Feng Shui Symbolism in Japan: The Four Divine Beasts

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


This paper presents a discussion of the appearance and context of feng shui symbolism in Japan. Attention is focused on the four divine beasts and their associated symbolism from their initial appearance on the Japanese archipelago until the ninth century and from the mid-nineteenth century until the present day, in an attempt to show how this symbolism became fully assimilated to the point that it appeared in (early) modern times in contexts no longer consciously associated with “original,” foreign practices or was fully absorbed into contexts that are deemed quintessentially Japanese.
By doing so, I would like to argue that the four directional animals preserved their role of “multivalent signs,” susceptible to many applications, interpretations, meanings and values. As symbols, visual depictions of underlying concepts, the four divine beasts adapted to (or, better still, were appropriated by) changing circumstances and ideologies to appear in new and entirely different contexts.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationTheory and Reality of Feng Shui in Architecture and Landscape Art
Subtitle of host publicationAsien- Und Afrika-studien Der Humboldt-universitat Zu Berlin
EditorsFlorian Reiter
Place of PublicationBerlin
PublisherHumboldt-Universität zu Berlin
Publication statusPublished - 2013


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