The eight Buddhist symbols

(Posted on 14/06/14)

The eight Buddhist symbols

Relate to spiritual qualities and mysteries that the believer should try develop and understand.  The meanings attributed to each are fairly straightforward in comparison with the subtleties internet in Taoist symbolism.  They may be found together or in isolation.  

(1) Canopy: protection

(2) Lotus flower: purity

(3) Umbrella: dignity

(4) Vase containing heavenly elixir: enduring peace

(5) Conch shell: calling to prayer

(6) Fishes: abundance

(7) Wheel: the majesty of the law

(8) Endless knot: destiny

The eight precious things  Taken from the ‘one hundred symbols’ of the Book of Rites, they may be found together or in isolation.

(1) Pear: purity and perfection

(2) Coin: wealth

(3) Books: the value of learning

(4) Empty rhombus: victory and prosperity

(5) Full rhombus: the wealth in art

(6) Musical stone: blessing

(7) Rhinoceros-horn cups: resistance (to poison)

(8) Artemisia leaf: dignity

The four gentlemanly accomplishments  Qualities deemed necessary for a man of nobility and learning.  These are usually found together.

(1) Lute: music

(2) Chessboard: chess

(3) Scrolls: painting and drawing

(4) Books: poetry

Animal, bird and plant symbols  Arguably the most popular in contemporary carpets, with the possible exception of the Shou .

(1) Dragon: power, mercy and authority over the elements. Its also symbolized the Emperor.

(2) Phoenix: the female aspect of the dragon, symbolizing the Empress, which governs peace and happiness.

(3) Fo-dogs (or lion dogs): guardians of Buddha and Buddhist temples.

(4) Unicorn: wisdom. It appears when sages are born.

(5) Stages: well-being and official emolument.

(6) Storks, geese and cranes: Longevity.

(7) Ducks: fidelity.

(8) Tortoises: longevity.

(9) Bats: happiness and good luck.

(10) Butterflies: luck and a happy marriage.

(11) Horses: symbolic of the horse that carried Buddhist teaching from India to China, particularly if white.

(12) Peony: nobility, love and affection.

(13) Pomegranate: fertility.

(14) Peach-blossom: longevity and spring.

(15) Lotus: purity and summer, in addition to its more specific Buddhist and Taoist meanings.

(16) Chrysanthemum: long life and autumn.

(17) Daffodil; good luck and winter.