Each one of them represents a direction and a season of the year, and each has its own individual characteristics and origins. They have been portrayed in many historical Chinese myths and fiction, and also appear in many modern Japanese comic books and animation.
These Four Symbols were given human names after Daoism became popular. Azure Dragon has the name Meng Zhang 孟章; Vermilion Bird is Ling Guang 陵光; White Tiger is Jian Bing 監兵; Black Tortoise is Zhi Ming 執明.
Additionally, there is a fifth legendary beast, Huáng-lóng (黃龍), or the Yellow Dragon of the Center. The cardinal direction associated with this animal is "centre," and its element is Earth.
It is sometimes called the Azure Dragon of the East (traditional Chinese: 東方青龍; simplified Chinese: 东方青龙; pinyin: Dōng Fāng Qīng Lóng), and it represents the east and the spring season. It should not be confused with the mythological yellow dragon that is associated with the Emperor of China.
The Seven Mansions of the Azure Dragon
Like the other Four Symbols, the Azure Dragon corresponds to seven "mansions", or positions, of the moon.*Horn (Chinese: 角; pinyin: Jiăo)
- Neck (Chinese: 亢; pinyin: Kàng)
- Root (Chinese: 氐; pinyin: Dĭ)
- Room (Chinese: 房; pinyin: Fáng)
- Heart (Chinese: 心; pinyin: Xīn)
- Tail (Chinese: 尾; pinyin: Wěi)
- Winnowing Basket (Chinese: 箕; pinyin: Jī)
Azure Dragon in different languages
The Chinese constellations were not only used by Chinese cartographers, they were also used by Korean, Japanese, and Vietnamese cartographers as well.*Standard Mandarin: Qīng Lóng / 青龍
- Japanese: Seiryū
- Korean: Cheong-ryong / 청룡
- Vietnamese: Thanh Long / 青龍
In Book of Tang, the reincarnation of White Tiger 's Star is said to be Li Shimin's general Luo Cheng (羅 成) and the reincarnation of Azure Dragon 's Star is said to be the rebellious general Shan Xiongxin (單 雄信). They two are sworn brothers of Qin Shubao (秦 叔寶), Cheng Zhijie (程 知節) and Yuchi Jingde (尉遲 敬德). Their souls after death are said to possess the body of the new heroes of Tang Dynasty and Liao Dynasty, Xue Rengui (薛 仁貴) and He Suwen (郃 苏文).
In some legends of the Tang Dynasty's general Xue Rengui, he's said the reincarnation of the White Tiger's Star. And his archenemy, Liao Dynasty's prince He Suwen is the reincarnation of the Azure Dragon's Star.
In Japan, the Azure Dragon (Seiryuu) is one of the four guardian spirits of cities and is said to protect the city of Kyoto on the east. The west is protected by the White Tiger, the north is protected by the Black Tortoise, and the south is protected by the Vermilion Bird.
In Kyoto there are temples dedicated to each of these guardian spirits. The Azure Dragon is represented in the Kiyomizu Temple in eastern Kyoto. Before the entrance of the temple there is a statue of the dragon which is said to drink from the waterfall within the temple complex at nighttime. Therefore each year a ceremony is held to worship the dragon of the east.
In 1983, the Kitora Tomb was found in the village of Asuka. All four guardians were painted on the walls (in the corresponding directions) and a system of the constellations was painted on the ceiling. This is one of the only ancient records of the four guardians.