Chinese, Korean, and Japanese Tiger Art

Chinese, Korean, and Japanese Tiger Art

Welcome to this lens dedicated to the tiger art of China, Korea, and Japan! Tiger art from these three countries has become famous all around the world and many tiger paintings, sculptures, statues, and other forms of art have been made in these countries over the centuries. Many have been purchased by art collectors the world over.

In this lens we’ll study the tiger art from each country, the characteristics of tiger art in these countries, and the meaning of the tiger in the traditions and folklore of China, Japan, and Korea.

Thank you for your visit and I hope you find this lens informative!

Lens intro image: Edo-period Japanese artist Utagawa Kuniyoshi’s (1797-1861) tiger print. Image used courtesy of

Table of Contents

Korean Tiger Art
Chinese and Japanese Tiger Posters on Amazon
Chinese Tiger Art
Japanese Tiger Art
Kishi Ganku Tiger Painting
Tiger Statues and Sculptures
Tiger Tattoos
In Conclusion
Tiger Art Link List
From the Same Author
New Guestbook

Korean Tiger Art

Traditional Korean Minhwa (folk) painting of a tiger and a magpie. In Korea, tiger art has been very popular over the millinea, especially in traditional Joseon-era Korean folk art (known as “Minhwa”).

Tigers made some of their earliest appearances in Koguryo paintings where they were being chased down by archers on horseback. Many of these mural paintings can still be found today on Koguryo-era temple walls in modern-day North Korea.

Tigers are an important character in traditional Korean beliefs and folklore and the mythical white tiger is traditionally the guardian of the East. Until the 1920s, the Siberian white tiger called Korea home and the tiger is mentioned in the creation myth of Ko-choson, which is one of Korea’s first dynasties. Tigers are one of the most common and prominent subjects of folk paintings, and are often portrayed as being friendly, approachable, and even silly or stupid. This stands in contrast to the artwork of most other countries where the tiger is portrayed as being an intelligent, proud, and fierce animal! In many folk paintings, the tiger is a companion to the mountain spirits. Many Korean folk paintings feature a magpie (a bird that’s considered to be an auspicious omen and a bearer of good news) cackling at a tiger, or the tiger with a lion or rooster. Tiger skins were also painted by minhwa artists and were much more affordable to the common person than real tiger skins. These paintings were supposed to invoke the tiger’s guardian powers.

However, the tiger also has more serious portrayals in Korea. Many Koreans believe the tiger is a mountain god that can determine the fate of a person. Also to many Koreans, the tiger is the guardian spirit of Korea. Tiger decorations can be found in many Buddhist temples and shamanistic ritual sites across Korea and tigers are also found on mural walls of many of Korea’s ancient kingdoms such as Koguryo and Paekche. And of course the tiger has also been the silly, clumsy animal in many a Korean folk painting and folktale.

In 1988, the tiger took on a new significance for Koreans when a tiger was chosen to be the mascot for the 1988 Seoul Summer Olympics. The tiger was named Hodori (derived from “horang-i dori,” or “boy tiger,” in Korean) and he was featured on many an Olympic souvenir item that year! There was also a female tiger named Hosuni, but she was rarely used.

Chinese and Japanese Tiger Posters on Amazon

Here are some nice reproductions of the famous Chinese and Japanese tiger paintings of centuries ago (as well as some modern-day artwork) available in poster format from Amazon:

Chinese Tiger Art

A Song Dynasty, Shaoxing Period-era (1159 AD) illustration of a tiger from a medical book. In Chinese culture, the tiger is revered as a creature of great courage, prowess, and beauty. It is the king of the wild and is a creature of masculine principles. The Chinese tiger has the power to drive away demons and ghosts and brings good fortune and luck to all those who keep its image close at hand. Furthermore, the tiger represents the basic drive to progress, achieve, and succeed. Also according to traditional Chinese beliefs, a tiger lives to be 1,000 years old and when it reaches the age of 500, it turns white. Therefore any tigers in Chinese white tiger artwork are said to have passed the age of 500 years.

Tiger statues dating back some 7,000 years have been found in China and tigers are carved on many a tomb or monument. Many of the Chinese deities and legendary figures such as the Taoist “First Master of Heaven” Zhang Daoling, the God of Wealth Chao Gongming, and (occasionally) the mythological exorciser/ghost vanquisher Zhong Kui are often depicted riding a tiger in Chinese art.

For all these reasons, Chinese tiger art is displayed prominently in many Chinese businesses, offices, and homes. In addition, tigers appear on children’s clothing and many women in southern China place paper tiger images in their homes on the birthday of the tiger (March 6th, or the second moon of the lunar calendar) to prevent quarrels and to keep vermin such as snakes and rats away.

In Guizhou province, many of China’s ethnic minorities such as the Miao incorporate tiger motifs into batik artwork. Many of these pieces are very stunning and intricate.

Tiger paintings in China can range from folk art paintings to simple watercolors to modern paintings most people nowadays associate with the Chinese tiger. All of these paintings have one thing in common: they capture the ferocity and gracefulness of the tiger for all to see!

Japanese Tiger Art

Tiger art is also prominent in Japanese culture. The white tiger in particular is a common motif in Japanese paintings and artwork due to its status as a deity in the Shinto religion. Ironically enough, tigers aren’t native to Japan, which is why many Japanese artists from centuries past copied their works from the Chinese paintings.

Three Japanese artists who became particularly famous for tiger paintings during the Edo period were Kishi Ganku (1749 or 56-1839), Maruyama Okyo (1733-1795), and Katayama Yokoku. Ganku had the head of a tiger which became the basis of many of his paintings while Okyo had a tiger pelt which made drawing a tiger’s skin very easy. Yokoku’s paintings often depicted tigers as a traditional symbol of strength, and the tigers in his paintings are often shown emerging from bamboo.

In addition, other prominent Edo-era Japanese artists such as Okyo’s student Kameoka Kirei (1770-1835), Ganku’s son-in-law Kishi Renzan (1805-59), Kano Tsunenobu (1636-1713), and Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849) painted some very famous tiger paintings. Hokusai’s “Old Tiger in the Snow” and “Running Tiger” as well as Kirei’s “Tiger Looking to the Moon” are staple Japanese tiger paintings from this period.

The popularity of tiger art continued during the Meiji era (1868-1912) in Japan. Artists such as woodblock (Ukiyo-e) artist Koson Ohara (1877-1945) made some amazing tiger paintings and woodblock prints during this period.

Since tigers are not native to Japan, it was not very easy to find a live tiger to get all the facial and body features down exactly as it was in China. However, there was an abundance of tiger skins and the Japanese artists of the time often based their paintings on these skins. This is why in many of the paintings the tiger’s skin is beautifully accurate, but in other paintings the tiger has a flat nose, abnormally large eyes, large paws, and small ears!

Tigers were also frequently used on the banners and wall paintings of samurai, to whom the tiger represented ferocity, strength, courage, and stubbornness, as it still does to the Japanese people to this very day.

Today tigers are still painted by many Japanese artists both on canvas and brush and in modern-day computer vector drawings. These artists have picked up where artists of centuries past such as Ganku and Okyo have left off!

Kishi Ganku Tiger Painting

This is one of Kishi Ganku’s paintings of a tiger. Notice the flat head and small ears on this tiger. This is very typical for Japanese tiger paintings from that period of time.

Tiger Statues and Sculptures

In addition to paintings, tiger statues and sculptures are commonplace in China, Japan, and Korea. Generally speaking, the statues and sculptures have all the same meaning as the paintings, but some have had and still have traditional uses.

In Japan during the Edo Period (1600-1848 AD), small tiger dolls made of papier mache known as Harikonotora were carried by travelers on the Tokaido highway. These were especially popular among samurai lords who believed the tiger could travel a thousand miles with ease and the dolls would inspire his entourage to do the same. Also many years ago in Japan, small tiger sculptures were given to boys on Boy’s Day (now known as Children’s Day) as a token to protect them from evil spirits and to foster growth and maturity.

Tiger Tattoos

Chinese and Japanese tiger art designs are very popular tattoo designs. Generally speaking, tiger tattoos can be found in virtually every country in Asia and have been for many centuries. However, Japanese tiger tattoos (i.e. tattoos with Japanese tiger designs) are the most popular and prevalent of all the tiger tattoos.

Tattooing in Japan has a very complex history that would take a very long time to explain on this lens. The popularity of Japanese tiger tattoos in particular stem from the tiger paintings described above. The tattoos drew inspiration from the Chinese and Japanese tiger paintings described above. However, it wasn’t until toward the end of the Edo period that tattooing became popular in Japan. The tattoo designs that have become famous over the years were widely influenced by the Ukiyo-e (traditional Japanese woodblock art) prints of the time. Another source of inspiration were the Chinese tiger paintings of the time. After seeing these elaborate paintings, many people – Japanese and non-Japanese alike – were inspired to have tattoos of these drawings drawn on their bodies.

During the 17th century or so, tattooing in Japan became both taboo and forbidden by law due to the popularity of Chinese culture in Japan and the popularity of tattoos among the underclass and the Yakuza mafia syndicates. Laws prohibiting tattoos in Japan were lifted after 1945, but this taboo still exists up to the present day. Despite this traditional taboo, a growing number of young people in Japan are becoming more and more open-minded about tattoos and getting some of their own.

The tiger in the tattoos often represent power and dominance. A resting tiger may represent dominance whereas an attacking tiger may represent power and aggression. This symbolism has made the tiger tattoos very popular in Asia over the centuries.

In Conclusion

Tiger have been a part of Chinese, Japanese, and Korean cultures for almost as long as they’ve been in existence. They’ve been in the artwork of these countries for many thousands of years and hopefully will remain in their artwork for many more centuries to come!

Thank you for stopping by and please come back! I will update this lens when time permits. Please remember to check in again for any new updates!

All images copyright: Wikimedia Commons.

Tiger Art Link List

You can read more about Asian tiger art and art from Asia in general at the sites below:

Japanese Tiger Art
Interested in tiger paintings from Japan? Be informed about the various mediums in which the Japanese have produced Japanese tiger art.

Tiger in Chinese culture – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Wikipedia entry about the tiger in Chinese culture.

Chinese Tiger Art
The tiger has been a potent symbol in Chinese art throughout the history of the nation. The animal is one of the twelve characters of the zodiac calendar. As such the tiger is considered to have an authoritative personality that is considered to be t

About Korean Paintings
Another resource for Korean art that’s very in-depth and reliable.

Japanese Tiger Statue – The Old Tokaido
Blog entry about Japanese tiger statues.

Korean Focus eBulletin: White Tiger to Roar Loud and Proud in 2010
Very fascinating and in-depth article about the tiger in Korea and its place in Korean beliefs, culture, and society.

Japanese tattoos – what do they mean? Japanese Tattoos Designs & Symbols – Japanese tattoo meanings
Japanese tattoos – what do they mean? Tattoo Designs & Symbols – Japanese tattoo meanings

Japanese Tiger Tattoos
Interested in a tiger tattoo from Japan? Discover the age old traditions associated with Japanese tiger tattoos.

Tigers in Japanese Art at the Saint Louis Art Museum
Article about Japanese tiger art and the artists who painted them.

The Beautiful Oriental Art of Koson Ohara
Very comprehensive site about Koson Ohara. Featured on this site are a biography and many of his paintings.

The Asian History Blog
A new blog from yours truly pertaining to the history of Asia.

From the Same Author
While you’re at it, I would appreciate it very much if you would check out some of my other lenses related to Asian culture! All feedback on these is greatly appreciated.

The Hidden Secrets Of Famous Paintings

The Hidden Secrets Of Famous Paintings

If you’re a fan of art, you’re likely familiar with the paintings of great artists like Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and Vincent van Gogh. However, you may not know about the hidden secrets of these famous paintings, which are often left untranslated or misunderstood. Here are three hidden secrets of some of history’s most famous paintings:

The Mona Lisa is actually a painting of Lisa Gherardini

The Mona Lisa is one of the most famous paintings in the world and is often considered to be the most famous painting ever created. However, the painting is actually a painting of Lisa Gherardini, who was an Italian aristocrat and painter of classical art. The Mona Lisa was commissioned by Leonardo da Vinci, who was then working on a painting of himself. When da Vinci saw the painting, he was so impressed that he decided to make it his own. Unfortunately, the painting is actually only a copy of a painting by Gherardini.

The painting of The Virgin and Child is actually a painting of the Virgin Mary

The Virgin and Child is one of the most famous paintings in the world and is often considered to be one of the most famous paintings of all time. However, the painting is actually a painting of the Virgin Mary, who is actually the mother of Jesus. The painting was commissioned by Pope Clement VII, who was at the time trying to find a painting that would show the world that Christianity was the true way to live. Unfortunately, the painting is actually a painting of the Virgin Mary, who is instead shown as a beautiful woman.

The painting of The Last Supper is actually a painting of the Apostles

The Last Supper is one of the most famous paintings in the world and is often considered to be one of the most famous paintings of all time. However, the painting is actually a painting of the Apostles, who are instead shown as a group of people. The painting was commissioned by Emperor Constantine, who was trying to show the world that Christianity was the true way to live. Unfortunately, the painting is actually a painting of the Apostles, who are instead shown as a group of people who are eating their dinner.

If you’re a lover of art, then you’re likely familiar with the names of some of the most famous paintings. But what about the lesser-known, but incredibly talented artists who have quietly created some of the most stunning works of art in history? In this blog post, we’ll take a look at 5 of the most underrated painters in history, and see how they’ve managed to create the unique and beautiful pieces of art that we see around us every day.

There are many secrets to many famous paintings, but one of the most well-known and well-known paintings is The Mona Lisa. Many people are curious about why this painting is so famous, and some believe that the painting is actually a forgery. However, there are a few secrets to this painting that may help explain its popularity.

One secret is that the painting is actually a copy of a painting by Leonardo da Vinci. The Mona Lisa is based on a painting that Leonardo created known as The Mona Lisa of Leonardo da Vinci. The Mona Lisa is also sometimes called the “Last Supper,” because it is thought that Leonardo painted it as a painting to show to his wife, Lisa Gherardini, who was then living in Florence.

Another secret to The Mona Lisa is that it is actually much older than it seems. The painting was actually created in 1506, and it is thought that the painting was originally meant to be used as a decoration for the tabernacle of the Cathedral of Florence. However, it was eventually given to the Mona Lisa’s current owner, who has kept it in a private collection ever since.

Despite its secrets and popularity, The Mona Lisa is actually a very beautiful painting. The painting is made up of many different colors and tones, and it is also very well-painted. Many people are curious about why it is so popular, and some believe that the painting is actually a forgery. However, there are a few secrets to this painting that may help explain its popularity.

There are a few things that can’t be revealed in a painting. For example, the painting’s composition, the colors and the placement of objects.

But there are some things that are hidden in famous paintings, even though they may not be visible to the naked eye. For example, the hidden messages that the painting may be sending to its viewers.

Some of the famous paintings that have hidden messages include Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, Michelangelo’s David and Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper.

Some of the hidden messages in these paintings are about the artist’s life, their art and the history of the painting.

Some of the messages in these paintings may also be about love, relationships and the human condition.

If you’re ever curious about what some of the hidden messages in famous paintings are, you can look them up on online databases or in books.

Great Easy Acrylic Painting Projects

Great Easy Acrylic Painting Projects

Find Great Easy Acrylic Painting Projects

Find easy acrylic painting projects. It has great ideas and acrylic painting projects and access to other painting projects too. Discover the joy of painting in acrylic and explore this great medium with these projects.

Finding an Easy Acrylic Painting Project

Finding things to paint can be a trial sometimes. But it need not be. There are things to paint all around. For instance did you know that Vincent van Gogh spent months and months painting nothing but flowers. It doesn’t matter that he used oils it was the dedication to finding a subject no matter how difficult the task.

Often us painters cannot see what to paint, we are too busy looking for that amazing landscape or capturing rare lighting which is all great. But in doing so we miss the little things. We forget that it is the beauty in what we see and paint that makes it amazing.

Below are projects for you to try. Depending on where you are in the world will depend on when and if you have winter, summer or seasons or monsoons. But there is no reason why you cannot adapt each project for your own needs. OK here goes.
Find Great Acrylic Painting Projects on Amazon
Finding great acrylic painting projects is a great idea as it expands your learning and techniques and gives you plenty of ideas. Below are some project ideas for your acrylic painting

Easy Acrylic Painting Project 1

Project 1

For this project we are going back to basics. For those of you who haven’t done any color mixing start here.

Watch this video on basic color mixing as you will need to be able to mix colors for future projects.
Then practice until you can confidently get most of the basic colors.
Purple etc

Easy Acrylic painting project 2

painting project Two

Van Gogh may not be to everyone’s taste, however his work was based on feeling and color. If you are a beginner without much experience it is important for you to get the feel of the paint, how it works, how quickly it dries and what it looks like. The best way to do this is to play.

To do this project we are stepping into Van Gogh shoes. We are aiming not for an artistically correct piece, but one with color and feeling. Using your new found color mixing skills from project one we are going to create a simple painting.

1. Pick a subject that you love. Make sure it is fairly simple to do. Try to keep it natural. Flowers in a bottle or vase would be great, your favorite part of a garden, a cliff a tree etc. If you think a vase is too much keep it to one flower. Painting outside can be a challenge so only do this if you feel comfortable. Remember this isn’t about making a perfect picture but playing with color. do not paint from a picture or photo from other artists.
2. Gather together all your art colors and canvases and brushes.
3. Spend time looking at your image. Break your image down into both color and light.
4. Just paint the very basic shapes and basic colors. Don’t worry about detail just the overall image.
5. Make sure your colors are over vibrant and your paint thick. Keep your brushes larger to prevent fussiness.

Project 3 – Simple Acrylic Winter Landscape Project Challenge

Project 3

This is a lovely painting to do, it reminds me much of the Bob Ross style which is well known for bringing art to everyone. So challenge yourself to get out those brushes and explore the colors of winter!

Easy Painting Project 4 – A Simple Landscape

Project 4

This is a beautiful little painting to do. Not only is it a project but it also teaches you techniques all done by a 3 hour video tuition after which you should have some useful knowledge to apply to any local landscape painting you might fancy doing.

Project 5 – Fun Cave Horse Painting

This Comes With a Popularity Warning

One of my favorite projects was one I didn’t think I would enjoy but it was really fun. This is the cave horse painting. This is a beginners project however lots of people af all skill levels love to do this one. You recreate the stone walls by building up the paint much as you would for any other painting though it is designed to look really messy! The cave horse is painted much as the cave men would have done and he looks fats and dumpy.

Cave horse and other cave animal pictures are on the open domain if you want to get one.

WARNING: Very Popular. I didn’t think anyone would like a picture of a cave horse, but have found that it is very popular. My sister napped mine when my tiny house got crowded with art. Then my other sister wanted one too and I have to repaint one for me! So be warned you might have to do more than one! It isn’t a problem it is fun to do and can be done quite quickly.

Lots of Painting Projects for the Beginner to Advanced Painter

This is absolutely amazing! I came across this site while searching for inspiration and wow did they give it. This site has to be the best and most comprehensive site for art courses on the net. If you don’t agree and have found another one feel free to pop it on the comments as I am always in search of the best information and ideas out there. But I think this will be very hard to beat!

This is definitely the site by artists for artists of all levels and skills. These guys cover everything from easy acrylic painting projects like the one above right through to the more complicated projects and courses. If in doubt they do a free course and a free magazine just to get you started – these should keep you occupied for a while. However if you want to plunge right in there are some great courses and they start at low prices or you can buy modules.