Riding the Dragon: A Journey Through Every Chinese Province

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Condition: New. Ended: May 01, PDT. Shipping: Does not ship to Germany See details. Item location: US, United States. The glow-worm Lampyris noctiluca is common across from Europe into Asia, it is the female that gives the brightest glow to attract males. Symbolically it stands for beauty, perseverance and loyalty. He went on to pass the exams and became a senior government official. The hare has its place in the astrological zodiac of twelve animals. It was thought that the gray shape on the moon is the form of a hare where it accompanies the goddess of the moon Chang'e while mixing the elixir of immortality , and this associates the hare with longevity.

A red hare is an auspicious animal and appears when rule is virtuous. There are legends that a hare becomes pregnant by gazing at the moon or just licking the fur of the female. Horses as pasture animals feature more in ancient times when the center of civilization was further north around the Yellow River.


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Horses came from central Asia, Mongolia and Tibet. The god of war Guan yu Guan di rode a red-haired horse. Horses are associated with the element metal and west. Eight horses drew his chariot with which he toured the provinces in search of the palace of the Queen Mother of the West.

In the Tang and Mongol dynasties - both peoples from the northern pasture lands - horses were greatly admired animals and appear in a wide range of artwork. Horse meat was and is still eaten in China and medicines are made from body parts. One Tang Emperor had a troupe of dancing horses to keep him entertained. In symbolism a horse laden with goods is a wish for a government post. It often also indicates swiftness.

A picture of an official on horseback under a canopy and accompanied with nine other people, commemorates the legend of Liang Hao Song dynasty who passed the Imperial Examinations at the age of 84, a symbol of dogged determination. Although the lion has never dwelt in China, it is a common art motif with lion statues guarding the entrances to temples.

Although some lions were given to the emperor as tribute from vassal kingdoms most knowledge of the beast came indirectly so representations are often more like pet dogs than fierce cats. The lion is usually depicted resting on the ground with forefeet pointing outward and is mostly associated with Buddhism. At entrances to temples the lion on the right is male and holds a ball in its paw while the left lion is female and holds a cub. A pair of lions symbolize happiness and wish for a prosperous career. The number of curls of hair on the lion's mane used to be a measure of seniority, a high official would have up to 13 coils of hair on lion statues outside his home.

A lion was also the emblem of some grades of official. The lion dance was traditionally associated with the Lantern festival but is now seen on other Chinese festivals. If the dancing lion can be enticed into a home it will bring good luck. The monkey is seen a cheeky, irreverent creature in China always bringing fun and laughter. Monkeys live in central and southern China but not in the north. It has a high place in the zodiac of twelve animals. In southern China some minority people were presumed to be the descendents of monkeys.

Monkeys were considered able to drive away evil spirits and for this reason were worshiped and tolerated near houses.

A legend has a monkey stealing the peaches of immortality from the garden of the Queen Mother of the West Xi wang mu and so a monkey is often depicted carrying off a peach. Two monkeys in a pine tree symbolize a wish for promotion to last many generations. The ox has for centuries toiled in the fields of China. The same character niu is used for oxen; water buffalo as well as cattle.

Because it is such a useful animal some Chinese will not eat beef, although this custom may come from the India because of the ban in both Hinduism and Buddhism. It is an animal of proverbial strength and water buffalo are often associated with rivers and water. Beef tea has for long been considered a potent medicinal tonic. At New Year the Emperor himself dug a ritual furrow with an ox-driven plow. The ox is associated with spring plowing ; harvest and fertility and is one of the twelve animals of the zodiac. The panther and the same character denotes leopards as well symbolizes the taming of cruelty.

They were uncommon animals in China and do not feature greatly in paintings. The pig has long been domesticated in China. It is one of the twelve zodiac animals. It is a very widely eaten meat — except by the sizable Muslim population — so symbolically it represents feasting.

A legend has it that the founder of the Khitan people of northern China had a pig's head and so the Khitan people would not eat pork. A superstition to protect new born babies was to give them pig's trotters for shoes and a pig head mask so demons would think it was a pig not a human and leave them alone. The rat is rather surprisingly the first in the cycle of twelve zodiacal animals , the story goes that a rat was smart enough to jump onto the back of the ox to get to the head of the queue of animals when they were being named.

Symbolism of Animals in Chinese Art

It is considered a ' yin ' female animal. The constant activity of rats has been paralleled with the acquisitive action of misers and so rats are associated with money. In one legend it was rats that brought rice to people's attention as a nutritious food.

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However it is also thought they can turn into demons ; some legends have them becoming quails at spring time. Rats and squirrels are often shown with trailing plants such as vines to give the wish for generations of children. If rats move into your house it is a bad sign as cats will follow and it indicates the house will soon be derelict and abandoned. Not so long ago the local rat catcher would demonstrate his skill by laying out bundles of rat corpses on the street.

The herbivore is now restricted to a few localities just south of the Himalayas, Indonesia and central Africa. It could originally be found in Sichuan and then also in recent years in Thailand and Vietnam. It has for two thousand years been hunted because its horn was considered the best antidote to poison and impotence. The horn is in fact modified hair and is made up of coarse filaments. Cups made of rhino horn were said to detect any poison in their contents.

Cities of the Orient

Poachers still hunt wild rhinos because its horn fetches its weight in gold in Vietnam and China. Its hide was considered impervious to weapons. The immortal Cao Guojiu has a belt made of rhino hide. In symbolism the rhinoceros appears as an emblem for one grade of court official.

It is also one of the eight precious things. Sheep are one of the twelve animals of the Chinese zodiac.

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It also represents docility and satisfaction. The character is an ancient pictogram of the animal showing its horns and body as seen from above.

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Mutton is considered a strong source of yang energy. Lamb and mutton are commonly used by the Muslim Hui minority as a substitute for pork. It is one the five noxious creatures with centipede ; gecko ; scorpion and toad. A snake is one of the twelve astrological year animals. Snakes are considered wise and cunning but treacherous. As a snake sloughs its skin it may symbolize transformation. It also symbolizes fertility and flexibility and the female yin element. The ancient deities Fuxi and Nuwa are often portrayed with snake-like lower halves. There are not that many venomous snakes in China, the few that remain are in Guangxi , Yunnan and Guangdong.

The meat of the snake is eaten quite widely and it is a common ingredient in traditional medicine particularly snake liver. Snakeskin is considered a lucky charm. The spider is considered a lucky creature because it dangles from its web on high and so symbolizes good fortune descending from the heavens. It may specifically signify the return home of a son. On the negative side it sometimes takes the place of the scorpion in the tally of five noxious creatures. The tiger is the chief of wild animals and used to be widespread in China. It proved useful as it kept down the population of wild boar that threatened crops.

It is a zodiac animal and represents bravery. Rather strangely for such a fierce animal it is regarded as yin , particularly when shown together with a dragon that represents yang. The God of Wealth sometimes rides on the back of a black tiger. It was heavily used as a military emblem with soldiers wearing tiger suits to frighten the enemy.

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They are commonly pasted up on walls as a talisman during Chinese New Year. Because it is such a powerful animal many parts of the tiger were considered equally powerful medicine and to this day tigers are hunted to supply the Chinese market for medicinal potions. As a tiger was supposedly never seen to limp, its bones were considered a cure for arthritis.