Black Tortoise

Black Tortoise


l=玄, black or abstruse;
武, martialism
c=玄武|p=Xuán Wǔ
j=jyun4 mou5|y=yun4 mou5
qn=Huyền Vũ

The Black Tortoise(玄武) is one of the Four Symbols of the Chinese constellations. The word for "tortoise" was taboo; and the entire entity is not just the tortoise itself, but both the tortoise and the snake. It is sometimes called the Black Warrior of the North (北方玄武, Běi Fāng Xuán Wǔ), and it represents the north and the winter season. Although its name in Chinese, "Xuánwǔ", is often translated as "Black Tortoise" in English, it is usually depicted as both a tortoise and a snake, specifically with the snake coiling around the tortoise.

The Seven Mansions of the Black Tortoise

Like the other Four Symbols, the Black Tortoise corresponds to seven "mansions", or positions, of the moon.
*Dipper (zh-cp|c=斗|p=Dǒu)
*Ox (zh-cp|c=牛|p=Niú)
*Girl (zh-cp|c=女|p=Nǚ)
*Emptiness (zh-cp|c=虛|p=Xū)
*Rooftop (zh-cp|c=危|p=Wēi)
*Encampment (zh-cp|c=室|p=Shì)
*Wall (zh-cp|c=壁|p=Bì)


In ancient China, the tortoise and the snake were thought to be spiritual creatures symbolising longevity. During the Han Dynasty, people often wore jade pendants that were in the shape of tortoises. Because of ancient Chinese influence on Japan, honorific titles and badges in Japan often referred to the tortoise or images of tortoises.

Historic Reference

In the classic novel, Journey to the West, "Xuánwǔ" was a king of the north who had two generals serving under him, a "Tortoise General" and a "Snake General." This king had a temple at Wudang Mountains in Hubei, thus there is a "Tortoise Mountain" and a "Snake Mountain" on the opposite sides of a river in Wuhan, the capital of Hubei.

In Taoist legend it was said that "Xuánwǔ" was the prince of a Chinese Emperor. However, he was not interested in taking the throne, but decided to study in Tao's way. At age 15, he left his parents to search for enlightenment in Tao's way. It was said that he eventually achieved god status and was worshipped as a god of northern sky.

Other Chinese legends also speak of how the "Tortoise General" and a "Snake General" came to be. During "Xuánwǔ's " study to achieve enlightenment and god status he was told that in order to fully achieve god status, he must purge all "humanly" flesh from his body. Since he was born he had been eating the food of the world, humanly food, therefore his stomach and intestines were still human. Legend told of an event that a god came and "changed" out his human stomach and intestines for a godly body so he could fully achieve god status. (It was also said that the stomach and intestines that were tossed out became the "Tortoise Mountain" and "Snake Mountain".) The stomach and intestines taken out by the god whom did the surgery on "Xuánwǔ" were said to have taken on the shape of a tortoise (stomach) and a snake (intestines). As many Chinese legends speak of certain animals becoming demons over time as they gain knowledge, that's what the tortoise and snake became, and terrorized people. As "Xuánwǔ", now in his god status, heard of this, he came and slayed "the demons from his past". However, he did not kill them, as the snake and tortoise demons showed remorse. He let them train under him and atone for their wrong doings, and they became the "Tortoise General" and "Snake General", and they assisted "Xuánwǔ" with his quests.

External links

* [ "Star Charts and Moon Stations"]
* [ The Black Tortoise of the North]

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Black marsh turtle — The shape of the upper jaws of black marsh turtles is the reason for their common name smiling terrapin . Con …   Wikipedia

  • Black-knobbed map turtle — hatchlings Conservation status …   Wikipedia

  • tortoise shell — tortoise shell, 1. the mottled, yellow and brown shell of some turtles, especially the hawksbill turtle. It is much used for combs and ornaments. 2. any one of several butterflies spotted with yellow and black. 3. = tortoise shell cat. (Cf.… …   Useful english dictionary

  • tortoise-shell — ortoise shell, adj. Having a color like that of a tortoise s shell, black with white and orange spots; used mostly to describe cats of that color. n. a tortoise shell cat …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Black Ships Ate the Sky — Black Ships Ate the Sky …   Википедия

  • Black Session — Black sessions Les Black sessions sont des concerts pendant l émission C est Lenoir, de Bernard Lenoir (et diffusé en direct sur France Inter), ouvertes au public (retrait d invitation, inscription…). Un certain nombre d enregistrements ont donné …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Black Sessions — Les Black sessions sont des concerts pendant l émission C est Lenoir, de Bernard Lenoir (et diffusé en direct sur France Inter), ouvertes au public (retrait d invitation, inscription…). Un certain nombre d enregistrements ont donné lieu à des… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Black softshell turtle — Conservation status Extinct in the Wild ( …   Wikipedia

  • Tortoise Beats Hare — Infobox Hollywood cartoon cartoon name =Tortoise Beats Hare series = Merrie Melodies/Bugs Bunny director = Tex Avery story artist =Dave Monahan animator = Charles McKimson Robert McKimson Rod Scribner Virgil Ross Sid Sutherland voice actor = Mel… …   Wikipedia

  • tortoise-shell tiger — Tiger Ti ger, n. [OE. tigre, F. tigre, L. tigris, Gr. ti gris; probably of Persian origin; cf. Zend tighra pointed, tighri an arrow, Per. t[=i]r; perhaps akin to E. stick, v. t.; probably so named from its quickness.] 1. A very large and powerful …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”