The Year of the Water Tiger
新年 Xīnnián, the Chinese New Year, also known as 春节 Chūn Jié, is the most important festival of the year for China with epic celebrations. It is a 16 day event starting on New Years Eve and ending on the lantern festival. 新年 Xīnnián dates back over 3,000 years, and this year begins on February 1st.
In China, each New Year symbolizes one of 12 zodiac animals and an element. This year it is the Water Tiger. Tigers are the third of the Chinese zodiacs.
The tiger, also known as the king of the mountain, is associated with strength, bravery, sternness and exorcising evils in Chinese culture. The markings on its head resemble the Chinese character 王 ’wang’ which means King. This fearless royal creature is often portrayed in Chinese classical literature and performance arts by story tellers, singers, poets and artists. Tigers often serve as the main protagonist in folklore.
The Five Great Tigers
In Ancient Chinese Mythology there are 5 tigers that are believed to keep chaotic cosmic forces in balance, preventing the universe from collapsing:
- White Tiger: Ruler of Autumn and Governor of the Metal element
- Black Tiger: Ruler of Winter and Governor of the Water element
- Blue Tiger: Ruler of Spring and Governor of the Earth element
- Red Tiger: Ruler of Summer and Governor of the Fire element
- Yellow Tiger: the Supreme Ruler of all tigers and symbolic of the Sun
The 5 tigers each have their own cosmological, astronomical, philosophical and geodetic concurrence. For instance, the White Tiger reigns in the West; the Black Tiger – in the North; the Blue Tiger – in the East; the Red Tiger – in the South and the Yellow Tiger inhabits the entire Earth.
A 7,000 Year Tradition
According to some of the Buddhist teachings, tiger skins represent transformation of anger into wisdom and insight, and wearing them at the time of meditation and exploration of astral dimensions brings protection from spiritual interference and potential harm.
It is said that at the time of a tiger’s death, its spirit enters the earth and acquires the form of amber and so the Chinese call the gemstone amber “Soul of the Tiger”.
Tigers are often painted on walls in temples and homes facing the entrance to scare off thieves, evil spirits, and to protect from fires and illnesses. The Chinese people have expressed reverence for this animal for thousands of years. Reportedly the earliest unearthed tiger statue dates back to about 7,000 years.
The tradition continues today: children receive gifts of clothes, shoes and bedding embroidered with tigers to protect them from the evil eye and to ensure they stay vigorous.
From everyone here at Si Jin Bao, 恭喜發財 Gong Xi Fa Cai! Wishing you happiness, prosperity, and a 新年快乐 xīn nián kuài lè Happy New Year!