An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History, Literature and Art

baihu 白虎, the White Tiger

Aug 20, 2012 © Ulrich Theobald

The "White Tiger" (baihu 白虎) is an inauspicious animal in Chinese mythology. It symbolizes war, death, capital punishment, and also, in a cosmological sense, the direction west, autumn, and decay. The other cardinal directions are represented by the Green Dragon 蒼龍 (east, spring), the Red Phoenix 朱雀 (south, summer) and the Black Turtle 玄武 (north, winter).

Figure 1. Red Phoenix and White Tiger
Rubbing of a relief stone from the Han period, showing a door knocker in the shape of a fierce animal (pushouxian 鋪首銜) between a red phoenix and a white tiger. In front of the phoenix, a winged person (yuren 羽人) can be seen who holds a magic mushroom (lingzhi 靈芝) and a plate (filled with a cinnabar pill?) in his hands. 94 × 175 cm. Excavated in Dongguan 東關 in Fangcheng 方城, Henan, and kept in the Nanyang Painting Museum of the Han Dynasty (Nanyang Hanhua Guan 南陽漢畫館). Source: Zhongguo meishu quanji bianji weiyuanhui 《中國美術全集》編輯委員會, ed. (1993). Zhongguo meishu quanji 中國美術全集, Huihua bian 繪畫編, Vol. 18, Huaxiangshi huaxiangzhuan 畫像石畫像磚 (Shanghai: Shanghai renmin meishu chubanshe), no. 167.
Yuan Ke 袁珂, ed. (1985). Zhongguo shenhua chuanshuo cidian 中國神話傳說詞典 (Shanghai: Shanghai cishu chubanshe), 131.