Mythology of the tiger peoples

Legend

The appellations of Lolo, Lolopu, etc. are related to the Yi people’s worship of the tiger, as “lo” in their dialects means “tiger”. “Lo” is also the basis for the Chinese exonym Luóluó 猓猓, 倮倮, or 罗罗 (source). This tiger worship likely is connected to creator tiger worship in Goa, India (and associated beliefs in the Indian mother goddess Durga or the Bengali Banbibi/Bandurga riding the tiger), given the extensive ancient trading activity via the eastern Indian corridor to the ancient polity Yelang which is believed to have been an alliance of tribes covering parts of modern day GuizhouHunanSichuan and Yunnan.See The Polity of Yelang (夜郎) and the Origins of the Name ‘China’):

“It is also obvious that there was a great desire on the part of the Han court to bring Yelang under its control, either by driving a road through to the polity from Shu or by taking the Southern Yue and proceeding upstream.9 This was undoubtedly at least partly due to the knowledge that Yelang was a key hub in trade between the Sinitic economies and those of India. The account of Shu cloth and Qiong bamboo given in the Shiji account affirms this. It was during the discussions between the envoys of the Han court and the rulers of Dian and Yelang over identifying the route to India that the discussions and questions which gave rise to the Yelang zi da idiom mentioned above took place. These events date to the 120s BCE. Other indications of trade and people flowing across this route include musicians and entertainers from the western Roman empire arriving in the Han capital in 120 CE.1″

In many parts of India, tiger is worshipped as a symbol of fertility and protector (of the forest and of the people against demons):

In Nagaland, the tiger and man are said to be brothers since the mother of the first spirit, of the first tiger and of the first man, are believed to have emerged from the earth out of a common passage, which was a pangolin’s den.

The Goddess Durga, since the ancient Indus valley civilisation, is shown riding a tiger. Durga was created to destroy evil and the tiger was probably chosen as a symbol of power and immortality.

Tiger dances, in which young children are drawn into every year, are an important part of tradition in the Udipi town of Karnataka. They are part of the carnival celebrations on Lord Krishna’s birthday, Janmashtami, but it is believed by some that the dances may have originated in Muslim culture. — Tigers in History and Mythology

In parts of northern Bengal, both Hindus and Muslims worship the tiger. Paintings show a Muslim priest, with prayer beads and a staff, riding a tiger and fighting evil. In the Sunderbans, the Hindu Goddess Banobibi or Dakshin Rai, the Muslim God, protect the people from demons, crocodiles and even tiger’s anger. So before setting out into the Tiger Reserve, people make an offering of sweets, rice and fruit to Banobibi or soothe Dakshin Rai with music.

In art, tigers may be shown sprouting wings, carrying princesses on their backs, becoming a white streak, part of the Milky Way to protect the Earth. Throughout history, tigers have been regarded as life-givers, guardians and protectors.

© Bittu SahgalIn parts of northern Bengal, both Hindus and Muslims worship the tiger. Paintings show a Muslim priest, with prayer beads and a staff, riding a tiger and fighting evil. In the Sunderbans, the Hindu Goddess Banobibi or Dakshin Rai, the Muslim God, protect the people from demons, crocodiles and even tiger’s anger. So before setting out into the Tiger Reserve, people make an offering of sweets, rice and fruit to Banobibi or soothe Dakshin Rai with music.

In art, tigers may be shown sprouting wings, carrying princesses on their backs, becoming a white streak, part of the Milky Way to protect the Earth. Throughout history, tigers have been regarded as life-givers, guardians and protectors.

The Lolo-Yi people

Most Yi believe they have the same ancestor, Axpu Ddutmu or Axpu Jjutmu [possible provenance of nomenclature Jimmu ancestor of Japanese?]. It is said that Apu Dumu married three wives and had six sons: each of the wives bore two sons. In the legend, the oldest two sons leading their tribes conquered other aborigines of Yunnan and began to reside in most territory of Yunnan. The youngest two sons led their tribes eastwards and were defeated by Han, before finally making western Guizhou their home and creating the largest quantity of Yi script documents. The other two sons led their tribes across the Jinsha River and dwelled in Liangshan. This group had close intermarriage with the local Pup.

The Yi or Lolo people[3] are an ethnic group in China, Vietnam, and Thailand. Numbering 8 million, they are the seventh largest of the 55 ethnic minority groups officially recognized by the People’s Republic of China. They live primarily in rural areas of SichuanYunnan, Guizhou, and Guangxi, usually in mountainous regions. As of 1999, there were 3,300 “Lô Lô” people living in Hà GiangCao Bằng, and Lào Cai provinces in northeastern Vietnam.[In many parts of Vietnam, tiger is a revered creature. In each village, there might be a tiger temple.see Wikipedia entry “Animal worship“]

Most Yi are farmers; herders of cattle, sheep and goats; and nomadic hunter.

Most Yi live in LiangshanChuxiong, and Honghe. At the Lizhou archaeological site (Chinese: 礼州遗址) near Xichang of Liangshan, dating to 3,000 years ago, many artifacts of the Neolithic Age have been discovered. Although no evidence proves that these ancient cultures of stone age have direct correlation with modern Yi people, their descendants, local bronze culture, may have had some influence on Yi people, as the ancestors of Yi people had frequent contact and intermarriage with local tribes, such as Dian (Chinese: 滇), Qiong (Chinese: 邛) and Zuo (Chinese: 笮), during their southwards migration from north eastern edge of Tibetan Plateau. Today, the Yi people still call the city of Xichang as ꀒꎂ (Op Rro). In spite of the affix “or-”, the root “dro” is believed by some scholars as related to the tribe Qiong (Chinese: 邛) as the pronunciation is quite close to the ancient pronunciation of Chinese character 邛.

During the Han dynasty, the central sovereign of China conquered the valley of Anning River, which is a tributary of Yalong River, and founded a county there named Qiongdu (Chinese: 邛都). The site is Xichang of present day and from that time onwards, Xichang has become the bridge of Chengdu and Kunmingacross Yi area. Since Han dynasty, Yi people have been involved in the history of China. In the north dialect of modern Yi language, Chinese Han is still called ꉌꈲ (Hxie mgat), which is related to the Chinese word 汉家 (pinyin: Hànjiā), which means household of Han.

After the Han dynasty, the Shu of the Three Kingdoms conducted several wars against the ancestors of Yi under the lead of Zhuge Liang. They defeated the king of Yi, ꂽꉼ (Mot Hop; Chinese: 孟获) and expanded their conquered territory in Yi area. After that, the Jin Dynasty succeed Shu as the suzerainty of Yi area but with weak control.

After the Jin dynasty, central China entered the era of the Southern and Northern Dynasties with frequent wars against the invading nomads from the north and lost its control of Yi and Yi area.

Although the Sui dynasty reunited China, it did not retrieve control of Yi but had close communications with Han residential spots scattered within Yi area (most along Anning River). After the Sui dynasty’s mere 37 years, the situation continued in Tang dynasty. During Sui and Tang dynasty, the local aborigines of present-day Yunnan and Liangshan were distinguished by Chinese Han as Wuman (Chinese: 乌蛮, meaning black barbarian) and Baiman (Chinese: 白蛮, meaning white barbarian). Some scholars believe that Wuman is the ancestor of modern Yi while Baiman is the ancestor of modern Bai people (Chinese: 白族) of Yunnan.

The Wuman and Baiman people founded six independent cities on Yunnan-Guizhou Plateau. The cities are called Zhao (Chinese: 诏) in Chinese history records with actual meaning of city chieftain.

Hwan Woong Myth

The Koreans too have related lineages to the ‘tiger’ clans, and their creation myth euphemistically refers to the tiger that co-existed with the bear in the cave:

“Korean myth maintains that Korea was born when Hwan Woong – a demigod, came to earth and ended up on Taebak Mountain, in what is now Gangwon-do Province, South Korea. A tiger and a bear living in a cave expressed a desire to become human. Tangun told them that if they ate twenty cloves of garlic and didn’t see the sun for 100 days they would become human. After 21 days the bear became a woman, but the tiger couldn’t stand being inside all the time and thus failed the test. The woman couldn’t find anyone to procreate with, so the divinity Hwan Woong, out of the goodness of his own heart, temporarily transformed himself into a man and got her pregnant- thus the Korean race was born.

Since the tiger (symbolic of the Indian and Bengal tribes) is said to have failed the test, this gives rise to an inference that the bear tribal clans (northern Mongolic and Xianbei lineages) dominated and prevailed and became the ancestors of the Korean race.

The story goes that a Heavenly Prince, Hwangun looked down at earth and desired to possess it and rule over mankind. His father, the Ruler of Heaven, Hwanin knew that his son would bring happiness to human beings and, looking at the earth, chose Mount Taebak as a suitable place for his son to go to earth. Hwangun arrives beneath a sandalwood tree where he creates a holy city. He brings with him three heavenly seals, somewhat mysterious in nature, and 3000 loyal subjects from heaven, which are possibly spirits. In addition, Hwangun brought three ministers, the Earl of Wind, the Master of Rain, and the Master of Clouds. Different accounts of the myth tell that Hwangun either taught or took charge of 360 areas of responsibility, like agriculture and medicine. The story moves now to a bear and a tiger, both desiring to become human beings. Set the task of shunning sunlight and eating only the food given to them by Hwangun (some mugwort and twenty cloves of garlic), the bear succeeds in earning Hwangun’s approval while the tiger fails to fast, fleeing into the forest. The bear becomes a beautiful woman, Ungyo (bear woman) and becomes the wife of Hwangun. Their son is Tangun, the King of Sandalwood. Tangun becomes the first king of Korea, calling his country choson and ruling for 1500 years. After this time he retreats to Taebak-san to become a mountain god.
     Though the myth of Tangun begins with an already existing earth, it still bears some resemblance to the later portions of other creation myths. Like Marduk in the Enuma Elish, Hwangun descends to earth to create a paragon of cities, the City of God… Unlike the Enuma Elish and the Theogeny, the myth of Tangun portrays divine forces as a civilizing influence, bringing law and culture to humanity. The heavenly prince neither kills nor overthrows anyone to gain his power over Korea. Instead he brings down loyal subjects and ministers to establish a working, exacting government and teaches humanity 360 different useful ways of working.

Did the Yi give the name “China” to China?: In the Sino -Platonic Papers, Geoff Wade provides some evidence as to think that the name “China” refers to an old Yi nationality ruled polity: The old Kingdom of Yelang.

Relic cultural aspects that may have been introduced to early Japan possibly attributable to ancient Yi migrations to or influences upon Japan include Fire Worship, Tiger iconography, Fire Deity/Torch Festival, ancestor Dumu/Jjutmu=Jimmu?, archer Yi myth in which Emperor Yao(ancestor of the Han Chinese) is also featured (see also Sarah Allen’s exposition and the British Museum’s commentary), Dragon King who creates rain, foundlings from bamboo grove myths and tamped down earthen architecture and wooden coffin burial (source: The Yi Nationality who created the Ten-Month Solar Calendar)

Sources:

The Origin of Korea — the birth of a Nation

Tangun: A Korean Creation Myth

Liangshan Yi Autonomous Prefecture

The Yi Nationality

The Yi Nationality Who Created the Ten-Month Solar Calendar

Tiger worship in Hunan Province

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