SONG: Blood Sweat Horses (Hàn Xiě Mǎ)


“Blood Sweat Horses (Hàn Xiě Mǎ)” [Download]
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ARTIST: grant.

SOURCE: Based on “Mausoleum find rekindles ancient Chinas blood sweating horse legend, Archaeology Daily, 21 February 11, as used in the post “Blood. Sweat. Horses.”.

ABSTRACT: I have little to say about the writing and recording of this song – it’s funny, I suppose, that the one song I write that actually has to do with Chinese history and legends is the one that I didn’t find a part for any of these Chinese instruments I have around my house. No erhu. No hulusi. No sheng. Just guitars and bass and drums and un poco ukulele y un poquito piano.

The story here should be obvious. I started writing the words while riding my bike on a misty morning, and thought, you know, maybe some archaeology student in Shaanxi was bicycling just like that while eyeing that other cute grad student over on the other side of the street as they headed out to the dig, knowing they were excavating legendary creatures from the past when no one else in town had a clue. I liked that thought.

Oh, and nb, “han xie ma” is literally “sweats-blood-horses.” I hope I got the pronunciation about right.

A warm mist rose
over the rain-slicked roads
and every leaf was alive
We rode across
the overpass
by the village general store

Cold green tea
And protein bars
Shovels and brushes and plumb lines
The handlebars twisted
like reins in my hands
and the sky looked ready for a war

And armies clashed in the traffic
As we made our way to the site
No one around us could see what we saw
Digging back to life… these

Blood. Sweat. Horses.

And time was not so crowded
with all these spirits on the streets
Campfires bring out the smoke in your eyes
These are not memories – between us

Secrets hung like smog overhead
When we left the noise behind
Pedaled past these mortal engines
Out to the dust where the empire died

The general store clerk is a general
The noodle stand’s run by spies
Hiding behind their legends
Keeping the stories alive… of our

Blood. Sweat. Horses.
Hàn Xiě Mǎ