shishin 四神
KEY WORD : art history / paintings
Ch: sishen. Ancient Chinese mythical animals associated with the four cardinal directions: green/blue dragon (Ch: qinglong, Jp:seiryuu 青龍) of the east; white tiger (Ch: baihu, Jp:byakko 白虎) of the west; red phoenix (Ch: zhuque, Jp:suzaku 朱雀) of the south; and black warrior (Ch: xuan wu, Jp:genbu 玄武) of the north, a tortoise-like chimera with the head and tail of a serpent. The pictorial theme developed around the Warring States to Early Han dynasty in China. Frequently painted on the walls of early Chinese and Korean tombs, the animals served primarily an apotropaic function warding off evil spirits. In Japan notable examples of the shishin are found on the walls of the tomb chamber in the tumulus Takamatsuzuka 高松塚 of the Asuka period, and on the base of Yakushi Sanzonzou 薬師三尊像 at Yakushiji 薬師寺, both in Nara.


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