The revered and iconic tiger is part of these five mythological Chinese creatures. A recognition by the Chinese people of their admiration for this iconic species of wild cat which has to be juxtaposed against the ironic culture in certain sections of China where they have decided that eating tiger body parts improves their health or sexual prowess but destroys the animal in the wild. Perhaps the two go together, on reflection, because if a species is revered and admired that much, humans want a piece of it to improve themselves and the only way they can achieve that is to eat it. But it is a form of madness to want to kill the animal that you admire. That’s my introduction and now to these mythological creatures.
These creatures are described in a classic Chinese text called Classic of Mountains and Seas which is the source of this information. It is a book which is also known as Shan Hai Jing. Some parts of the text may originate from the fourth century BCE (BC or before Christ). It is a collection of Chinese mythology and a cultural account of pre-Qin China. I believe this to be Qin Shi Huang emperor of Qin dynasty born c. 259 BCE, Qin state, northwestern China—died 210 BCE, Hebei.
The book was believed to have been written by a series of authors over a period of time.
Tian Wu (天吴)
This is a God described as having the body of a tiger but with eight legs, eight tails and eight heads with human faces. The colour is cyan and yellow. It is said that the Wu tribe worshipped this God. They believed it to be the God of water and that it could control flooding and swallow up clouds and fog and call upon the wind and rain.
Bi An (狴犴)
This mythological creature was said to be born from a tiger mother and it takes the form of a tiger-dragon. It is a hybrid animal and the father must’ve been a dragon. Statues of Bi An can be seen, apparently, over some prison gates in China to keep guard over the inmates because this mythological hybrid enjoys litigation!
Bi An protects people and can tell between right and wrong. There is therefore this legal context for this mythological creature. You might find the creature in official government buildings perhaps to encourage the employees to make the right decision between right and wrong.
Lu Wu (陆吾)
This creature is also known as Kai Ming Shou (开明兽 kāi míng shòu) which means “enlightened beast”. It is described in the Classic of Mountains and Seas. It has nine tails, a human face on the body and paws of a tiger. It is a mountain god residing over Kun Lun Mountain. And the guardian of 9 of the 36 Heavens. And reported to be the guardian of the Palace of Kun Lun in the Yellow Emperor’s capital.
Qiong Qi (穷奇)
This creature according to the Classic of Mountains and Seas enjoys eating humans starting at the head! It has wings and the body of a tiger. During battle, legends say that Qiong Qi flies overhead and swoops down to devour the person who provided the most just argument and even bites the noses off anyone who is loyal to that person. An unpleasant beast by the sound of it. The creature releases beasts to fight for the wrongdoer and encourage more evil deeds. This is a creature which encourages evil and suppresses good.
The name of the creature was (and still is?) used to describe a person who had no empathy for others and behaves like a villain.
Bai Hu (白虎)
This means “white tiger” in English. It is one of the original “Creation Gods” and has been worshipped and revered for thousands of years. It is the god of war and death and embodies majesty, bravery and justice. Some believe it brings fortune and wards off evil and can be seen on the flags of armies depicted alongside the dragon. I have written a page about this mythological creature which you can read by clicking on this link if you wish.