Dressed in a hide coat, wool pants, and leather boots, the rider was buried with her saddle “placed on her buttocks as if she was seated on it,” the team note. And it clearly isn’t just for show: the saddle shows “[o]bvious traces of repair,” they write, showing that it was “intensively used and maintained” throughout its lifetime.
Recently, an international archaeological team discovered the earliest known saddle at an excavation site in China. The saddle was found in a tomb in a cemetery in Yanghai, Xinjiang, China. The tomb was built for a common woman who was wearing what seems to be a 'saddle' - positioned so it looks as if the deceased person was still sitting upon it - as if in life.
Research shows the tomb owner and saddle are from about 2,700 years ago. Previous research has found that the domestication of horses first occurred around 6,000 years ago, although during the initial stages of domestication, the animals were used solely as a source of meat and milk. It is thought that horse riding took another 1,000 years to develop. Shortly thereafter, riders began looking for ways to cushion the forces of riding.
Researchers believe saddles likely originated as pads strapped to a horse's back. The saddle found is constructed externally from cowhide and is internally padded using deer and camel hair - as well as straw filling. This saddle was designed to assist riders sit with greater stability whilst sat on horseback - so that arrows could be fired from a bow with greater accuracy - whether the horse was standing still or engaged in movement.
There are no stirrups on this Xinjiang saddle - as is to be expected. However, a simple stirrup has been found in ancient India dating to the 2nd century BCE - but stirrups were not used by the Greeks or Romans and did not appear in Europe until the 8th century CE. This saddle found in China predates the ancient saddles previously found in the Central and Western Eurasian Steppes. The earliest known saddles date back to between the 5th-3rd centuries BCE - leaving researchers to conclude that China is the earliest known civilization in the world to have designed, made and used saddles.
Chinese Language Text:
English Language Text:
2,700-Year-Old Saddle Found In Ancient Chinese Tomb Is Oldest Ever Discovered
I was introduced to these movements in my youth - as a foundation to learning 'Old' (Yang) Taijiquan! In those days traditional training from a Chinese teacher was never questioned. The onus was on 'secrecy' - as if no one else possessed the knowledge just shared (today, the emphasis in China is upon an open sharing). I was told that the outer bodily positions-structures guided the qi energy with greater force into (and through) the five sets of corresponding inner organs thus strengthening and purifying them.
These exercises are established upon the theory of the 'Five Phases' (五行 - Wu Xing) - first found in the 'Classic of History' (書經 - Shu Jing) - probably linked to the five planets visible to the naked-eye of the ancient civilisations:
Tiger Liver-Gall Bladder
Monkey Heart-Small Intestine
Crane Lung-Large Intestine
As the 'Bear' is the central animal influence of our gongfu family style - this practice was seen as establishing (and enhancing) the rooted and central stability (and strength) this animal represents (the 'spirit' of the bear involves the practitioner suddenly standing-up and appearing much bigger and over-powering). According to the English language Wiki-page - this 'Five Animal Interplay' exercise is linked to the development of Hung Gar and Fujian White Crane (Bak Hok)!
The way I was taught this exercise involved 'morning' practice (yin moving to yang) and 'evening' practice (yang moving to yin) - with the movements staying the same. Unlike the 'connected' flow shown in the above video (a different style or method) - I was taught 'single' structure exercises that started with feet shoulder-width apart and hands by my sides. After assuming and holding the required position - the structure was completely dropped away back to the 'ready' (neutral) position - in preparation for assuming the next (different) position. I was taught that all these five movements exist implicitly in the Taijiquan Form - and so eventually I was no longer required to practice them separately.
The point is to bring an end to all greed, hatred and delusion in the mind, body and environment. Although this a distinctly ‘Buddhist’ solution to the ills of life – generally speaking, it is also the solution of most ‘secular’ models of reality! An individual can choose their path and express their development in any way they wish or see fit – but in the end a definite ‘purification’ process is experienced which changes the inner and outer being forever! Inner peace is expressed through a deadly martial technique that is NEVER personal but always ‘indifferent’ and in a state of continuous ‘healing’ of humanity, the world and everything in it! Although wild animals can be extremely dangerous in their natural habitats – nevertheless it is important not to produce thoughts of ‘anger’ or ‘violence’ when taking suitable action to ‘avoid’ the danger.
This is using wisdom. Sometimes, even wild animals can be seen responding to ‘kindness’ in a manner that is considered very unusual! Even domestic pets can be difficult – but this is all the more reason to maintain a sense of inner and outer peace. Human-beings, by way of contrast, are often far more dangerous with their habitual anger and potential violent outbursts! Traditional gongfu training prepares human-beings for the maelstrom of combat in the outer world – whilst maintaining a calm inner terrain that remains ‘unruffled’ regardless of circumstance. Life can be hard, but it can also be beautiful, truthful and full of justice! The point is to always be ready to build upon the foundation of ‘peace’ and make the world a better place for everyone to live!
The physical techniques of the martial arts exist to empower an individual to protect their bodies, their community and their nation. The inner path is universal and transcends these narrow categories of potential violence! If combat happens, then the qualified Shifu must fight to prevail and never lose any encounters! However, this ‘victory’ should never be allowed to happen through ‘anger’ as this is ‘low’, ‘corrupt’ and ‘despicable’! As a situation can change in an instant, a martial artist must always be prepared to ‘adjust themselves to circumstance’ and never let a prejudiced view of reality take over the ‘flow’ of combat and conflict resolution. On the other hand, when combat must be successfully engaged within, then the sheer ‘weight’ of the cultivated ‘inner peace’ must quite literally ‘crush’ the violence that exists in the mind and body of the opponent! Peace must prevail over all.
Shifu Adrian Chan-Wyles (b. 1967) - Lineage (Generational) Inheritor of the Ch'an Dao Hakka Gongfu System.