cavalry is being rendered obsolete.
The second squadron of the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region now stands as the only remaining mounted troop of The People’s Liberation Army. Above are some pictures of these anachronistic remnants of the Chinese cavalry training, camping and frolicking in Maodeng pasture Xilinhot, Inner Mongolia (Courtesy of The People’s Daily).