The totem tiger among the Hezhe


The tiger is one of the more widely respected totems among the Hezhe, second in popularity only to that of the bear. There are numerous stories that relate the tiger with the Hezhe.

Near Jabarovs contributes this history:
"A long time ago there was a girl that met a tiger deep in the forest and became its wife. She had a son called Akejinka, which means "born of the tiger". When this son grew up he became a great hunter. He took a woman and had by her numerous children that gave origin to a clan whose members are all considered her descendants, and therefore also of the tiger. For that reason, people of the clan of Akejinka don't fear the tiger, neither do the tigers harm them. If they go hunting and they encounter a tiger, it is enough for them to stay still without moving."

Other folk tales narrate how a couple that belonged to the clan of the tiger got lost in the forest. Having nothing to eat, they were doomed to die from starvation. When they requested help from their ancestors they were saved by a tiger that came out of the forest bearing a deer in his mouth.

Another story tells of a tiger that slept with a woman. The woman saw a man in a dream. The following day she entered the forest where she found a cabin in which she fell asleep, only to discover the next morning that there was a tiger sleeping with her.
One more tale narrates the story of a hunter who saved a tiger from a trap into which it had fallen, and it responded with its protection.

The tiger is therefore an animal with deep symbolic meaning for the Hezhe. They think that tigers come to their funerals and cry for the dead.

For that reason the Hezhe never hunt tigers. If they see their tracks they turn around. If they hurt a tiger they carry out a ceremony of pardon. They never say its name.

Suggested reading: Xu Changyu. - Hezhe zu wenxue (The literature of the Hezhe). 1991

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