Scorpion, xiēzi, xie zi (蠍 子), one of the 5 poisons (wŭdú, wuu dur 五毒)

The scorpion (xiēzi, xie zi 蠍 子) is much like the spider (zhī zhū, zhi zhu 蜘 蛛) we mentioned in last week’s blog and is usually depicted as one of the 5 noxious animals.  What actually composes the 5 noxious animals varies – it often includes the spider, scorpion, viper, centipede, and toad.  Amulets depicting these animals were worn or hung on the walls, doors or gates as a way of protecting the family from disease and evil spirits.

Sometimes the actual animals portrayed differed—the toad may be a normal toad, but may be a three-legged toad; a worm, lizard, or tiger may replace one of the five 5 poisonous animals #1 close-up5 poisonous animals #2 close-up  5 poisonous animals #3 close-up

animals.  Nevertheless, five seems to be the magic number of animals included, even though the actual animals in the group may change.  For example, in the toy pictured in this blog the scorpion, centipede, worm, viper, and tiger are represented as the 5 noxious animals. I haven’t carried out a study of this variation myself, but I am guessing these differences reflect regional, geographic, differences.  Certain pests may be more of a problem in one area than another and, therefore, are included whereas other less common pests are excluded.

In any case, as can be seen by this charming toy tiger, which my daughter bought in China, the concept of the 5 poisons is still alive and well.  In fact, one of the major festivals, the Dragon Boat Festival on “Double 5” (fifth day of the fifth lunar month), is considered to be one of the most dangerous days of the year and, therefore, these toy animals, as well as amulets, and prints of these animals still play a role in protecting families.

By the way, I couldn’t resist putting in the two pictures I took of the tiger’s one side because I thought one showed the animals so clearly and the other picture showed the 3 dimensional aspect of the toy so well. 🙂

May you and your family enjoy a healthy and happy New Year!



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