Tiger paintings reflect ethnic cultures
15:46, December 24, 2009
In order to welcome the “year of the tiger”, South Korea recently published a book named “The Tiger of the 12 Animal Signs,” which analyzed how the tiger as a cultural symbol represents the culture of South Korea, China and Japan.
South Korea’s Central Daily News reported that in the book, 16 scholars from the 3 countries analyzed and explained the appearance of tigers in areas including tiger habitats, etymology, culture, folk stories, faith, art and daily life.
The tigers in paintings from different countries are also different. Tigers in Chinese paintings usually have a round and flat face with huge bodies and their tails are relatively short compared to their bodies. Tigers in Chinese paintings can reflect the generosity of the nation.
In South Korea, tigers are elements which are very close to humans and are usually glorified or personated. In the genre painting “Magpies and Tiger,” two magpies standing on a tree branch are seemingly talking to a tiger. The tiger in the painting is amusing and lovable, and looks more like a cat than a tiger. Tigers in South Korea’s paintings can reflect the flexibility in the nation’s philosophy of life.
Japan did not have tigers in the past, and the tigers in Japanese paintings are quite unique and are neither like China’s nor like Korea’s. The Japanese painting named, “The Tiger Coming out of a Bamboo Grove” which uses a bamboo grove as the background is quite different from tiger paintings from Korea which usually use pine trees as backgrounds. After the Meiji Reform, tigers in Japanese paintings all became ferocious and quite oppressive. Tigers in Japanese paintings can reflect the individuality and the Bushido spirit.
Tigers have become extinct in South Korea, because the Japanese hunted them all in the name of “eliminating the risk of tigers” when they were ruling over Korea. Korea as a colony not only lost its tigers but also lost the traditional culture that contained tiger elements in the past.