Tiger in Chinese Culture
In China, tiger symbolizes power and daring. To this day, images of tigers and dragons are often paired off on walls of temples. The Chinese adore tigers for some reasons, tigers eat boars which are harmful to crops in the field, just like cats which eat rats. Tiger can catch boar as easily as a cat can catch rat. Tiger is also called as king of the mountain by the Chinese.
This fearless creature is also revered as the sign that wards off the main disasters of a household; ghosts, fire and thieves. A tiger painting is often hung on the wall inside the building facing the entrance, in this way the “demons” are scared away and cannot enter. The head of the tiger used to be painted on soldier’s shield in order to make the enemy terrified. Tiger is also associated with the God of Wealth (Tsai Shen Yeh), this god is often seen sitting on a tiger in Asian art.
The pattern on the tiger’s forehead is very similar to the Chinese character “Wang” which means King, therefore the Chinese believe that people who born in the year of the tiger are natural-born leader.
Traditionally, children would wear shoes and hats made in the shape of a tiger’s head in the Chinese New Year time for the belief that the tigers wuold protect them from evils. Such decorations are very common in children’s things as they believe children are relatively more vulnerable. Tiger is also considered as the protector of the dead in Asian lore, and they are used as a mark of protection in graves assuring peace for those who have passed.
On the other hand, sometimes tiger can also be seen as a symbol of violence, danger and even evil. This is probably because tigers would often come out of the woods and terrorize small villages in ancient China. Tiger is a powerful and fierce beast that is considered extremely dangerous for human. According to Feng Shui experts, displaying tiger painting or sculpture especially a fierce, hungry tiger (with its mouth open wide) is not good and not recommended as it can cause the owner or people living in that house a lot of problems. The white tiger carries Yin energy according to Chinese astrology. In fengshui, the white tiger represents the cardinal direction of the west and its element is metal.
Facts About South China Tigers
Just a century ago, there were 8 subspecies of tiger on earth but now there are only five – Sumatran tiger, Indo-Chinese tiger, Panthera tigris, Siberian tiger and the South China tiger. In the early 1950s there were about 4,000 South China tigers in the country but now there are only less than 100 and 60 of which were bred in Shanghai Zoo. Approximately 3,000 tigers were killed over 30 years, they were officially hunted as a pest but in 1979 the government banned the hunting.
The South China tiger (Panthera tigris amoyensis), also called as the Xiamen tiger is native to the forests of Southern China and this tiger is considered to be the ancestor of all tigers. The South China tiger is also the most critically endangered of all the living tiger subspecies and it has been recently listed as one of the world’s 10 most endangered animals.
This tiger can only be found in central and southern parts of China. The tiger was first identified in the mid-19th century by an American naturalist in Amoy of China, it was given the name Panthera tigris amoyensis in 1905 by a German animal taxonomist named Hilzheimer.
The South China tiger is one of the smallest subspecies of tiger (1.8 – 2 m long and weight about 330 pounds) and the female is even smaller (1.6 m and some 240 pounds). The young reach maturity for mating at abuot 4 years old and the gestation period around 103 days with 1 – 4 cubs being born at a time. It takes about 20 months for the cubs to live with their parents until they can hunt and kill prey for themselves.
The South China tigers prefer to hunt ungulates, such as antelope, deer and wild boar. These tigers are also good swimmers but not good at climbing trees. Other surprising fact is that the only zoo’s that have these tigers are in China.