A House on a Horse

Last week, after I wrote about the term mashang” (on the horse) and how it’s being used to express the hopes and wishes for the Year of the Horse, a reader in China sent me this photo. It’s a play on the New Year’s Greeting, “mashang you fang,” which conveys the wish that this is the year to own a home. The literal translation, of course is “the horse is on the house.”


Yup, there it is….the house is on the horse!

Thanks, NG, for the photo!

On the Horse

I’ve been meaning to write about this for awhile, and there’s no better time than today, the first day of the Year of the Horse!

One of my favorite Chinese expressions is mashang (马上), which can be translated as “immediately,” or “right away.” It is used to convey that something is about to happen.

Q:Ni shenme shihou lai?  (When will you be here?)

A. Mashang!  (Soon!)

Or, waiting to see someone in an office….

Qing zuo. Ta mashang lai.  (Please have a seat. He will be with you shortly.)

What’s fun about this expression is that it is made of up two characters (ma and shang). Ma means horse and shang means on. So a literal translation would be “on the horse.”

Q: When will you be here?  A: I’m on the horse.

Please have a seat. He’s on the horse!

As you can imagine, the puns on this first day of the Year of the Horse are coming fast and furious, with New Years greetings making use of this phrase to indicate the imminent arrival of wealth and good fortune.

Nothing illustrates this more brilliantly than this funny video flying around the Chinese Inter-webs: Minions 2014 Chinese New Year / Year of the Horse! (I couldn’t stop laughing!)

(If you receive this post by email, click here to watch the video.)

Here’s a rough translation: 

Horse, horse horse….the Year of the Horse is here!

You’ll get whatever you want.

It’s coming right away.

In the Year of the Horse, you’ll get money, a house, everything!

The Year of the Horse is here!

We Wish You  Happy New Year.

Men, women, old, and young are all happy.

Mashang kuaile! (Happiness is on the horse!!!)

And if I’m ever late to an appointment with you, remember, “I’m on the horse!”