Baihu - The White Tiger

The White Tiger Of The West

Baihu (白虎 in Chinese), also known as Byakko in Japanese, Baekho in Korean or Bạch Hổ in Vietnamese, is one of the Four Symbols or Four Guardians in several East-Asian mythologies. He's the legendary White Tiger of the West and represents the color white which, according to the Wu Xing (or 5 Phases) Chinese theory of elements, represents the west. He also represents the element of metal and the season of Autumn.

According to Chinese legend, when a tiger reaches 500 years of age its tail turns white. It would only appear when the reigning Emperor ruled with absolute virtue and when there was peace throughout the world. In this way, the white tiger gained a mythical status and came to represent the metal element of the Wu Xing and everything the metal element itself represents.

The Four Guardians & The Wu Xing

Originating in China and based on several principles of Taiji (notably the Bagua, or 64 Trigrams), the Four Guardians each represent a particular color, element, cardinal direction, season and virtue, among other things, tied to the ancient Chinese metaphysical theory of Wu Xing.

The Wu Xing was an integral part of ancient Chinese theology and was consulted for everything from predicting weather patterns to the locating auspicious building sites for both civil and religious construction projects.

The Forbidden City itself was constructed according to these principles. For example, the city was laid out with four major entrances, each facing a cardinal direction. The Emperor sat on a throne facing south, which was a symbolic and auspicious direction for the ruler to reign from.

Each of the Four Guardian's colors represents a specific virtue and it became the norm for newly established dynasties to legitimize their rule by sending out auspicious signs in the color that matched the virtue their new dynasty would embody.