The tiger has always featured heavily in Chinese culture and tradition. It has long been revered as a symbol of strength and power, and a subject of awe and fear.
The tiger is the third sign of the Chinese Zodiac, and is thought of as Ruler of the beasts on Earth. A person born in the year of the Tiger is courageous, optimistic, tolerant and generous. They can expect a long life, and were born to command, not to obey.
The Chinese have interpreted the marking on the tiger's forehead as the pictogram Wang, also a common family name, meaning "king". Or rather, because of the tiger's power as king of the forest and the marking on its head, the marking was adopted into the Chinese language meaning "king". The Tiger is a yang animal, and is associated with the powerful male principle of courage, bravery, dignity and austerity. The Tiger is also known as the King of the Mountain, and it is said that it has the power to drive away evil. In times of war a Tiger's head would be painted onto soldiers' shields to terrify the enemy.
In Chinese folklore, tigers are believed to be such powerful creatures that they are endowed with the ability to ward off the three main household disasters -- fire, thieves and evil spirits. A painting of a Tiger is often hung on a wall inside a building facing the entrance to ensure that demons would be too afraid to enter. Even in modernChina, children wear tiger-headed caps and shoes embroidered with tiger heads to ward off evil spirits and sleep on tiger-shaped pillows to make them robust. During the year of the tiger, children have the character Wang painted on their foreheads in wine and mercury to promote vigour and health.
In ancient China, the tiger was the principal animal god and was known as the Guardian Spirit of Agriculture, believed to drive away the Drought Demon.
It was believed that after 500 years a Tiger would turn white, and could then live for 1,000 years. When a tiger died its spirit would enter the earth and become Amber. The original term for Amber was 'Soul of the Tiger'.
The tiger symbolizes dignity and prestige: The sign in the courts of ancient China"Huipi Sujing" - meaning "Silence and Respect"; "Tiger Tally" - a tiger-shaped tally issued to generals as imperial authorization for troop movement, and the tiger skin covered seats of heads of bandits in ancientChinaall convey this aspect.