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Make a Wish upon the Horse – 马上

Make a wish upon a… Horse? Bringing New Year’s Tidings on “Horseback”.

As many of you may know, the Spring Festival began on January 31, marking the beginning of the new Chinese year of the horse also known as Chinese year zodiac. To celebrate this new occasion, the Chinese have come up with a new fashion. Since 2014 is the Year of the Horse, people want their new year’s wishes to be brought by “horse” with a photographic play on words.

The Chinese word for “horseback” is 马上, where 马 (mǎ) means “horse” and 上 (shàng) means “on”. The exact same two characters also mean “soon” or “immediately.” With this humorous play on words, Chinese netizens hope that their new year wishes will come “immediately” in 2014. For example, some people placed a toy gorilla on horseback to wish for a raise in their salary, because the words for gorilla(猩xīng) and salary(薪xīn )have characters with phonetic similar.


But what about the two elephants shown on top of the horse? Another Chinese pun. “A pair of elephants”, in Chinese, is 对象 (duì xiàng), which also means “partner” (boy/girlfriend). The 3 stacked animals actually is someone’s wish to find love in their life.


But what if somebody wants everything for the New Year: love, money, happiness? What do they put?

Easy, just put an eggplant on the back of the horse! The word 一切(yí qiè) means “everything” and “one eggplant” is 一茄(yì qié).


So, what do you wish to be brought 马上 in 2022? Leave a comment below telling us here at DigMandarin.

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Eva Salustino

Eva Salustino is a Brazilian student who has been learning Mandarin Chinese for 1 year and a half. She enjoys reading about Chinese history and culture and hopes to someday travel to China. She would love to share her learning experience with all the learners and make more friends here.

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