Chinese New Year Activities: Write the Horse Character

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Searching for Chinese New Year activities? Chinese New Year 2014 falls on January 31, and this year will be the year of the Horse. The wooden horse, to be more specific.

We thought we would keep it simple this year by learning how to write the horse character in Chinese. Okay, maybe not simple, but you won’t need to gather a ton of supplies.


(Okay, you can totally just use a pen and paper to try this, but you won’t get nearly the same lovely effect)

I have to admit, I’m not totally clear on the character for horse, because there are 2 characters in use today that differ between different Chinese-speaking areas. Those are the last 2 in the below image. The first 4 show how the character has evolved through time. Isn’t that cool to see?

history of Chinese character for horse

image credit

We pulled out some india ink and white card stock and got to work learning how to write ‘horse’. I wanted to try to write with bamboo skewers, for no other reason than to see how they would write. We used both them and a small watercolor brush.

Chinese character - horse


The traditional brush to use for this would be something like this Sumi brush. I found this video to show us how to do the strokes, and we practiced. After a while, you find your hand gets to learn how to do the strokes, and it feels a lot like drawing.


I couldn’t just leave it at that, though. I pulled out the watercolors to turn this into a full-fledged art project. The character has evolved beyond looking quite like a horse anymore, but it was fun to take the abstract character and sort of paint in an abstract horse using the character as the basis.

Chinese New Year project • Artchoo

Chinese New Year horse project •

Smitten with the horse character? This site will give you a brief explanation of the history of the horse character in Chinese writing.

Extra fun: Sneak a peak over at your Chinese zodiac predictions for the year in this article, but make sure you look up what your Chinese zodiac sign is first (It doesn’t go strictly by year).

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  1. 01/13/2014 / 10:36 am

    What a fun idea for an art project for Chinese New Year. Yours came out beautifully! And it would go so well with some of the books on our list today… just sayin’.

  2. 01/16/2014 / 7:50 pm

    I love that you present Chinese calligraphy as an art form. It is! Just like watercolor! My kids are learning Chinese and think that writing Chinese characters is torture! But it isn’t! It’s art!

    • 01/19/2014 / 4:24 pm

      Chinese calligraphy is gorgeous, and it’s so challenging to try to get the strokes correct. Maybe you should tell your kids they have to learn all the old characters that predate the modern simplified script as well! Ha! I’m such a mean mom.

      • 02/05/2014 / 10:27 am

        Thank you! And my pleasure 🙂

    • 02/02/2014 / 1:31 pm

      Oh my gosh! It’s so fun and gratifying to see people actually doing the projects I put on here! I LOVE the horses your kids made, and thanks so much for linking back!

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