GUARDIANS OF THE SKY’S FOUR QUARTERS, INHABITANTS OF THE MANSIONS OF HEAVEN. A little information concerning the Long Xiu 龍宿, or the Dragon’s Mansion, the Dragon’s home in the vault of heaven.
In classical Chinese astronomy, the heavens were represented as a great, circular formation, divided into four quarters called si xiang四象, or quadrants, and each quadrant represented a direction; North, East, South, and West. Each direction also represented a season. Each of the four directions is ruled by a specific guardian deity, represented in Chinese mythology as wondrous animals, all of whom have seven helpers, lesser deities that are very much like wizards familiars in the west. These four guardian animals were called the the four directions, Siling 四靈, for a few thousand years, and they became known as the four great gods, Sishen 四神, a little over a thousand years ago.
In Japanese, they are called “shijinjou” 四神獣 , the four divine guardian deities of the compass points. They live in “shijinsouou” 四 神相応, the ideal land for Taoist gods, with a river in the east, a broad avenue in the west, plains in the south, and hills in the north.
Where these Guardians and their familiars came from, and how they gained their attributes, is another story, which I may post in the future. Also, these mythologies traveled from China, north and east through Korea, to Japan and also south and west to other parts of Asia. Many of these concepts and characters are used in modern Chinese, Korean, and Japanese Manga, Anime, TV, Movies, and Games.
With the popularity of Anime in the west, I thought I would introduce these characters and concepts for the enjoyment of my readers who also follow the Manga and Anime. First, a note about the languages. Chinese and Japanese are not written using the English alphabet. The characters used in all of these languages convey cultural, historical, and subtle meanings which cannot be translated to western words. Also, each culture has a different way of writing in the western alphabet. The Chinese way is called Pinyin, and the Japanese way is called Romaji.
Here the characters are printed after the western words, and if the Chinese and Japanese characters are the same, only one set is printed, the Chinese. They came first, the Japanese borrowed them.
Although I speak Japanese and have studied Chinese a lot, I have only a little knowledge of Hangul, the Korean language, and so cannot list names and characters from the Korean mythology.
Here we will start with the descriptions of the major Gods, and then the familiars, and an explanation of some of their relationships.
North is Winter, guarded by a Black Tortoise 玄武 , called Xuan Wu in Chinese and Genbu in Japanese. (The black Tortoise is also called the Black Warrior in Japanese mythology).
East is Springtime, guarded by a Green Dragon 青龍, Qing Long in Chinese, and Seiryu in Japanese.
(The Japanese call it a “Blue” Dragon, because in Japan, green is considered a shade of blue).
South is Summer, guarded by a Red Phoenix 朱雀, Zhu Que in Chinese, and Suzaku in Japanese.
West is Autumn, guarded by a White Tiger白虎 , Bai Hu in Chinese, and Byakko in Japanese.
The skies’ four quarters then, are each divided into seven areas, really seven positions of the moon during each season, and roughly corresponding to western constellations, for a total of 28 different constellations or minor gods, called “Xiu” (宿), in Chinese (Xiu means Mansion, Palace, or place), and “Seishuku” (星宿) in Japanese (Seishuku means constellation). Each of these constellations is identified as a minor god, which acts as a tool of the guardians.
Chinese Pinyin English Name Japanese Romaji Name
東方青龍 Qing Long The Green Dragon of the East Seiryu
角 Jiao Horn Suboshi
亢 Kang Neck (Throat) Amiboshi
氐 Di Root Tomo
房 Fang Room (Chamber) Soi
心 Xin Heart Nakago
尾 Wei Tail Ashitare
箕 Ji Winnowing-basket Miboshi
北方玄武 Xuan Wu The Black Tortoise of the North Genbu
斗 Dou Dipper Hikitsu
牛 Niu Ox (Cow) Inami
女 Nü Girl (Woman) Uruki
虛 Xu Emptiness Tomite
危 Wei Rooftop Umiyame
室 Shi Encampment (Room) Hatsui
壁 Bi Wall Namame
西方白虎 Bai Hu The White Tiger of the West Byakko
奎 Kui Legs Tokaki
婁 Lou Bond Tatara
胃 Wei Stomach Kokie
昴 Mao Hairy head Subaru
畢 Bi Net Amefuri
觜 Zi Turtle beak Toroki
參 Shen Three stars Kagasuki
南方朱雀 Zhu Que The Red Phoenix of the South Suzaku
井 Jing Well Chichiri
鬼 Gui Ghost (Ogre) Tamahome
柳 Liu Willow Nuriko
星 Xing Star Hothori
張 Zhang Extended net Chiriko
翼 Yi Wings Tasuki
軫 Zhen Chariot (Sadness) Mitsukake
中方黃龍 Huang Long The Golden Dragon of the Center, the earth.
There is one other god, Huang Long – The Golden Dragon of the Center, the earth. This dragon is of the Earth, not of the Heavens. The Golden Dragon Protects the earth and the communities of earth, including the animals, people, and elements.
For those of you familiar with Anime, the Fushigi Yuugi Manga Books and Anime Shows are based on characters all taken from this mythology, using their Japanese names, and they appear as human beings. Appearing as different living beings is referred to as using an Avatar; in this Anime, the avatars are all Japanese young adults.
So, if you are writing and need a world, a dragon, a place or time or attitude for your creations, here is a ready made, beautiful, and mysterious world.