By Ginny A. Roth
This 1491 woodcut illustration from the herbal Ortus Sanitatis shows the horse, a symbol of nobility, class, speed and perseverance in the Chinese culture. The Year of the Horse, the Chinese year 4712, begins today, January 31, 2014. The Chinese New Year remains the most important social celebration on the Chinese calendar. Also known more recently as Spring Festival, the Chinese New Year is also the longest festival on the Chinese calendar, running from Chinese New Year’s Eve, the last day of the last month, to the Lantern Festival on the 15th day of the first month. Although younger generations have adopted the Spring Festival to be a time of relaxation, traditionally the holiday celebrates the home and family with reunions, feasting, dancing, and decoration.
Ginny A. Roth is the Curator of Prints & Photographs in the History of Medicine Division at the National Library of Medicine