Image of Tigers head

Tigers In Culture And Folklore

Tigers have long held a sense of mysticism and intrigue for their power, solitary lives and courage. They have played integral roles in ancient and modern cultures and folklore; being used to represent various characteristics and symbolisms through the centuries.

The age-old cultures that exist in places like India, China and Japan have used tigers excessively in their various folklores, tales and myths. Thus, these animals have become important parts of a number of different cultures’ identities.

Image of green bar
image of A detail of a worn painting on a wall in a Tibetan temple in Nepal.
A detail of a worn painting of a tiger on a wall in a Tibetan temple in Nepal.

Tigers have long held a sense of mysticism and intrigue for their power, solitary lives and courage. They have played integral roles in ancient and modern cultures and folklore; being used to represent various characteristics and symbolisms through the centuries. The age-old cultures that exist in places like India, China and Japan have used tigers excessively in their various folklores, tales and myths. Thus, these animals have become important parts of a number of different cultures’ identities.

Here are just some of the different ways in which tigers are included in the cultures and folklore of different countries:

•The tiger is one of the 12 Chinese Zodiac animals.
•Tigers represent royalty in eastern Asia. In fact, the marking on the tiger’s forehead looks very similar to the Chinese character that is translates to the English word “King”; that is, • Therefore, the tiger has been dubbed the King of the Animals.
•The White Tiger represents the west of China as well as the season of autumn. It is one of the Four Symbols of the Chinese Constellation.
•They are the national animals of Malaysia, South Korea, Bangladesh and India.

Image of green bar
Image of green bar

•It is the earth symbol in certain Chinese martial arts, rivalling the Dragon. The Tiger represents matter and the Dragon represents spirit. This is why many of the martial art movements are based on the way a tiger is built and the characteristics of its movement.
•Instead of the Westernised werewolf, Asia believes in a weretiger that can change forms from a human being to a fearsome tiger and vice versa.
•Hindu goddess, Durga, is depicted as a warrior riding a tiger. She has 10 arms and rides her tigress, named Damon, when going into battle.
•Because of its stalking and hunting abilities, the tiger was used to represent the highest army general in the armies of Imperial China.

Image of green bar

•In the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, a tiger was used to represent the Korean athletes and fans since it is so strongly associated with this country’s culture.
•Buddhists consider it to be one of the three senseless creatures. These are the 1) tiger (representing anger), 2) monkey (representing greed) and 3) deer (representing the feeling of being lovesick).
•Many Koreans believe that, when a tiger has endured many trials and has come to a special understanding of the way in which the world works, it becomes a White Tiger.
•The Korean culture believes that tigers are guardians that will oust evil spirits and bring good luck. Therefore, they will frequently have pictures or statues of tigers in their homes or even as jewellery.
•Rudyard Kipling included the vicious tiger, Shere Khan, in his famous piece of children’s literature, The Jungle Book.
•Tigger is the goofy, energetic friend of Winnie the Pooh in AA Milne’s writings of the same name.
•Calvin & Hobbes is the cartoon depiction of a young boy (Calvin) and his imaginary friend, a tiger called Hobbes. With this friend in tow, Calvin learns about life through the eyes of an inquisitive, intuitive toy tiger.

Image of green bar

Image of green bar