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China has been a major agricultural country since ancient times. The use of horses as farm implements and means of transportation gave rise to hitching posts. The hitching posts of early days were made from timber. But are left to this day are mostly those made of stone during the Ming and Qing dynasties. Today, the hitching posts have long lost its practical value, but their artistic value is becoming increasingly appreciated.
The art of the hitching posts finds expression in the carving of the capital and neck of such a post. Round sculpture is integrated with relief and linear carving, and the motifs run the gamut from the Sakyamuni cult and Confucius preaching his doctrines to Lao Zi riding a buffalo, the Eight Immortals of Taoism, and the duke of Zhuang consulting some wise men. There are also such auspicious animals and plants as lions, unicorns, magpies, sweet-scented flowers, and celestial grass. These motifs are mostly derived from historical tales, folk legends, celebrations and festivals, and traditional operas.
The hitching posts, besides their practical purpose for lassoing draft animals, also served to show off the prosperity of a family in old days. Some of them stand as tall as 3 meters - they were obviously not for hitching horses but served as symbols of a family's social status and cultural attainment.
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