Chinese Tiger Shoes

Children's shoes keep bad luck away

This is a Yorkshire World Collections object, one of 100 chosen by young people aged 16-24, as part of the London Cultural Olympiad programme Stories of the World.


This pair of children’s shoes has been designed in the image of a tiger's face. They were made in China between 1890 and 1920.


In China, the idea of Yin and Yang, which means 'shadow and light' is used to describe the way opposite forces complement each other in the natural world. Yin and Yang is based on the Taoist belief that the world consists of a series of opposites that interlink with each other, for example, the moon and the sun, female and male, hot and cold, day time and night time. You can find out more about Taoism through the link at the bottom of this page.


In Chinese culture, animals are often used to represent ideas. Traditionally, a white tiger represents 'yin' or shadow, and the dragon represents 'yang' - the two opposing forces of the universe. Tiger charms are used to keep away bad luck and evil. Infants wear dragon and tiger booties, and children wear tiger shoes for protection, to bring yin and yang into balance. 

These shoes are part of a larger collection of Chinese objects, brought back to Lincolnshire by a Mrs Bolton, a missionary in China during the early 20th Century.

Compare these shoes with another pair of Chinese tiger shoes for children.


Discussion ideas:

  • What other cultures can you think of that use animals to represent abstract concepts such as power, strength, weakness, pride?
  • Discuss the concept of Yin and Yang, and whether or not you agree that everything in life should have an opposing force to 'balance' the Universe?
  • Taoism was a major religion in China before the Communist Revolution fifty years ago. After the revolution, a campaign was mounted to destroy non-Communist religions. Discuss why the Communist regime felt that religion was a threat.

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