I Ching, Yijing or Zhou Yi
"Oracle of the moon": © 2000 LiSe

  Yi Jing, Oracle of the Moon

The giant turtle Ao is mentioned
in three verses

53 The moon-toad

You have to put forth effort
Not travel far
With a long rod you fish in the cave of the moon-toad
With dedicated desire you catch the giant turtle Áo in the center of the clouds

73 Six Áo turtles

Leisure on rivers and lakes
Fishing below the mist-covered water
Your catch includes six Áo-turtles
Songs and laughter in the middle of the current

236 The legendary Áo turtle

Looking over the depths you cast the fishing hook
It is clear with thin veils of mist
You follow and catch Áo, the legendary turtle
No need to have misgivings

  The giant turtle (or sometimes fish) ‘Ao’ features in some creation myths. In China there was a view that the whole Earth was on the back of a giant turtle.
  Ao is a spirit animal. It has a dragon head, turtle body and kylin tail. People believe it can bring wealth. So many Aos can bring a lot of money.

  In Chinese mythology, the creator goddess Nüwa cut the legs off the giant sea turtle Ao and used them to prop up the sky after Gong Gong damaged Mount Buzhou, which had previously supported the heavens. In most pictures, Ao is the base, and on its back stand four elephants which support the earth. (Wiki)

The word “turtle” commony covers both turtles (generally live in water) and tortoises (generally live on land). 

  Tortoise shells were used for divination during the ancient Chinese Shang Dynasty and carry the earliest specimens of Chinese writing. Some Chinese are of the opinion that their script was taken from the signs on the back of the tortoise.

  For the Chinese, the tortoise or turtle is sacred and symbolizes power, longevity and tenacity. It is said that the tortoise helped Pangu create the world, together with the ingenuity of the creator goddess Nuwa. (Wiki)

The turtle with a snake coiled around it (known as the Dark Warrior) rules the North, including the northern part of the sky

  The flat plastron and domed carapace of a turtle parallel the ancient Chinese idea of a flat earth and domed sky. For the Chinese as well as the Indians, the tortoise symbolizes the universe. Quoting Pen T'sao, "the upper dome-shaped part of its back has various signs, which correspond with the constellations on the sky, and this is Yang; the lower part has many lines, which relate to the earth and is the Yin.

  The tortoise is one of the "Four Fabulous Animals", the most prominent beasts of China.   These animals govern the four points of the compass, with the Black Tortoise the ruler of the north and winter. North is the place where one is alone, the place of mystery. The tortoise is also called the Black warrior.

  In Daoist art, the tortoise is an emblem of the triad of earth-humankind-heaven.

  The concept of a world turtle seems to have arisen independently within Native American myth and legend. In the creation stories of the Lenape and Iroquois people, the Earth is created as soil is piled on the back of a great sea turtle that continues to grow until it is carrying the entire world. Many indigenous tribes in North America refer to the continent as Turtle Island to this day.

  Having remained the same for million of years, rarely die from diseases, can go without food for more than a year as well as their long survival in the animal kingdom makes people believe that these creatures somehow have supernatural powers. Real tortoises actually live more than 150 years on average.

last update: 29.09.2023


© LiSe April 2000