Nike SB are about to release the Four Guardians series. The new line was inspired by the four spiritual animals which are found throughout oriental mythology. The four creatures date back to the 2nd century BC in China and were developed around the Warring States to Early Han period in China. The pictorial images were introduced to Japan sometime in the 7th century AD but the symbolism merged with and was supplanted by the Shitenno (Four Heavenly Kings) which have their origins in Buddhism.
Each of the four animals represent a cardinal direction, guardian, season, colour and element and had an apotropaic function of warding off evil spirits.
The Turtle/Tortoise (Ch: Xuan Wu 玄武, Jp: Genbu) North, Genbu, winter, black and water. The Zoom Air Regime will be the Genbu shoe.
The Dragon (Ch: Qinglong 青龍, Jp: Seiryuu) East, Seiryuu, spring, green/blue, and wood. The Zoom Tre will be the Seiryuu shoe
The Phoenix/Red bird (Ch: Zhuque 朱雀, Jp: Suzaku) South, Suzaku, summer, red and fire. The Zoom Abingdon will be the Suzaku shoe
The White Tiger (Ch: Baihu 白虎, Jp: Byakko) West, Byakko, autumn, white and metal. The Classic SB will be the Byakko shoe.
The same four animals are found in Digimon Sovereign characters:
The Turtle (Ebonwumon and Xuanwumon)
Ebonwumon is the Guardian of the Digital World's Northern Hemisphere. His Japanese name is Xuanwumon, derived from Xuanwu, the Chinese astronomical name for the northern quadrant of the sky. The Japanese word Genbu is also derived from this. The Chinese often portray Xuanwu as a tortoise. Ebonwumon resembles a tortoise with a second snake-like head and a tree for a shell. He has an affable personality.
The Dragon (Azulongmon and Qinglongmon)
Azulongmon is the guardian of the East.
The Phoenix (Zhuqioumon)
Zhuqioumon is the guardian of the south.
The White Tiger (Baihumon)
Baihumon is the guardian of the West.
In a collaboration with Horitaka, the only North American apprentice of Japanese tattoo master, Horiyoshi III, Nike commissioned the artist to design the Four Guardian range.
SB plan to release the shoes in four consecutive seasons. Starting this Autumn (Fall) with the Classic SB (white tiger). The shoe is white with black details and the animal imprinted on the insole.
The idea of wearing animals and animal skins on the foot is not new and certainly predates recorded history. Whilst no-one can sure, the evidence does point to footwear being worn for decoration only and not as functional attire. This belief gives greater credence to the meaning of what was worn on the foot, and in early societies much emphasis was placed on luck and good fortune.