Chinese Dragon

Chinese Dragon

The Chinese dragon (in traditional Chinese, 龍; in simplified Chinese, 龙; pinyin, lóng) is a mythological and legendary animal from China and other Asian cultures that has parts of nine animals: locust eyes, deer horns, camel snout, dog nose, catfish whiskers, lion mane, snake tail, fish scales and eagle claws.

The dragon is also the personification of the concept of yang (masculine) and is related to the weather as the propitiator of rain and water in general.🐉

Cult of the Chinese Dragon


Some people have proposed that its shape is the fusion of the totems of various tribes as a result of the merging of tribes. The coiled form of the snake or dragon played an important role in ancient Chinese culture. Legendary characters such as Nüwa are depicted with snake bodies.

Some researchers report that the first legendary emperor of China used a snake on his coat of arms. Whenever he conquered a new tribe he incorporated the emblem of the defeated enemy into his own. This explains why the dragon seems to have diverse characteristics from other animals. There is no apparent relation to the western dragon.

The dragon as a mystical creature

From its origins as a totem or stylized representation of natural creatures, the Chinese dragon evolved to become a mythical animal For the Han dynasty the dragon's appearance was depicted as having the trunk of a snake, the scales of a carp, the tail of a whale, the horns of a deer, the face of a camel, the claws of an eagle, the ears of a bull, the feet of a tiger and the eyes of a locust, as well as having a flaming pearl under its chin.

Chinese dragons are occasionally depicted with bat wings growing from their forelimbs, but most of them lack them, although they are still capable of flight.

This description is consistent with artistic depictions of the dragon to this day. The dragon has also acquired an almost unlimited range of supernatural powers. It is said to be able to camouflage itself like a silkworm or become as large as the entire universe. It can fly through clouds or hide in water (according to the Guanzi).

It can form clouds, transform into water or fire, become invisible or glow in the dark (according to the Shuowen Jiezi).🐉

The dragon as ruler of weather and water

Chinese dragons are strongly related to water in folk beliefs. They are believed to be the rulers of moving bodies of water, such as waterfalls, rivers and seas. They may be shown as water jets or tornadoes on water.

In this position as rulers of water and weather, the dragon is more anthropomorphic, often depicted as a humanoid, dressed in kingly robes, but with a dragon's head wearing the royal headdress.

There are four main Dragon Kings, representing each of the four seas: the East Sea (corresponding to the East China Sea), the South Sea (South China Sea), the West Sea (sometimes considered the Indian Ocean and beyond) and the North Sea (sometimes considered Lake Baikal).

Because of this relationship, they are sometimes considered to be "in charge" of water-related weather phenomena. In ancient times many Chinese towns (especially those near rivers and seas) had temples dedicated to their local Dragon King. In times of drought or flood it was customary for the elders and local authorities to lead the community to dedicate sacrifices and celebrate other religious rites to appease the dragon and ask for rain or the cessation of rain.

The king of Wuyue in the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period was often referred to as the "Dragon King" or the "Dragon King of the Sea" because of his extensive hydrological engineering projects that "tamed" the seas.

The dragon as a symbol of imperial authority

At the end of his reign, the legendary first emperor Huang Di is said to have been immortalized as a dragon that resembled his emblem and ascended to heaven. Because the Chinese regard Huang Di as their ancestor, they sometimes call themselves "the descendants of the dragon." This legend also contributes to the use of the Chinese dragon as a symbol of imperial power.

The dragon, especially the yellow or golden dragons with five claws on each foot, was a symbol of the emperor in many Chinese dynasties. The imperial throne was called the "Dragon Throne." During the late Qing dynasty the dragon was even adopted as the national flag. It was a capital offense for commoners to wear clothes with the dragon symbol.

The dragon appeared on the engravings on the steps of imperial palaces and tombs, such as the Forbidden City in Beijing.

In some Chinese legends, an emperor could be born with a dragon-shaped birthmark. For example, one legend tells the story of a peasant born with such a mark who overthrows the ruling dynasty and founds a new one. Another legend tells of a prince who hid from his enemies and is identified by his dragon-shaped birthmark.

In contrast, the empress of China was often identified with the fenghuang.

Modern belief in the Chinese dragon

In modern times, belief in the dragon seems to be sporadic. Very few still see the dragon as a literally real creature but the cult of the Dragon Kings as rulers of water and time persists in many regions and is deeply rooted in Chinese cultural traditions, such as Chinese New Year celebrations.

Chinese Dragon representations

Neolithic representations

Dragon or dragon-like depictions have been found in abundant quantities in Neolithic archaeological sites throughout China. The oldest dragon depictions have been found in sites of the Xinglongwa culture. Clay vessels with dragon motifs have been found at sites of the Yangshao culture in Xi'an. The Liangzhu culture also produced dragon designs.

Sites from the Hongshan culture in present-day Inner Mongolia show that they produced jade amulets in the shape of dragon-pigs.

One of the earliest forms is that of the dragon-pig, an elongated, coiled creature with a boar-like head. The character for "dragon" in the earliest Chinese script has a similar coiled form, as do later jade dragon amulets from the Shang dynasty period.

Classical representations

There are "Nine Classic Types" of dragons, as depicted in Chinese art and literature, and nine is a favorable number in Chinese numerology. These types are:

  • Tianlong (天龍), the Heavenly Dragon;
  • Shenlong (神龍), the Spiritual Dragon;
  • Fucanglong (伏藏龍), the Dragon of Hidden Treasures;
  • Dilong (地龍), the Dragon of the Underworld;
  • Yinglong (應龍), the Winged Dragon;
  • Jiaolong (虯龍), the Winged Dragon;
  • Panlong (蟠龍), the Coiled Dragon, who inhabits the waters;
  • Huanglong (黃龍), the Yellow Dragon, who emerged from the Luo River to teach Fuxi the elements of writing;
  • Dragon King (龍王).

Apart from these, there are Nine Dragon Sons, who appear prominently in architectural and monumental decoration:

  • The first son is called bixi (贔屭, pinyin bìxì), looks like a giant turtle and is good at carrying weight. He is usually carved on the stone base of monumental tombstones.
  • The second son is called chiwen (螭吻, pinyin chǐwěn), he looks like a beast and likes to see far away. He is always found on rooftops.
  • The third son is called pulao (蒲牢, pinyin pǔláo), he looks like a small dragon and likes to roar. This is why he always appears in bells.
  • The fourth son is called bi'an (狴犴, pinyin bì'àn), he looks like a tiger and is powerful. He is often found at the gates of prisons to scare prisoners.
  • The fifth son is called taotie (饕餮, pinyin tāotiè), loves to eat and appears on cooking utensils and food-related utensils.
  • The sixth son is called baxia (蚣蝮, pinyin gōngfù or bāxià), likes to be in the water and appears on bridges.
  • The seventh son is called yazi (睚眥, pinyin yázī), likes to kill and is found on swords and knives.
  • The eighth son is called suanni (狻猊, pinyin suānní), looks like a lion and likes smoke as well as having an affinity for fireworks. It usually appears on incense burners.
  • The smaller one is called jiaotu (椒圖, pinyin jiāotú), looks like a conch or clam and does not like to be disturbed. It is used at the front door or threshold.

There are two other (inferior) species of dragon, the jiao and the li, both of which are hornless. Of the jiao it is sometimes said that they are dragons. The word is also used to refer to crocodiles and other large reptiles. The li are said to be a yellow version of the jiao. While dragons are often considered favorable or sacred, jiao and li are often depicted as evil or malevolent.

Dragon representations Cultural references

Number nine

The number nine is considered lucky in China, and Chinese dragons are often related to it. For example, a Chinese dragon is usually described in terms of nine attributes and usually has 117 scales: 81 (9×9) male and 36 (9×4) female.

This is also why there are nine dragon forms and the dragon has nine sons (see above). The "Wall of Nine Dragons" is a wall with images of nine different dragons found in imperial palaces and gardens. Since nine was considered the number of the emperor, only the highest officials were allowed to wear nine dragons on their robes, and these had to be completely covered by a surcot. Lower-ranking officers wore eight or five dragoons on their robes, again covered. Even the emperor himself wore his dragon robe with one of them hidden from view.

There are several places in China called "Nine Dragons," the most famous of which was Kowloon in Hong Kong. The part of the Mekong that runs through Vietnam is known as Cửu Long, with the same meaning.

Chinese Zodiac

The dragon is one of the twelve animals of the Chinese zodiac used to designate the years in the Chinese calendar. Each animal is believed to be related to certain personality traits. Dragon years tend to be the most popular years for having children.


The Blue Dragon (Qing Long, 青龍) is considered the principal of the four heavenly guardians, the other three being Zhu Que (朱雀, 'red bird'), Bai Hu (白虎, 'white tiger') and Xuan Wu (玄武, 'black tortoise'). In this context, the Blue Dragon is related to the East and the Wood element.

Dragon Boat Races

At certain festivals, especially the Duanwu festival, dragon boat races are important. These boats are usually ridden by teams of up to twelve rowers and have a dragon head carved on the bow. These races are also an important part of celebrations outside China, such as Chinese New Year.

Dragons and tigers

Tigers have always been the eternal rivals of dragons, so many works of art show a tiger and a dragon fighting an epic battle. Although the imperial dragon is infinitely stronger than the tiger in myths, a common Chinese proverb to describe even rivals (even today) is "dragon versus tiger". In Chinese martial arts, the term "dragon style" is used to describe fighting styles more based on understanding the movement, while "tiger style" is the one based on brute force and memorization of techniques.

Chinese Dragon In popular culture

  • As part of traditional folklore, dragons appear in a variety of mythological fiction. In the classic novel Journey to the West, the son of the Dragon King of the West was condemned to serve as a horse to travelers because of his indiscretions at a party in the heavenly court. Sun Wukong's staff, the Ruyi Jingu Bang, was stolen from Ao Kuang, the Dragon King of the Eastern Sea. In Fengshen Yanyi and other stories, Nezha, the child hero, defeats the Dragon Kings and rules the seas. Chinese dragons also appear in countless anime films and Japanese manga television shows, and in Western political cartoons as personifications of the People's Republic of China. Chinese respect for dragons is emphasized in Naomi Novik's Daredevil novels, where they were the first people to tame dragons and are treated as equals, intellectuals or even royalty, rather than beasts bred solely for war in the West. Manda is a large Chinese dragon that appears in the story of Godzilla. A three-headed golden dragon also appears in the comic book series God Is Dead.
  • The red dragon is a symbol of China that appears in many Mahjong games.
  • A Chinese water dragon is used as the main antagonist in season 3 of the Australian television series Mako Mermaids. The Dragon draws heavily on Chinese mythology to coincide with a new Chinese mermaid in the show.
  • The main antagonist of Wendy Wu: Homecoming Warrior, Yan-Lo, was a Chinese dragon. Although he passed away during the events of the film, he continues to hatch evil plans in spirit form.
  • In Monster High, Jinafire Long is the daughter of a Chinese dragon.
  • Mushu, a character from Disney's Mulan and its sequel.
  • In Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Grand Protector, she is a guardian dragon who protects the village of Ta-Lo.