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There was a fifth direction -- the center, representing China itself -- which carried its own seishuku.
In Japan, the symbolism of the four creatures appears to have merged with and been supplanted by the Shitennō (Four Heavenly Kings).
Because of the astronomical significance, the White Tiger replaced the Ch’i-lin, and the Phoenix gave way to the Red Bird, which is of uncertain identity.
Thus the Tortoise was a later but not the last addition, for many mystical texts refer to the northern constellation not as the tortoise, but as the Black Warrior.” NOTE: The Chinese Ch’i-lin is known in Japan as KIRIN.
A mythological animal of Chinese origin, and a member of the NAGA (Sanskrit) family of serpentine creatures who protect Buddhism.
Japan’s dragon lore comes predominantly from China.
Bronze mirrors usually portray cosmological patterns and symbolism on the back.
Writes Walters: “The four directions, east, south, west and north, represent the four seasons, Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter.
Together with the Center, which in Chinese is synonymous with China itself, they form the five cardinal points.
The four celestial animals, which have no connection with the twelve animals of the Chinese zodiac, are also the names of the four divisions of the sky [note..with seven constellations, see 28 Constellations].
The Dragon's Heart, the Pleiades, and the Bird Star are the names of three of the lunar mansions which marked the central position of the Dragon, Tiger and Bird.
The latter four are the Buddhist guardians of the four directions who serve Lord Taishakuten (who represents the center), and are closely associated with China’s Theory of Five Elements.