Tiger Tiger Burning Bright: the Year of the Tiger

Tiger, Tate Modern | Photo: Lesley Scoble

Mention the tiger, and straightaway the words of William Blake’s poem come into my mind. The first verse of this poem is forever in my soul (ever since childhood, for some unknown reason), and I recite the opening four lines inside my head. It is strange, isn’t it?—how some phrases and verses can remain indelible in your psyche forever. For me, Tyger, Tyger is one such poem.

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

William Blake 1757–1827

*see the complete poem at the foot of this post.

The next immediate thought that arises is, of course “SAVE THE TIGER”. Allowing the tiger to disappear from our world is a horrendous possibility.

I am baffled that Traditional Chinese Medicine still uses tiger parts to treat common ailments. Why? When Aspirin can treat with equal efficacy?

I ask all people who use such traditional medicines if they can make a new year’s resolution for this YEAR OF THE TIGER? To stop using medicinal potions from a primitive time, when tigers survived in plentiful numbers. A resolution to quit this archaic practice and help save this irreplaceable animal.

The finite demand for body parts from such an endangered species cannot continue. To only stop when the tiger no longer exists.

How wonderful would it be if the millions of modern day Chinese should abandon the trade in reliquary tiger body parts? To reject out-of-date medicine and save the tiger?

*See an itemised list of the tiger body parts still used in Chinatowns throughout the globe on the Tigers in Crisis website.

The Year of the Tiger

The Chinese New Year 2022 begins on the 1st of February. It is the Year of the Tiger. Chinese peoples wherever they may live, will celebrate it—with pantomimical lions dancing to the beat of drums and gongs, and eating greens.

Chinatown, London | Photo: Lesley Scoble

In London, our own Chinatown will fill with parades, festivities and above all, the colour red!

Lucky Red

Red | Photo: Lesley Scoble

In China and throughout Asia, the colour red is significant. It is such an important and auspicious colour that portends luck and good fortune—millions shall wear red underwear on this Chinese New Year’s Day!

A Tiger Tale

The Traditional Chinese Folk Tale, The Nodding Tiger was originally adapted by Norman Hinsdale Pitman, in The Chinese Wonder Book in 1919. Below, I have written my interpretation of this tale.

The Nodding Tiger

Widow T’ang was old and lived alone with her only son. They were poor. Their home was a humble, ramshackle dwelling just outside the city walls. It was a struggle to make ends meet. Her young son was a woodcutter, and each morning set off into the hills to cut wood to sell. It was their only income providing a meagre living, earning just about enough for him and his mum to survive. One morning, her son set off as usual with his axe over his shoulder to cut some wood. She watched him set off down the road, his figure silhouetted against the sunrise. He turned and gave her a wave, then turned a corner and disappeared. Her slight, bent figure stood awhile, her gaze following his direction. She was filled with love and gratitude for her son. 

Long past sunset, T’ang had not returned home. He was never this late, and she was fraught with worry. The following morning, he was still absent. She was distraught. Anguished and tearing her hair out, she hurried as fast as her arthritic legs could take her to a neighbour’s house. The compassionate neighbour, taking pity, went into the hills to look for him. It was not long before he discovered the bloody remnants of the poor boy’s clothing. Alongside lay his bloodied axe. Evidence the lad had fought bravely but succumbed. The tiger had taken him. 

The neighbour returned to the widow’s home with the boy’s pathetic rags and the axe. No words spoken, but by the sight alone, she knew the fate of her beloved son. Grief stricken, T’ang’s mother collapsed in a faint at his feet. The neighbour lifted the frail figure of T’ang’s mother up and carried her into her hovel.

Her slow, stoic, companionless, painful walk led her to the gates of the city hall. To gain admittance, she called and wailed in a plaintive voice about her plight. Kneeling before the courthouse, she wept for the murder of her only son, leaving her desolate and desperate without a breadwinner. Doomed to starve. She was here to plead for justice and recompense.

The pathetic figure crying outside the gates drew the attention of the mandarin magistrate. To cease her wailing, he issued instructions to allow her into the great hall. 

The mandarin asked, “Why are you creating such a commotion at my court?” T’ang’s mother trembled, but stood up as straight as she could. She looked him straight in the eye and said, “My young son, the woodcutter, is dead. A victim of murder and eaten by the tiger. Without him, there is no one to care for me and I shall die of starvation. I demand that you bring the perpetrator of this crime to justice. I beg you to uphold the law and bring the assassin of my son to account!”

“Have you lost your wits, woman?” laughed the mandarin, “I thought you said a tiger killed your son?” The crowded assembly joined in with raucous laughter…

(To be continued…)

Sorry guys to leave the tiger tale only a third of the way through… Its been a busy week. If you can’t wait for the next installment!—you can read the full text of the Norman Hinsdale Pitman story here
To listen to a calming complete (18 mins) audio version of the tale from The Chinese Wonder Book by Norman Hinsdale Pitman visit Snoozecast to help you nod off with the Nodding Tiger.

Where is my Jungle?

Where is my jungle? | Photo: ©️Lesley Scoble

“Where is my jungle?” asked the tiger.
”Gone.” said the man,
“I took it.”

Lesley Scoble – January 2022

Adopt a tiger with WWF

Tyger Tyger | Street art, London | Photo: Lesley Scoble
William Blake, 1757-1827 | painter, poet, engraver, | Photo: Lesley Scoble

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand, dare sieze the fire?

And what shoulder, & what art,
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand? & what dread feet?

What the hammer? what the chain?
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?

When the stars threw down their spears,
And water’d heaven with their tears,
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

—William Blake – 1757-1827

Happy Year of the Tiger one and all!
Don’t see red!—wear it.

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