Tiger Tally | Ancient Chinese Culture

Tiger Tally


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The tiger tally, a tiger-shaped tally, was used as imperial authorization for troop movement in ancient China. With a text inscribed on its back, it always consists of two parts. The right part retained in the central government while the left part was issued to the local official or the garrison commander.

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When someone wanted to dispatch the troops from a certain region, he had to show the right part of the tiger tally and accepted the authorization. Only when the two parts could match each other, he could dispatch the troops.

In ancient China, the tiger tally played an important role in military affairs. There was a very famous story concerned with it. In the year 259 AD, the State of Qin attacked Zhao State. However, Wei and Zhao were two states that depended on each other and if Zhao was conquered, Wei would also be conquered soon. Being warned by Qin, the King of Wei hesitated to rescue Zhao. At last, with the help of the King’s favorite concubine, Xin Lingjun, the King’s younger brother, stole the tiger tally and then rescued Zhao with Wei’s troops.

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