Friday, March 30, 2012

The Significance and Symbolism of Turtles and Tortoises in the Chinese Culture

A great deal of turtle mythology derives from the Far East. The word “turtle” in historical literature commonly refers to both turtles and tortoises. People from the Far East began to view the turtle as a symbol of both heaven and earth. The shell of the turtle represented the heavens and the flat bottom represented the earth for these people. The Chinese viewed these creatures as more than just a symbolism of heaven and earth but also as a symbol of wisdom, endurance, wealth, and long life. They chose the turtles to represent such traits because they are one of the world’s longest enduring animals. The Chinese culture also believes that turtles have the secret of heaven and earth within their body. It was for this reason that the shells of tortoises were used in ceremonies during China’s Shang dynasty (1766-1122 BC) to predict the future. The mere fact that these animals can go without food for more than a year, while rarely contracting a disease merited reason for the Chinese culture to think that they have some supernatural powers. 
The Feng Shui turtle is one of the most popular and significant turtle figurines in Chinese cultures. This turtle is one of the four guardians of the compass. The image of a turtle with a snake coiled around it, known as the Dark Warrior, rules the North. In many of the homes of Chinese people you may see pictures of turtles or turtle figurines lying around. A picture or a figurine of one turtle is thought to bring and add support, prosperity, and wealth to the family. The Feng Shui turtle is used as an energy enhancer and a protection when placed at the back of your house. However, in order to make sure the turtle affects one positively they should orient the turtle so that the head is pointing toward the North. This orientation is thought to add support in one’s career and business projects.
                Similar symbolism is currently present, here, on Miami Universities Campus. The Sundial at the top of Central Quad has several Feng Shui turtles around it (see picture below). The Sundial is a part of Miami University’s traditions and it is thought that a student would gain good luck if he or she rubbed the head of one of the turtles. Based on the significance of the Feng Shui orientation in Chinese culture, Miami University students may want to rub the head of only the turtle facing North if they want the best luck for say an exam.

1 comment:

To Love What is Mortal said...

Cool...Where are these turtles on campus? I need to get my turtles moving in the right direction, apparently!