Dragon King

Dragon King

Longwang (simplified Chinese: 龙王; traditional Chinese: 龍王; pinyin: Lóngwáng; Wade: Lung Wang; EFEO: Long Wang; Japanese: Ryûô 龍王). In both Chinese and Japanese mythology, the Dragon Kings occupy an important place.

Generally high in the pantheon, they govern the climate and are therefore the intermediary between man and the gods. They stay mainly at the bottom of the sea.

Dragon King in China

Dragon kings (龍王; pinyin: Lóng Wáng) are in Chinese mythology the rulers of the four seas surrounding the central Earth, the most powerful being the dragon king of the eastern sea.

They can take human form and are often represented as a man with a dragon head or wearing a headdress with a dragon. They were at one time assimilated by Buddhism to the naga kings.

They each live in an underwater palace, called "Crystal Palace ", guarded by all sorts of sea creatures (fish, octopus, turtles, shrimps, eels, crayfish, etc.) and have an army under their command whose generals can be crabs or others.

They can unleash or calm the seas, but also make it rain and cause floods. But if they have this power, it is however limited, because only the Jade Emperor can decide by decree to make it rain on a country or not. If they were to violate one of his orders, they would be beheaded on the spot.

Dragon kings often appear in literature: The Eight Immortals Cross the Sea, The Investiture of the Gods (birth of Nazha), The Journey to the West; thanks to this last work, they have acquired the following names:

  • Dragon King of the Eastern Sea: Aoguang (敖廣) (EFEO: Ngao Kouang);
  • Dragon King of the Southern Sea: Aoqin (敖欽) (EFEO: Ngao Kin);
  • Dragon King of the Western Sea: Aorun (敖閏) (EFEO: Ngao Jouen);
  • Dragon King of the Northern Sea: Aoshun (敖順) (EFEO: Ngao Chen);

However, these four Dragon Kings are not worshipped very fervently, despite the many temples in their names in China. In popular religion, local Dragon Kings are actually worshipped. They are linked to every river or even every well. In northern China, each well has a miniature temple in which the statue of the dragon king appears in the guise of a mandarin in ceremonial costume.

The owner offers him a sacrifice of three incense sticks on the first and fifteenth of each month. According to the Magic Formula of the Supreme Peak Cave (太上洞淵神咒經), a Taoist text, there are a total of 54 ordinary dragon kings and 62 superior dragon kings.

It is also to the Dragon-Kings that one turns during droughts. In large cities, a procession is organized in his honor through the streets of the city, with an effigy of the dragon surrounded by musicians and dancers. In the small villages, the only thing that is done is to offer the Dragon King a large sacrifice.

If after a few days of prayer, the rain has not returned, the statue of the god is left on the side of the road, in the sun. It is imagined that this makes the dragon suffer and he will ask the Jade Emperor for permission to make it rain. If the rain falls soon after, a big party is organized in his honor.

If it rains too much and there is a risk of flooding, it is once again the Dragon King who is asked to stop the rain.

Many temples were dedicated to them in the past in China, of which one in particular remains in Beijing, built under the Yuan. They were sometimes the object of an imperial cult beginning with the emperor Taizong of Tang. In 1863 under Emperor Tongzhi, the official in charge of the waterways was ordered to regularly worship the dragon king of the canals.

Dragon King in Japan

In Japan, the Hachidairyûô Dragon Kings (八大龍) "the Eight Great Dragon Kings" correspond to the cardinal and collateral directions. They were recognized as especially important and, therefore, of royal blood.

In representations they are usually reduced to a single image, that of the dragon king Nanda, Nanda Ryūō (ナンダ竜王). They are mentioned in many books, including the Sūtra of the Lotus. Some chapels are dedicated to them in Japan, as well as some pilgrimage centers, such as Mount Ikoma near Nara.

Although they dwell at the bottom of ponds, chasms, or caves, their Ryūgū palace (竜宮) is located at the bottom of the ocean. According to tradition, their power resides in a spherical jewel that they hold in one of their paws.

They are represented either as dragons or as humans, sometimes combining these two facets, with the animal body resting on that of a richly adorned human dignitary. The latter holds in his hands a basket filled with corals, symbolizing the treasures of the sea, his feet resting on an inverted lotus leaf, itself resting on a rock.

According to some traditions, there is only one dragon deity, responsible for rain, and living in his underwater palace, called Ryūjin (竜神), "the Dragon God" or Kami no Ryū (かみのりゅう).

Dragon King In the culture

  • The Eight Immortals Cross the Sea (八仙過海 Bāxiān guòhǎi): the eight immortals each choose a magical way to cross the sea, which displeases the dragon king Aoguang. He captures Lan Caihe, but the other seven immortals resist and kill his son. Aoguang calls for help from the other three kings, and the battle degenerates. The bodhisattva Guanyin (or the Buddha Vairocana) puts an end to the conflict.
  • The Investiture of the Gods tells the story of the birth of Nezha, the main character of the animated film Prince Nezha Triumphs over the Dragon King, which was inspired by the work. Nezha fights against the dragon kings who, forgetting their mission, oppress the people and impose their will on them; he kills Aoguang's son, Aobing.
  • The Peregrination to the West: Aorun's son, Longwang sanjun, must be executed for having vandalized his father's palace. The bodhisattva Guanyin helps him to go into exile and become the second disciple of the monk Sanzang, transforming him into a dragon-horse.