The role of tigers in mythology and spirituality

Everyone loves tigers, right? So if you’re looking for ‘indoor activities near me’ this winter, don’t miss The Tiger Who Came to Tea, which is currently touring the UK. Packed with clumsy chaos, bright costumes, singalong songs and plenty of interactive moments, your kids are sure to love this family-friendly production. In the meantime, let’s find out more about tigers and their role in mythology and spirituality. 

Chinese Culture 

As tigers are found in the wild in China, the Chinese people have had a special bond with this magnificent creature for centuries. To them, the tiger is the ‘king of all beasts’, symbolising strength and power. It’s the third sign of the Chinese Zodiac and people born in a tiger year are believed to be courageous, optimistic, tolerant and generous. They’re also expected to live long, healthy lives and were born to command, not obey - just like the tiger itself.

Tiger mythology goes beyond the Zodiac, however. In Chinese folklore, tigers are believed to be so powerful that they are endowed with the ability to ward off the three main household disasters: fire, thieves and evil spirits. Paintings and pictures of tigers are also hung at the entrance of many homes to ensure that demons would be too afraid to enter. Even today, some children wear tiger-headed caps and shoes embroidered with tiger heads to ward off evil spirits. They may also sleep on tiger-shaped pillows to help keep them strong and brave through the night.


Like China, the Indian population admires and fears the tiger simultaneously. They share their land with this stunning, striped beast and therefore see it as a symbol of magnificence, power, beauty and fierceness as well as bravery and valour. The tiger is also of huge significance in Hindu mythology and is associated with many deities. Most famously, the Hindu goddess Durga – a warrior representing protection, strength and wrath – is often depicted riding on a lion or a tiger.

Japanese Culture 

While tigers are not native to Japan, they still play an important role in Japanese culture and spirituality. The tiger is the third symbol of the Japanese Zodiac. This is different to the Chinese Zodiac as it uses the solar calendar as opposed to the lunar calendar to mark the new year. It’s thought that people born in a tiger year are sensitive, stubborn, short-tempered, courageous, selfish and slightly mean, but also deep thinkers, capable of great sympathy for those they love.

Tigers and dragons are the two most powerful Japanese Zodiac animals. While the tiger represents earth, dragons represent the heavens. Both animals are often drawn together to bring a sense of balance. Tiger statues are also found at temples in Japan as protection against evil spirits and bad energy.

If you adore tigers and are looking for ‘plays near me,’ don’t miss The Tiger Who Came to Tea. This is a great production for children aged three and above and has a running time of less than an hour so that little ones don’t get fidgety. When researching ‘kids activities near me’ be sure to check out a touring show near you.