Daoism and Cct

Signs and Symbols

Apart from the trigrams and taiji, what are some other common traditional symbols?

Ancient lore associates fundamental features of Chinese cosmology with specific symbols. It all goes back to the “Chinese Adam,” Pan Gu. In his task of imposing order on primal chaos, Pan Gu enlisted the help of five cosmic assistants: Azure Dragon, White Tiger, Phoenix, Tortoise, and Unicorn. Pan Gu assigned to each of the first four a quarter of the universe. Azure Dragon governed the East, associated with spring, new life, benevolence, and protection. White Tiger ruled the autumnal West, symbol of maturity and a life well spent, all made possible by good government and courage. Phoenix, the ultimate solar bird, presided over the summery South with the kindly warmth and joy that arises in a world at peace. Hard-shelled and indomitable, the ageless Tortoise faced the unforgiving, wintry North. Wandering freely among them all, the rare and delicate Unicorn was commissioned to appear wherever and whenever benevolence and justice reigned on Earth. It is not surprising that all five of these wondrous beings retain their appeal to the popular imagination and remain essentials of the religious symbolic repertoire.

A cluster of items associated loosely with Daoism are called the “Eight Daoist Emblems.” Each represents one of the Eight Immortals, a group of human beings who became immortal in various ways. They appear often as decorative motifs on all kinds of objects. The emblems are a fan, a sword, a gourd, castanets, a flower basket, a bamboo drum, a flute, and a lotus flower. This is one of several sets of eight motifs popular in Chinese art and, along with the Eight Buddhist Emblems, one that still carries specifically religious resonances.


This is a web preview of the "The Handy Religion Answer Book" app. Many features only work on your mobile device. If you like what you see, we hope you will consider buying. Get the App