The Korean tiger was beloved as a deity of the cardinal directions as early as the mural paintings in the Goguryeo Tombs (37 BC-AD 668), and was associated with the east. The tiger was later the motif on embroidered insignia for military court officials in the Joseon period. Gradually, the tiger gained popularity in folk paintings as a protector to drive away evil spirits. It was also thought to be a messenger of sansin, the mountain spirit in Korean shamanism. Leopards were mistakenly thought
to be baby tigers, and were often painted with the mother tiger, as in this painting.