The deeper we get into Street Fighter, the more we’re able to dig up where the sources of its lore came from. In Japan, one of the most prominent and recurring stories is that of the Four Symbols, also known as the Four Beasts: Azure Dragon, White Tiger, Vermilion Bird, and Black Turtle. This, however, was taken from the Chinese texts of the Wufang Shangdi, also known as the “Five Forms of the Highest Deity.” Whereas Japan has four beasts, China has five dragons: Azure, White, Red, Black, and Yellow. In Street Fighter, each of the dragons are represented by a character in the lore, and once these characters are revealed, it shows a story that Capcom has been wanting to tell, explaining why certain things are done the way they are, and most importantly, who the true center of Street Fighter has been this entire time.
We’ll start off with some context. I have been wanting to do a theory on the Lee Brothers, Yun and Yang, and another person on Twitter reached out saying they would love to see it. In my research, I noticed that each of the brothers had a nickname, and this led me on a path that I wasn’t expecting.
Starting with Yang, I noticed that his nickname was translated from Japanese as “Blue Dragon.” However, this was a slight error, as “青龍” actually translates to “Azure Dragon.” It was a simple mistake, but it was this mistake that led me to realize the truth about the Lees: they were two parts of a larger connection. Yang was the Azure Dragon. Yun, and his nickname, was the “White Dragon.”
Since both were Chinese, I knew Chinese mythology was where I needed to go, and I discovered the Wufang Shangdi and its dragons, who served as both mounts and stand-ins for the Five Deities. This was a start, and I needed to go further. If the Lees were the Azure Dragon and White Dragon, respectively, could there be representations of the others?
The answer, of course, was yes. And figuring out the next two was surprisingly easy.
The Red Dragon and Yellow Dragon were constantly at odds, and the Red Dragon was represented by the essence of fire. This told me that Ken was the Red Dragon and Ryu, his eternal rival, was the Yellow Dragon. It also helped that, in Japanese, the Yellow Dragon went by the name “Oryu.” That was close enough for me, but Ryu also being the primary focus of Street Fighter also fit in well with the Yellow Dragon being the center of the Five Deities. Case closed on that.
It was the Black Dragon that gave me fits, though. I was jumping between Chinese and Japanese mythologies, trying to figure out who the Black Dragon was. In Japan’s Four Symbols, the Black Dragon is the Black Turtle, and is also known as the Black Warrior.
“Well, it’s the Black Warrior,” you say. “It’s Akuma. Easy.”
That’s what I thought too, but nothing really pointed to Akuma being the Black Turtle. In fact, Akuma pointed to something else: being a representation of the supreme God of Heaven. The symbol that represents this? The same one Akuma uses: the “ten sign” – 天. However, after discovering the true Black Turtle, another element popped out: Akuma is NOT the supreme God of Heaven, but he WANTS to be. That’s the key. Akuma wishes to take over the position himself. However, the true supreme God of Heaven already exists in Street Fighter, and is unknowingly being protected by the Five Dragons (most of whom don’t know it themselves).
So, the first question that needs to be answered is who is the Black Turtle/Black Dragon?
After looking deep, I found the answer: it’s Gen.
Both the Black Turtle and the Black Dragon are represented by TWO animals: the turtle and the snake. Akuma did not have these in his motifs.
Gen, on the other hand, did. He used two fighting styles, the crane and the mantis. The crane style was offensive-oriented, and some of the names of his attacks are snake-themed, using either “snake” or “fang” to describe it. The mantis style isn’t as overt; however, the mantis style is best described as “defensive-oriented”, meaning it was inspired by turtles’ defensive capabilities (i.e. the turtle hides in its thick shell when threatened).
Having two fighting styles emulating both the snake and turtle, plus having an identical name to the Japanese name of the Black Turtle (Genbu) leads me to believe Gen is the last of the Five Dragons. https://streetfighter.fandom.com/wiki/Gen
So, now that we’ve found the Five Dragons, we have to determine who the link between them is to understand who they’re protecting from Akuma and, more importantly, why they need to be protected at all.
As it turns out, there’s only one person directly connected to all five. The true God of Heaven is a woman, and a woman who most of the FGC and gamers alike consider their goddess.
Street Fighter V proves this in a very, very subtle way. The keys that are meant to activate and deactivate the Black Moons are each topped with a symbol. Chun-Li ends up with the star key, but there’s one very particular detail that is overlooked: it’s the only piece that’s revealed to have a proper name – Merope, named after the star of the same name.
Looking into the origin of the name, we find that it is borrowed from the Greek myth of the Seven Sisters, and one of the sisters is named Merope. Why does this matter? Because of Merope’s story.
Merope is also known as “the lost Pleiad”, a goddess who lost her immortality because she fell in love with a mortal. Chun-Li has not fallen in love with anyone in the Street Fighter series (and I go into detail why here: https://manestreet.home.blog/2019/02/20/a-complex-look-inside-chun-li-slightly-nsfw/). However, the mere idea that she wants to find the right man makes her more human. Take a look at her quote to Rose in Super Street Fighter IV:
“Would you mind telling my fortune? I want to know when I’ll meet Mr. Right.”
Even if she is a goddess, she still has wants and needs. Love aside, there is one other reason she would be considered “lost”: she still doesn’t know what happened to her father. And Gen, the Black Turtle, appears to know what happened to him, but refuses to tell her.
He’s doing it to protect her. Dorai, Chun-Li’s father, was a close friend of Gen, and Gen honors his friend by looking out for his daughter, never telling her who she truly is. Having fought Akuma himself, he knows what Akuma is capable of, and does what he can to keep them apart at all costs. Because of Gen obscuring everything, even Akuma doesn’t know that Ryu is not the way to take over heaven. Ryu can provide him the death match he craves, but that’s because Ryu is the Yellow Dragon – he is a powerful distraction and keeps Akuma busy and obsessed over the wrong person.
“But that makes no sense!,” you say. “It’s Bison who killed Dorai! What does Akuma have to do with it?” To be fair, Bison did take claim to killing Chun-Li’s father. However, Gen’s job is to protect her from Akuma, not Bison. He knows Chun-Li’s more than capable of beating Bison, but Chun-Li wouldn’t stand a chance against Akuma, especially if he ever found out that she was the one he was supposed to be fighting.
“So what about Bison? Does he know about Chun-Li’s destiny?” It’s hard to say. He supposedly killed Dorai over investigating his operations, but on the off-chance Dorai is alive, he may want to get information from him, and finding out that Chun-Li is a literal goddess would be information he would want. It could also be argued that Bison knows, but just doesn’t care, preferring to take over the world his own way.
In any case, Chun-Li is perhaps the most important person in Street Fighter, and besides being a divine entity, there’s one other reason why she’s important. Remember the tarot cards Street Fighter released? Hers was Justice.
Googling the Justice tarot card gets you this description:
“The figure in the Justice card holds two objects: a scale in one hand as a symbol of balance and a sword in the other to exemplify the preservation of that equilibrium even by means of force.”
Chun-Li’s more than just a goddess. She keeps the world balanced. If Akuma destroyed Chun-Li, he would knock the world out of balance and put chaos in its place.
But there’s one more piece of evidence that ties all of this together. In Chinese, Chun-Li’s name is 春麗, which roughly translates to “Spring beauty”. However, there is another way to write the term: 春天的美丽, or “beauty of Spring”. There’s one character in there that ties her with Akuma: the “ten” sign – 天.
Heaven exists within the Spring beauty.