The 2014 International Akhal-Teke Horse Association (IATHA) Special Conference took place in Beijing in May. Representatives from over 60 countries were in attendance. As this is the Year of the Horse, the China Horse Industry Association concurrently put on a China Horse Cultural Festival. The Akhal-Teke horse of Turkmenistan is symbolic in China as they are recognized as the Emperor’s horse and known as the magical Ferghana horse. The theme for the conference was “Peace, Heritage and Dream”.
A groundbreaking ceremony for the new 200 square km Qinglonghu Horse Park, to be known as the China Akhal-Teke Horse Industrial Park, was held on May 13th in Fangshan District. This park symbolizes the unbreakable Sino-Turkmen friendship. Two thousand years ago Akhal-Teke horses travelled the Silk Road from the area that now is Turkmenistan to China. Horses are considered a connector for all Sino-Turkmen affairs.
Along with the horse training centers and international race tracks the park will include on-site stud farms and a breeding center, a horse trade center, an international equestrian school and research center, polo fields, a children’s pony club, horse culture museum and equine hospital. The Yida International Investment Group and China Horse International Holdings are developing a complete international community in the horse park, including living space, a shopping center, a tourism park, an exhibition area and trade center as well as a health and wellness center.
At the Sino-Turkmen Friendship Exhibition the Turkmenian National Equine Association and the China Horse Industry Association entered into the Strategic Cooperation Agreement as a Sino-Turkmenistan horse Industry. The cooperation agreement represents a milestone for the horse industry of the two countries that have been joined through the Silk Road and the Akhal-Teke horse for two millennia. Today, the Chinese public is not only close to their magical Ferghana horse but there is also a better understanding of the history of friendly exchanges between the two countries through these horses.
The President of China, Xi Jinping, and the President of Turkmenistan, Gurbanguly Berdymuhamedov, along with Xi Youling, President of the China Horse Industry Association, met with representatives of the participating countries at the commencement of the conference and both attended the grand opening ceremonies.
President Berdymuhamedov noted that not only is the Ferghana horse is a national treasure of Turkmenistan, but a symbol of the long history between the two nations. President Jinping talked about the important role of the horse in Chinese culture and how they act as cultural representatives. But in fact these horses not only enhancing mutual understanding and friendship between these two cultures, but also among all the numerous nations that now love these Heavenly Horses.
The Imperial Ancestral Temple in the Forbidden City, also known as the Working People’s Cultural Palace, was the perfect location for the holding the conference. My favourite talks were inside the Front Hall, traditionally used for the worship of ancestors. I learned about military and economic developments and the trade uniting the people along the Silk Road leading to the development of civilization as we know it. I was fascinated by the art presentations as it tied the history of horses and the Silk Road to today. The opening and closing ceremonies were also held at the temple. They were artistic extravaganzas of dreamy and magical proportions, involving singing and dancing of both the Turkmen and Chinese, along with high tech graphic projections.
The performance followed the story of a boy and his colt and their travels along the Silk Road throughout history as they grow up together and arrive at the Forbidden City. The famous 17th Century Turkmen poet, Mahetumu Curry, was included on this journey and whose verse, through four hundred years, into the Imperial Ancestral Temple, one of the world’s oldest ritual buildings.
“…Young Turkmenians / United, heart in heart / Are powerful enough to melt stones. As a family feasts together / A rosy prospect is in store for Turkmenistan. / It is free and great to ride a horse swiftly galloping / As fast as the arrow flies, cliffs on each side move backwards, / Ruby light bounces.”
Zhang Yimou is the ambassador for the International Akhal-Teke Horse Association, while Jackie Chan, whom we were also lucky enough to hear sing at the opening ceremonies, is the ambassador for the Chinese Horse Festival. The IATHA Special Conference, Horse and the Silk Road Forum, had a variety of international forums that not only included information on breeding and medical care of the Akhal-Teke horse, but also involved art, academic research, culture, history, industry and politics.
A highlight of my trip was meeting Li Shufeng, the Assistant Director of the China Photographers Association. At the conference I was extremely impressed with his presentation of his Silk Road photography. Mr. Li Shufeng treated me to a special tea on the last morning before my flight:
The Extraordinary Meeting of the Akhal-Teke Horse Association and China Horse Industry Cultural Festival will be the last chapter of my latest photo-journal of the Turkmen Horse Holiday, so more information is coming soon!
See all the photos from this trip in the CHIA Beijing gallery.