Vietnamese Dragon

Vietnamese dragons (in Vietnamese, Rồng 龍) are symbolic creatures of Vietnamese mythology. According to an ancient myth, Vietnamese are descendants of a dragon and a fairy.

For the Vietnamese, the dragon brings rain, essential for agriculture. It represents the emperor, prosperity and power of the nation. Like the Chinese dragon, the Vietnamese dragon is the symbol of yang, representing the universe, life, existence and growth.

Existing references to the Vietnamese dragon are now rare due to the fierce changes in history that accompanied the sinization of the Nguyen dynasty.

The legend of Vietnamese Dragon

The fifth-generation grandson of Shennong, Lac Long Quan, king of the dragons living near the sea Đông, married a goddess, Âu Cơ who was the daughter of the bird-like king Đế Lai. Âu Cơ carried 100 eggs, which hatched into 100 sons. The first-born son became King Lạc Việt, the first dynasty of Vietnam, and was proclaimed Emperor Hùng Vương.

The first was followed by Hùng Vương the Second, Hùng Vương the third and so on, through 18 reigns. This is the origin of the Vietnamese proverb: "Con Rồng, Chau Tiên" ("Children of the Dragon, grandchildren of the gods").

Historical evolution of the image of the Vietnamese dragon


The Vietnamese dragon is a combined image of crocodile, snake, cat, rat and bird. Historically, Vietnamese people lived near rivers, so they worshipped them as crocodiles ("Giao Long"), the first type of Vietnamese dragon.

There are some types of dragons found in archaeological artifacts. One group is the crocodile dragons, with the head of a crocodile and the body of a snake.

The dragon-cat excavated in a piece of glazed terracotta at Bắc Ninh has some characteristics of the Đại Việt period dragon: it does not have a crocodile head, its head is shorter and has a long neck, its wings and tail are long, and the whiskers and skin are found in the image of the Đại Việt dragon.

Ngô Dynasty (938-965).

The cornerstone of this period is found in Cổ Loa, the dragon is short, with a body of a cat and tail of a fish.

Lý Dynasty (1010-1225

The Lý dynasty is the dynasty that laid the foundations of Vietnamese feudalism. Buddhism was widespread and Văn Miếu, the nation's first university, was established. The slender dragon of this period represents royal power and classical refinement.

The perfectly round curved bodies of these dragons, have a long sinuous shape, gradually tapering towards the tail. The body has 12 sections, symbolizing the 12 months in the year. The back of the dragon is small, with regular, uninterrupted fins. The head, high, is in proportion to the body, and has a long mane, beard, prominent eyes, crested nose (pointing forward), but no horns.

The legs are small and slender, and usually 3 toes. The jaw opens wide, with a long, thin tongue; dragons always keep a châu (gem/jewel) in the mouth (a symbol of humanity, nobility and knowledge). These dragons are able to change the weather, and are responsible for crops.

Trần Dynasty (1225-1400).

The dragon of the Trần dynasty was similar to that of the Ly dynasty, but was more robust. The Tran dragon has new details: arms and horns. Its fire crest is shorter. Its slightly curved body is fat and is smaller towards the tail. There are many types of tail (straight and pointed tail, snail tail), as well as many types of scale (a regular half-flowered scale, slightly curved scale).

The dragon symbolizes the martial arts of the Trần, because the Tran kings were descendants of a Mandarin commander. The Trần era was also marked by a series of devastating invasions by the Mongols followed by repeated raids by the Champa.

Lê Dynasty

In this period, the image of the Vietnamese dragon was influenced by the Chinese dragon, due to the expansionist policy of Confucianism. Unlike those of the previous dynasty, dragons in this age are not only depicted in a curved posture among the clouds, but also in others.

These dragons were majestic, with their head similar to that of a lion. Instead of a fire shield, they have a large nose. Their bodies are curved in two sections. Their feet have five sharp claws.

Nguyễn Dynasty

During the early part of the Nguyen Dynasty (1802-1883), the dragon is depicted with a coiled tail and a long-finned firearm. These dragons were personified as a mother with her children or a pair of dragons. Its head and eyes are large. It has deer horns, lion nose, expose canine teeth, its scale is normal, curved whiskers. The images of the dragon king show 5 claws, while the images of lesser dragons show only 4 claws.

In the latter period (1883-1945), the dragon image degenerated and became unrefined, losing its natural and majestic form, and was seen as a sign of decadence in the art of the late Vietnamese dynasty.

Vietnamese Dragon in literature

Some sayings and proverbs mention dragons but imply something else:

  • "Rồng gặp mây": "The dragon gathers the clouds" - In favorable condition.
  • "Đầu rồng đuôi tôm": "Dragon head, shrimp tail" - Good in the first place and the bad in the past; something that starts good but ends bad.
  • "Rồng bay, phượng múa": "Flight of the dragon, dance of the phoenix" - Used to praise the calligraphy of someone who writes Chinese ideograms as well.
  • "Rồng đến nhà tôm": "The dragon visits the shrimp house" - A saying used by a lot of the guest(s): the host portrays himself as a lowly shrimp and his guest as a noble dragon.
  • "Ăn như rồng cuốn, nói như rồng leo, làm như mèo mửa": "Eating like dragon rolls, talking like dragon lifts, working like vomiting cat" - A criticism of someone who eats too much and talks too much, but is lazy .

Dragón vietnamita de cerámica en el Camino de cerámica de Hanoi/puente Chuong Duong.