Thursday, 1 March 2018

龟 | guī

In Mandarin Chinese, (Pinyin: guī 🔊) means “turtle” or “tortoise”.

The turtle did not make it to the Chinese zodiac. However, it appears in similar Asian zodiac systems:

The Cham zodiac uses the same animals and order as the Chinese zodiac, but replaces the Monkey with the turtle (known locally as kra). Similarly the Malay zodiac is identical to the Chinese but replaces two of the animals with the turtle (kura-kura) and mousedeer (kancil). One of the replaced animals is always the Rabbit, the other being either the Pig or Monkey.

is a simplified form of the traditional character which is a pictogram of a tortoise.

Juan Eduardo Cirlot wrote in his Dictionary of Symbols:

The turtle has a variety of meanings, all of which are organically related. In the Far East its significance is cosmic in implication. As Chochod has observed: ‘The primordial turtle has a shell that is rounded on the top to represent heaven, and square underneath to represent the earth’. To the Negroes of Nigeria it suggests the female sex organ and it is in fact taken as an emblem of lubricity. In alchemy it was symbolic of the ‘massa confusa’. These disparate senses have, nevertheless, one thing in common: in every case, the turtle is a symbol of material existence and not of any aspect of transcendence, for even where it is a combination of square and circle it alludes to the forms of the manifest world and not to the creative forces, nor to the Origin, still less to the irradiating Centre. In view of its slowness, it might be said to symbolize natural evolution as opposed to spiritual evolution which is rapid or discontinuous to a degree. The turtle is also an emblem of longevity. An engraving in the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili depicts a woman holding a pair of outspread wings in one hand and a turtle in the other. The counterbalancing of one with the other would suggest that the turtle is the inversion of the wings; that is, that since the wings signify elevation of the spirit, the turtle would denote the fixed element of alchemy although only in its negative aspect. In short, then, it would stand for turgidity, involution, obscurity, slowness, stagnation and highly concentrated materialism, etc. Perhaps this is the explanation of the turtles in Moreau’s painting of Orpheus with their disquieting negativeness.

More photos related to tortoises and sea glass @ Shutterstock.

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