Bringing Myths and Legends to Life...

Oriental/Chinese Dragon

 By Meilin Wong (19659 bytes)

Back To Mythical Realm Home PageIn the mythology of various Oriental countries, the dragon is the supreme spiritual power, the most ancient emblem and the most ubiquitous motif in Oriental art. These Dragons represent celestial and terrestrial power, wisdom and strength. They reside in water, bring wealth and good luck, use good magic to help people in trouble and, in Chinese belief, rainfall for their precious crops. The dragon in traditional Chinese New Year's Day parades is believed to repel evil spirits that would inevitably spoil the New Year. The five-clawed dragon became the Chinese Imperial emblem (the four-clawed being the common dragon). The three-clawed dragon is the Japanese dragon. In Hindu mythology, Indra, god of the sky and giver of rain, slays Vitra, Dragon of the Waters, to release rainfall.



Most people are more familiar with the classic western concept of the dragon, but not all have a great insight into probably one of the most recognized dragons, the Chinese dragon.

In Chinese mythology there are Nine Classical types of dragon:

  • Yinglong the Winged Dragon: believed to be a powerful servant of Huang Di, the yellow emperor, who was later immortalized as a dragon. One legend states that Yinglong helped a man named Yu stop the yellow river from flooding by digging long channels with his tail. The Yinglung is the oldest of all eastern dragons. Once all dragons reach a certain age, they develop wings.

  • Dragon King: actually consisting of four separate dragons, each of which rules over one of the four seas, those of the east, south, west, and north. Although Dragon Kings appear in their true forms as dragons, they have the ability to shapeshift into human form. The Dragon Kings live in crystal palaces, guarded by shrimp soldiers and crab generals.

  • Shenlong the Spiritual Dragon: generates wind and rain for the benefit of mankind.

  • Dilong the Underground Dragon: earth dragons whose task it is to preside over rivers and streams. According to some accounts, they are the female counterpart of the Shenlong and they fly only in order to mate.

  • Tianlong the Celestial Dragon: literally "heaven dragon") are the celestial dragons who pull the chariots of the gods and guard their palaces.

  • Fucanglong the Dragon of Hidden Treasures: Chinese underworld dragons which guard buried treasures, both natural and man-made. Volcanoes are said to be created when they burst out of the ground to report to heaven.

  • Panlong The Coiling Dragon: water dragons believed to mostly inhabit the lakes of the Orient.

  • Huanglong The Yellow Dragon: once emerged from water and presented the legendary Emperor Fu Shi with the elements of writing.

  • li the Homeless Dragon: that lives in the ocean and another type (chiao) that is scale-covered and usually inhabits marshes but also keeps dens in the mountains.



The First dragon appeared to the mythical emperor Fu-Shi, and filled the hole in the sky made by the monster Kung Kung. Its waking, sleeping and breathing determined day and night. Season and weather.

There are many differences between the classical dragon and the Chinese dragon, these include the ability to fly even without wings, shape-shifting abilities, and of course the general benevolent behavior to the populace.

The Chinese dragon is made up of nine entities. The head of camel, the eyes of a demon, the ears of a cow, the horns of a stag, the neck of a snake, it's belly a clam's, it's claws that of an eagle, while the soles of his feet are that of a tiger, and the 117 scales that cover it's body are that of a carp.

The Chinese dragon has four claws as standard, but the Imperial dragon has five, this is to identify it above the lesser classes. Anyone other than the emperor using the 5 claw motif was put to death.

The Chinese dragon (Lung) was a divine bringer of rain, necessary for  the good of the people. Throughout Chinese history the dragon has been equated with weather. It is said that some of the worst floodings were caused when a mortal has upset a dragon. The dragon was also a symbol of the emperor whose wisdom and divine power assured the well-being of his subjects. Many legends draw connections between the dragon and the emperor. Some emperors claimed to have descended from the dragon.

Chinese dragons of myth could make themselves as large as the universe or as small as a silkworm.


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