Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Four Animals of the Four Quadrants of the Heavens

The Han Dynasty Chinese cosmologists distinguished Four Creatures of the World and since then have become deeply rooted in Chinese mythology. These animals are the Blue Dragon, White Tiger, Red Bird(Phoenix), and the Black Tortoise. Each creature represents one of the four world directions, seasons, and "elements". Sometimes there are five animals because every once in a while the snake will be depicted with the Black Tortoise.

The Blue Dragon:
The Blue Dragon is the corresponding guardian of the East. It is also the emblem of spring, the color blue/green and the element wood. The dragon also controls rain. The dragon is often depicted with the Red Bird also known as the Phoenix. This pairing is the symbol of the imperial spouses (Dragon representing the emperor and the Phoenix is the embodiment the empresses) because of the symbolic personification of conflict and wedded bliss.

The Red Bird (Phoenix):
The Red Bird is the directional guardian of the South. It is symbolic representation of the season Summer, the color red, the element of fire and the virtue of knowledge. The Red Bird also had to the power to make seeds grow into large trees. It appears only in times of good fortune singing its enchanting song.

The Black Tortoise:
The Black Tortoise is the figure of the North. It is also the symbol of the season winter, the color black, and the element water. It is also the embodiment of longevity, wisdom, and faith. It is often depicted with the snake because it is believed that their union engendered the universe.

The White Tiger:
The White Tiger is the symbol of the West. It is also the emblem of the season fall, the color white, the element metal, the wind, and the virtues of righteousness and observation. The Tiger is also the motif of a protector. The Chinese considered the Tiger the king of all the animals and lord of the mountains. It is also known as the Chinese god of war.


Schumacher, Mark. "Four Guardians of the Four Compass Directions." Onmark Productions. Mark Schumacher. Web. 15 Nov. 2009. .


  1. Did you ever find any photos of these figurines with the colors they are said to be?

  2. No. I attempted too but I had very little luck. I found one picture but it was super small.