The Chinese had a different name for the Silk Road.
They called it the Horse Road,
a three-thousand mile route over mountains, desert, steppe
to a green basin ringed by mountain range.
There, a powerful horse grew on the grasses of the Ferghana Valley.
A horse swift and lean, built for endurance,
Barrel-chested, short-legged, long-necked
Bred for the mountain, the desert, the steppe,
A horse to carry an emperor’s cavalry.
A hundred thousand men crossed mountain, desert, steppe,
armed with weapons and the secrets of silk
to seize or negotiate the exchange of horses.
Heavenly horse, celestial being,
rumored to sweat blood,
rumored to fly higher than the swallows,
rumored to carry its rider to immortality.
Notes: An ekphrasis is a poem that describes a work of art. The Flying Horse of Gansu is a bronze statue made in China sometime in the second century CE. It likely depicted a Ferghana Valley horse, much prized by Emperor Wu.