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Turtles, Asia's Symbols for Longevity

In the far east, from history to present day, there are many belief symbols.  In Chinese culture, especially under the influence of Taoism (道教) the turtle shell is the symbol of heaven and the flat square underside the symbol of earth. Based on this understanding, the turtle carries the world on its back. Being the symbol of fertility, vitality and great patience the Chinese believed these animals foretold future events and therefore, fortune tellers use turtles shell to read the future in the pattern on the turtle shell.

The turtle also supports the world with its four feet represent the four corners of the earth as the Chinese believed at the time the earth was. According to this believe the turtle was an animal whose magic united heaven and earth.

J-21 Granite Turtle

Schildkröte aus GranitLength: 30 cm
Depth: 20cm
Height: 15 cm
Price: CHF 210.--
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This turtle enjoys the sun sitting on top of a Japanese Zenibachi.
Schildkröte auf Zenibachi Schildkröte auf Zenibachi Schildkröte auf Zenibachi Schildkröte auf Zenibachi Schildkröte auf Zenibachi


We often see stone grave steles on a stone turtle or reliquaries standing on it as the turtle is also regarded as an immortal creature. Not only in China, but also in Vietnam, Korea and Japan the turtle is widely used as a symbol of good fortune and longevity being a positive omen to bring 10'000 years of happiness.
In China, there is a long tradition of consuming turtles as practitioners of the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) promote nutritional and medicinal benefits from eating them. The Chinese turtle trade is the primary threat to endangered turtle populations throughout Asia.
TCM is highly regarded in China, Korea and Japan. To store the ingredients, wooden medicine chests of different sizes were used.


Bulguksa, (Temple of the Buddha Land) in Korea
Bulguksa Tempel Korea Trommel SchildkröteIn the North Gyeongsang province in South Korea the Buddhist Bulguksa temple is the home to seven National treasures of South Korea, including Dabotap and Seokgatap stone pagodas, the famous Cheongun-gyo (Blue Cloud Bridge) and two gilt-bronze statues of Buddha. Bulguksa was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List together with the Seokguram Grotto, which lies some kilometers away.

The temple is considered as a masterpiece of the golden age of Buddhist art in the Silla kingdom. Within the temple a turtle carrying a drum is one of the attractions to see.


Busan, Yongdu Mountain Park in the Port City in Korea
Busan Korea Schildkröten Yongdu Park PusanBusan, also known as Pusan is the largest port city in South Korea. With a population of 3.65 million Busan is after Seoul South Korea's second largest metropolis. Located on the Southeastern side of the Korean Peninsula Busan is facing the Korea Strait.

In Koreas Yongdu Mountain park in the center of Busan city stone steles carried by two turtles overlook the harbor of Busan.

Vietnam's temple of literature
In the city of Hanoi, the temple of literature or Van Mieu Quoc Tu Giam displays the 'Garden of Stele' where turtles carry steles with the names of successful students.

Vietnam, Literaturtempel Schildkröten

Vietnam, Literaturtempel Schildkröten


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This page was last updated April 2022


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