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Four Symbols (Chinese constellation)

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The Four Symbols (Chinese: 四象; ||pinyin]]: sì xiàng) are four mythological creatures in the Chinese constellations. They are the Azure Dragon (simplified Chinese: 青龙traditional Chinese: 青龍; ||pinyin]]: qīnglóng) of the East, the Vermilion Bird (Chinese: 朱雀; ||pinyin]]: zhūquè) of the South, the White Tiger (Chinese: 白虎; ||pinyin]]: baíhŭ) of the West, and the Black Tortoise (Chinese: 玄武; ||pinyin]]: xuánwŭ) of the North.

Each one of them represents a direction and a season, and each has its own individual characteristics and origins. They have been portrayed in many historical Chinese and Korean myths and fiction, and also appear in many modern manga and anime.

The Four Symbols were given human names after Daoism became popular. The Azure Dragon has the name Meng Zhang (孟章), the Vermilion Bird is called Ling Guang (陵光), the White Tiger is named Jian Bing (監兵), and the Black Tortoise is called Zhi Ming (執明).

In 1987, a tomb was found at Xishuipo (西水坡) in Puyang, Henan Province. There were some clam shells and bones forming the images of the Azure Dragon, the White Tiger, and the Big Dipper. It is believed that the tomb belongs to the Neolithic Age, dating to about 6,000 years ago.[1]

Correspondence with the Five Elements

Cernuschi Museum 20060812 042

A Han-dynasty pottery tile emblematically representing the five cardinal directions

These mythological creatures have also been synthesized into the 5 element system. The Azure Dragon of the East represents Wood, the Vermilion Bird of the South represents Fire, the White Tiger of the West represents Metal, and the Black Tortoise of the North represents Water.

Additionally, there is a fifth legendary beast, Huáng-lóng (黃龍), also called the Yellow Dragon of the Center. It is associated with the cardinal direction of "center," and its element is Earth.[2]

Correspondence with the Four Seasons

The four legendary beasts (excluding Huáng-lóng; see above) represent a season each. The Azure Dragon of the East represents Spring, the Vermilion Bird of the South represents Summer, the White Tiger of the West represents Autumn, and the Black Tortoise of the North represents Winter.

See also

References

  1. 孙德萱. "濮阳西水坡蚌壳龙虎图案研究述评" (in Chinese). XinHuaNet. http://www.ha.xinhuanet.com/xhzt/2007-05/25/content_10127699.htm. Retrieved 11 May 2011. 
  2. "A Brief History of Chinese and Japanese Civilizations: Third Edition.", Schirokauer, Brown, Lurie, Gay. (2006) ISBN 0-534-64307-8

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