(Funny Faces: A blend of frightening and interesting, the faces of these traditional soft tiger toys catch my eyes. In the Chinese New Year, some children wear stitched tiger shoes with similar face patterns on.)
In the exhibition of embrodery I visited last week, there was a corner decorated with soft tiger toys of various sizes and colours. Tigers, along with images of other animals were used as tribal totem images in prehistoric times. Gradually the tiger was combined with the mythical dragon in a new culture.
Over 2500 years ago, when unification under one emperor on the now Chinese continent was estabilshed, the dragon became the emblem of the power of emperors, while the tiger quietly endeared itself to the masses, and in particular, became the protectors of children.
Mothers made tiger hats, bibs, vests, gloves, shoes, toys -- in effect to cover the children from head to toe with image of tigers, to ensure the continuity of the household bloodline, and to bless the children with heath and safety in their growing up.
Nowdays, there are still shops selling tiger shoes for children to wear in the Chinese New Year, a time when everyone wishes for a head start.