Huye is one kind of animal deity in popular religion. Hu mean tiger in Chinese. Meanwhile, tiger is regarded as deity in this case. Most often Huye is as an accompanied deity(配祀神) and the sedan of main deity in temples. Tiger is the sedan of many deities, such as Tudi gong(土地公), Baoshengdadi(保生大帝), Caishen Zhao Gongming(財神趙公明), and Zhang tian-shi(張天師) etc. Only rare temples are dedicated to Huye. They are mainly located at the middle area of Taiwan. Because Huye is the accompanied deity and the sedan of main deity, his statue often placed under the altar table. Huye’s major role is exorcising and tutelage of the believer’s fortune. Although Huye ranks low in the spectrum of popular deity, his popularity is almost above each deity. It does not matter whether the deity is popular or not. Or the temple is huge or tiny. Huye stays in a temple as the supporting role in case of the main deity need. Most of the temples are dedicated to Tudi gong.
Since Huye is the accompanied deity of various deities, people also called him in various ways. He is also called Tianhu jianjun(天虎將軍, General the Heaven Tiger), Fe hu jianjun(飛虎將軍, General the Flying Tiger), Shanjun Zunshen(山軍尊神, Venerable Garrison deity of mountain), Xiatan yuanshuai(下壇元帥, Marshal under the Altar), and Hehu jianjun(黑虎將軍, General Black Tiger)etc.
Tiger become a deity is connected with the human cultural related to tiger. Taiwan is not the origin place of tiger. It is no doubt that the idea and image of Huye comes from mainland China. They are brought by the Han people. The cultural, taboo, and legend related to tiger are complex and lasting. In Liangzhu culture(良渚文化)’s sites, it is found that people line shells in dregon and tiger shape. The important goddess Xi Wangmu(西王母) in Chinese religion is described as tiger tail in ancient literature. The four animal representation of cardinal direction also have a white tiger that represents the west. In the well known Chinese Zodiac(十二生肖), tiger has a place. There are also some taboos and restricting related to the person whose zodiac is tiger when a wedding or funeral is held. Tiger’s image is complex. Sometimes people thought that it is auspicious. In other cases, tiger is the symbol and association of menace. Tiger is a complex.
Though tiger reveals people’s complex, the legend about tiger becoming deity’s sedan is consistent. The main line is tiger tamed or helps by the main deity. For example, one of Tudi gong’s duty is watch over mountain. If a tiger would hurt human, one must take the permission from Tudi gong. In the case of Baoshengdadi’s sedan, Hehu jianjun, he was an anthropophagous tiger before. The last time he ate a woman and the lady’s hairpin got stuck in his throat. His pain almost killed himself until he was cured by Baoshengdadi. Then he regretted what he had done before and thanked to Baoshengdadi’s saving his life. As the result, He became Baoshengdadi’s sedan. There are also some stories about Cheng huangye (城隍, the City god) punishing the tiger that hurts peoples. Besides, as the vehicle of deity, tiger also shows the swift and overwhelming power of main deity.
The statue of Huye is in tiger’s shape mainly. Until recently, there are some statues in the shape of semi tiger. They have tiger head and human body or a human wearing a tiger hat. Most material of Huye’s s statue is woods or stone. Rare of them are cooper ware or pottery. Huye has smile on his face and imitate catlike shape. So he liberates his fierce tiger image and become intimate to people.
As mentioned above, Huye is often dedicated in the Tudi gong’s temple. He is also a deity in the temple dedicated to Baoshengdadi. There are also some temples dedicated to Huye, such as Mingshen temple(明聖廟) in Zhanghua(彰化), the Assembly temple of Huye(虎爺會會館) in Jiayi(嘉義), and Fuhe temple(伏虎宮) in New Taipei City. There are also some new flourishing temples and shrines.
Huye, General Black Tiger, Tudi gong, Baoshengdadi