Lunar Stations

China

Overview

The Chinese Sky

In ancient Chinese astronomy, the region along the ecliptic was divided into Four Directions.

Each direction was represented by a mythological creature, the Azure Dragon of the East, the Black Tortoise of the North, the White Tiger of the West and the Vermilion Bird of the South.

A fifth legendary beast, the Yellow Dragon of the Center represented the center of the universe in Chinese mythology.

In addition to a cardinal direction, each creature also represents one of the seasons and one of the Phases or elements.


Han-dynasty pottery depicting the five directions
Source: Wikipedia

Four Quadrants of Chinese astronomy
Source: ecumenicalbuddhism.blogspot.com

Direction Season Element

青龍 Azure Dragon East Spring Wood
朱雀 Vermilion Bird South Summer Fire
白虎 White Tiger West Fall Metal
玄武 Black Tortoise North Winter Water
黃龍 Yellow Dragon Center Change of Seasons Earth

The five Chinese Elements; shaungsimpson
Each quadrant was then further divided into seven Lunar Mansions, corresponding to the longitudes along the ecliptic that the Moon crosses during its 27.32-day journey around the Earth.

In addition to the four quadrants of the ecliptic, the circumpolar stars (visible throughout the year) were divided into Three Enclosures, the the northernmost one being the Purple Forbidden Enclosure, followed by the Supreme Palace Enclosure and the Heavenly Market Enclosure.

The Twenty Eight Lunar Mansions and the Three Enclosures were further divided into a total of 283 asterisms, each one consisting on average of a handful of stars. China Saga shows a map (right) lining out both the Greek and the Chinese constellations.

Ian Ridpath points out that these formations "...did not depict myths but facets of Chinese imperial, social, and rural life."

Overlap of Greek and Chinese constellations
Source: China Saga

The Four Directions


Azure Dragon
of the East


Black Tortoise
of the North


White Tiger
of the West


Vermilion Bird
of the South

The Three Enclosures


Purple Forbidden Enclosure


Heavenly Market


Supreme Palace

Source: Ancient China Astronomy


China Saga shows a map lining out both the Greek and the Chinese constellations.

(Right, click on it for a larger image).

On her "Chinese Constellations" website, Marilyn Shea provides four beautiful drawings of the sacred animals of the four directions, with the constellations superimposed onto them.

(Below, click on the pictures for larger images).



Azure Dragon of the East


Black Tortoise of the North


White Tiger of the West


Vermilion Bird of the South

Source: Chinese Constellations


Links to Chinese Astronomy
Wikipedia - Chinese Astronomy

Wikipedia - Chinese Constellations
Ian Ridpath - Charting the Chinese sky

F. Richard Stephenson - Chinese and Korean Star Maps and Catalogs

Chinese myths and legends around stars, planets and constellations are as old as Chinese astronomy.

Click here to continue to the world of Chinese astronomical mythology.

https://wellcomecollection.org/works/zqz6uqnt/items

http://ecumenicalbuddhism.blogspot.com/2010/02/four-symbols-five-cardinal-directions.html

http://en.chinaculture.org/focus/focus/2010spring/2010-01/26/content_367602.htm

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yellow_Dragon

https://www.deviantart.com/artisticbalance/art/White-Tiger-of-the-West-390820743

https://www.deviantart.com/artisticbalance/art/Black-Tortoise-of-the-North-389240673

https://www.deviantart.com/artisticbalance/art/Vermilion-Bird-of-the-South-388840716


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