From Lion to Tiger: The Changing Buddhist Images of Apex Predators in Trans-Asian Contexts

  • Xing ZhangEmail author
  • Huaiyu Chen
Part of the The Palgrave Macmillan Animal Ethics Series book series (PMAES)


This chapter aims to provide an interpretation on the connections among the worlds of nature, society, and religion in trans-Asian contexts with a focus on apex predators. In some Asian religious writings, animals, as living beings in nature, human beings in society, and spiritual beings in religions lived in similar hierarchical orders. Furthermore, the environment and ecosystems shaped the order of animals, and social ideas, institutions, and practices created social order. Human learned knowledge, living experience, and an inspired imaginary formed and shaped religious order. Indeed, these orders interacted with each other. In particular, the apex predators played vital roles in shaping both social and spiritual life in trans-Asian contexts. With the spread of Buddhism from South Asia to East Asia, it seems that the prominent position of the lion in South Asia was challenged and supplemented by the tiger, the apex predator in East Asia. The latter, with its cultural and symbolic central roles in East Asian political, economic, and cultural life, had a tremendous impact on Buddhist culture in East Asia, as indicted by Chinese Buddhist narratives, arts, and rituals. For instance, the ability to tame tigers became a benchmark for becoming a medieval Chinese Buddhist saint.


Lions Tigers Buddhism Apex predators South Asia East Asia 


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of South Asian StudiesPeking UniversityBeijingChina
  2. 2.School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious StudiesArizona State UniversityTempeUSA

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