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Tiger in Chinese Culture

Tiger is a very special animal in Chinese Culture. The pattern on the forehead of a tiger is very similar to the Chinese character which means "king", so Chinese people believe that tiger must be the natural-born king.

Tiger is a fierce and powerful beast that is normally considered extremely dangerous for human. However, in traditional Chinese culture, tiger is also a lucky symbol. Tiger, together with other lucky animals such as Chinese Loong (formerly translated as dragon) and Kylin (formerly translated as unicorn), is the protector of Chinese people. While almost all the lucky animals in Chinese culture are fictional, tiger is the rare one that exists in real world.

The Chinese adore tiger for many reasons. For instance, it was written in the Book of Rites as early as over two thousand years ago that "tigers are good for people because they eat boars, which are harmful to crops in the field". That book also says cats are good for people because they eat rats. From this we can see how powerful a tiger is: it can catch boars as easily as a cat can catch rats. Powerful, helpful and beautiful, tigers are almost perfect.

In China, tiger is often used to metaphorize great people. Energetic young people are called "litter tigers", which shows people's expectations in them. Traditionally, children would wear hats and shoes made in the shape of a tiger's head in the New Year time for the belief that tigers would protect them from evils.

However, because of what people have done to the environment for the last century, the number of tigers has been decreasing at a tremendous speed. There are still quite a number of tigers in the zoo, but the wild tigers are almost extinct. China is the hometown of tigers, but wild tigers have not shown up in China for decades. It is a sorrowful pity for all the people that love tigers. If tiger really went extinct in the future, people might say that it was fictional just like the rest of the Chinese lucky animals! How tragic! Please protect and save tigers!

Editor: Feng Hui

New Year Customs

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