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February 19, 2010

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Tradition signals time of plenty

PROSPERITY is expected as the tiger, the namesake of this Chinese New Year, is traditionally recognized as a god of protection.

In lore, including the word hu - the Chinese character for tiger that incorporates safe-guarding and best wishes - is common when naming items, children and places.

Many people to this day have tiger images in their homes, hoping "the king of animals" will protect family members and encourage young children to wear caps and shoes in tiger images.

In ancient China, a military emblem issued to generals as imperial authorization for troop movements was named hu fu (tiger emblem) because it was in the shape of the animal.

A white tiger is listed as one of the protector gods in Taoism, and the animal is among the four major protector images in Confucian classics.

There are also many sayings with the tiger as the central theme. For example, there is an adage "it's easy to draw a tiger's skin, but hard to draw its bone" - meaning it's hard to tell a person's personality only by the face.

Across the nation, there are people surnamed Hu.

In Nanning, capital of south China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, a man is named Long Wang, meaning Dragon King, and his wife Hu Jiang, meaning Tiger General. They named their daughter Long Hufeng, meaning Dragon, Tiger and Phoenix - a combination of three powerful and auspicious totems for Chinese.

In Chinese history, there have been many heroes and celebrities with hu in their names, such as Tang Bohu (1470-1524), a renowned painter of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and Yang Hucheng (1893-1949), a popular military figure of northwest China's Shaanxi Province.

Across China there are more than 100 places with names that contain hu.

Among them are Mount Weihu (meaning a mountain of powerful tigers) in northeast China's Heilongjiang Province and Mount Longhu (a mountain of dragons and tigers) in Yingtan City in east China's Jiangxi Province, which is also the birthplace of Taoism.

The most magical place is believed to be Hutiaoxia, or Tiger Leaping Gorge, a breathtaking scenic zone about 100 kilometers from ancient Lijiang Town, in southwest China's Yunnan Province.

Traditionally, the most thrilling place is at Shahukou, meaning "place to kill tigers," in Shuozhou City of north China's Shanxi Province.


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