In ancient times, the tiger (虎 or 老虎) was revered as the king of wild animals and also known as the “king of beasts”.
Nope. There is no mention of the lion king.
They were reputed to rampage through villages killing and feasting on livestock and farm animals. As such, rituals were often conducted where sacrifices were made as a symbolic gesture to tigers to in the hope that the stripped beast would stop terrorizing them and leave them in peace (not pieces).
The fear of tigers became so widespread and for a period of time, even speaking it’s name was taboo.
Because of this, it was given the alias Da Chong (大虫) which translates to big insect. Sometimes even as the king of mountains.
The ferocity of the regular orange stripped tiger gave it a reputation of a strongly yang creature. To balance it up, the white tiger was given the yin association.
Tigers are strong emblems of courage, valor and bravery.
These characteristics somehow aided the rise of the beautiful animal as capable of driving away demons.
Legends of the tiger
To ward off evil, the Chinese used practice a culture of drawing the fierce animal on their front doors.
To take this further, it became tradition to design shoes and hats with tiger heads for children so that they are protected against evil forces.
Some parents would even write the word 王 on their children’s foreheads as it resembles the stripes on a tigers head.
During Duan Wu Jie, which is the dragon boat festival, the shape of tigers are weaved with leaves to ward off evil spirits. During this festival, parents might also make pillows and blankets shaped like tigers for their children.
Then there is the story in folklore of how a lady took the tiger to court. Accusing it of indirectly starving her towards death as it had killed her son.
Another legendary tale tells of how some governors negotiated with tigers so that they would stay in the mountains.
With these tales, tigers became known to respect authority even with the feisty instinct in them.
The most infamous tiger story of all is a scene right out of the classic novel Water Margin (Outlaws of the Marsh) where Wu Song who is one of the main characters fought a majestic tiger to death. This segment of the story came to be known as Wu Song Da Hu (武松打虎).
Even in military protocols, in order to deploy soldiers for war, a tiger-shaped tally is split in half. One half kept by the emperor, and the other by the army’s commander. Only when both halves are used, can the troops be activated.
Sort of like how two keys are needed to fire nuclear warheads as we see in Hollywood movies.
Some gods are often depicted accompanied by tigers. The most well-known of which is the God of Medicine.
How these two characters came to become a duo is a rather odd story. The tiger ate a lady and have her hairpin stuck on it’s throat. It then begged the God of Medicine (Bao Sheng Da Di or 保生大帝) to help it promising never to do harm of people again. The god then removed the hair pin and the tiger followed him around ever since. This is also why temples constructed to worship the god often have statues and stone carvings of tigers.
When depicted with a boy riding on it’s back, it represents filial piety.
As you can see, there are countless cultural references made to tigers in ancient China.
It’s impossible to list them all here. So we shall move on.
Tigers in feng shui
While in Chinese culture the tiger is probably best known for being one of the zodiac signs, in feng shui the tiger is probably best known for being the white tiger on the right in land form feng shui.
The basics of putting this in practice is that the right side in orientation should be lower than the left.
It hates noise but is also not afraid of odors. This is why toilets are often suggested to be placed on the right depending on orientation should this application be useful.
While the green dragon on the left “grabs” wealth, the tiger “keeps” it.
As paintings, calm tigers are often depicted with other feng shui items. This almost always means that the animal is protecting the item’s symbolism, which give the item peace of mind to do it’s job.
When depicted with it’s teeth showing, such artwork is meant to ward off evil.
Whatever the case, it is not recommended to have tigers inside the house unless specifically advised by a master for a specific purpose.
This is because they can get moody and harm a home’s owner when disturbed.
And if you must, then remember to hang them on the right wall.
According to the relationships between zodiacs, people with the signs of horse and dog can also have them in the house as they are allies. The same can be said of the pig zodiac as they are secret friends.