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mah (ม้า, 马)

Thai-Chinese-Vietnamese for ‘horse’. In Thai, this word, also transcribed ma, carries a high tone and is not to be confused with the same word (mah), that has a rising tone and means ‘dog’. The Chinese name for ‘horse’, is also mah (), but is pronounced with a (low) falling-rising tone, while in Vietnamese the word ma (mã) is used, as in Bach Ma, i.e. ‘White Horse’, the name of a 220 km² National Park (fig.) in central Vietnam, between the Hai Van Pass (fig.) and the city of Hué (Huế). In feng shui, the horse is considered auspicious and is associated with success and fame, and two horses together stand for a strong partnership in either business or marriage. In China, seven horses together may symbolize the unification of China (fig.) under its first Emperor Qin Shi Huang Ti (fig.), whom unified his kingdom with 6 others, each represented by a horse. Besides this, the horse is the seventh animal in the Chinese zodiac (fig.). It represents strength and energy, and those born in the Year of the Horse are said to have an outgoing personality. The horse features on many a Thai postage stamp, including the Songkraan Day Postage Stamp, issued in 2002 (fig.). Many of the horses found in Thailand are small in size and are mostly used as beasts of burden and to a lesser extend for riding, especially by the army and hill tribe people, who mostly use a smaller kind of horse called mah klaeb (fig.). Horses are also used in the making of antivenom for snakebites. The venom is injected into horses, who consequently produce the serum (fig.). In legends and mythology, the horse is the mount of several characters, including Xuanzang (fig.), i.e. Tripitaka (fig.), Tinh Toa La Han (fig.), i.e. Nakula (fig.), and —sometimes in addition— it may also appear as a character in its own right, e.g. Yulong Santaizi (fig.) and Kanthaka (fig.), or in stories associated with horses, such as Nang Kaew Nah Mah (fig.). In most Asian cultures, the horse is presents the yang feature of nature, as well as the fire element in the Five Elements. This might have given rise to the fire-breathing horse of iron (fig.) in the Vietnamese folk story of Thanh Giong. See also Ashwin, equestrian iconography, and mah mangkon.