Place of Dragon in Chinese Mythology Essay Example
Place of Dragon in Chinese Mythology Essay Example

Place of Dragon in Chinese Mythology Essay Example

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  • Pages: 5 (1358 words)
  • Published: November 23, 2021
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Chinese dragons, which are legendary beings, possess a deep association with Chinese mythology.

Dragons in Chinese culture can appear in various forms, including fish, turtles, and imaginary creatures. However, the most common depiction is that of snakes with four legs. In Chinese terminology, dragons are referred to as yang and serve as a counterpart to the Chinese phoenix called yin. Traditional beliefs associate Chinese dragons with power and potency, especially related to water, rainfall, floods, lakes, and rivers. They were commonly used in traditional empires as symbols of imperial strength. Chinese dragons are considered divine beings that bring abundance, good luck, and prosperity. In fact, extraordinary and influential individuals are sometimes likened to dragons.

In China, dragons have been used for decorations and described in various forms such as dragon-boats, with the emperor dragon-face being the ultima


te compliment. This paper delves into the traditional Chinese dragon and its connection to Chinese culture.

Metaphors Linked to Chinese Dragons

Archaeological discoveries reveal that Chinese culture has been associated with dragons for over six thousand years. These findings indicate that dragons were extensively depicted in philosophical texts and shamanistic worship as symbols of prominence. It is believed that over six thousand years ago, during a challenging environment, early Chinese people believed certain animals and plants possessed powers to conquer the forces of nature (Anne 125).

These species were used as totem or common ancestors and special guardians of each tribe could prevent disasters or provide food by using these symbols. In central China, there used to be a tribe that lived on the middle and lower side of the Yellow River, and they considered the snake (dragon) as their totem. The dragon assisted

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them in winning battles under the dragon's protection, and after defeating another tribe, this tribe would add a part of the totem to the snake and incorporate it into another tribe. For example, if a tribe with a lion totem joined, the lion's antler would be added to the head of the snake. Consequently, the dragon would have nine attributes, including the shell of a turtle, neck of a snake, jaws of a lion, and other animal parts. These nine attributes make the number nine significant and fortunate in China.

The Myth of the Dragon

In ancient times, before creation, the dragon was widely regarded as one of the four primary spiritual animals. It symbolized masculinity and was often associated with the sun, while the Phoenix, Feng or yin, represented femininity. Alongside the dragon and Phoenix were the unicorn and tortoise. When humans were created and populated the land, they displayed wickedness that angered Tien Ti, the ruler of heaven. In response, Tien Ti unleashed a devastating flood that submerged the entire land. However, one of the younger gods named Yu took pity on humanity and appealed for their forgiveness. Moved by his compassion, Tien Ti granted Yu permission to descend to earth. Yu was accompanied by a giant black tortoise, an emerald scaled dragon, and a magic soil that absorbed water to help manage the flood.

Yu's mission on earth was to spread soil and shape China's landscape using a dragon's tail. There are nine varieties of Chinese dragons that closely resemble the classical dragon types. These classifications originated from incorporating dragon symbolism in their battle for protection. The nine forms of

Chinese dragons include:

  • The Yinglong dragon serves Huang Di, the yellow emperor, and became immortalized as a dragon after death. Yu, a young god from Heaven Empire, utilized this dragon's tail to carve rivers and valleys to prevent flooding from the yellow river. It is acknowledged as the oldest eastern dragon and grows wings after reaching a certain age.
  • The Dragon King consists of four dragons governing over the east, west, north, and south seas. This dragon has the ability to transform its appearance from a dragon form into human form. It is believed that these dragons reside in crystal palaces protected by crab generals and shrimp soldiers.
  • The Shenlong dragon is commonly known as the Spiritual Dragon.

These dragons have various roles and responsibilities in Chinese mythology. Dilong, known as the Underground Dragon, controls rivers and streams. Tianlong, the celestial Dragon, pulls the chariots of the gods and guards their palaces. Funcanglong, the dragon of Hidden treasures, protects Chinese buried treasures and can even cause volcanoes to form when they emerge from the ground. Panlong is a coiling Dragon.

Include all water dragons that inhabit and control all the lakes of the orient.

  • Huanglong The yellow Dragon. It is traditionally believed to have emerged from water and introduced the elements of writing to Emperor Fu Shi.
  • Li the Homeless Dragon. These dragons reside in the ocean and are responsible for maintaining the dens in the mountains.
  • According to Chinese myths, the first Chinese dragon appeared to Emperor Fu-Shi, who had

    created the sky sealed by the monster Kung. Its actions, such as sleeping and breathing, determined day and night, as well as weather and seasons. Unlike Chinese dragons, classical dragons have the ability to transform from a common dragon into human form, even able to fly without wings, and are extremely benevolent towards humans.

    As previously mentioned, the Chinese dragon exhibits nine characteristics: a snake-like neck, eagle claws, bull ears, camel head, tiger feet, demon eyes, stag horns, and carp's scales. Additionally, the Chinese dragon typically has four claws while the imperial dragon traditionally has five.

    Symbolizing Power and Strength

    The Chinese dragons hold great significance in Chinese culture as they symbolize power and strength.

    • Symbolic value

    In history, the dragon represented the Chinese Emperor with its conveyed value being determined by the number of claws it possessed.

    During the Zhou dynasty, dragons were used to represent different social classes. The dragon with five claws symbolized the sons of heaven, while the dragon with four claws was associated with nobles and the three-clawed dragon represented ministers. However, in the Qin dynasty, only the Emperor was depicted by a five-clawed dragon, while commoners were portrayed by dragons with either four or three claws (Barend 213). Throughout history, the dragon has remained a significant symbol of Chinese culture and is used as a national emblem in both the People's Republic of China and Taiwan's Republic of China. It also serves as an expression of ethnic identity for Chinese individuals.

    • The dragon represents imperial authority.

    In traditional Chinese culture, rulers like Emperor Yan—also known as The Yellow Emperor—had

    strong connections to dragons. It was believed that during his reign, The Yellow Emperor actually transformed into a dragon himself.

    Moreover, Emperor Yan was born because his mother had the ability to communicate with a mythical dragon. Both of these esteemed rulers are considered to be descendants of the dragon, which is why the Chinese people view them as their ancestors (Zhao 56). As mentioned earlier, dragons were often used as symbols for emperors in different Chinese dynasties. To conclude, dragons played a crucial role in Chinese culture as they symbolized power and resilience.

    Dragons possess the ability to transform, often choosing to maintain their draconic nature. They are strongly connected with weather and seasons, instilling fear among others. Chinese Emperors, including the yellow Emperor and Emperor Yan, utilize dragons as symbols. Various possessions of Chinese rulers, such as the Dragon Boat and Dragon Throne, bear dragon names.

    Dragons are believed to possess the power to overcome forces of nature. For instance, Yinglong is believed to have used his tail to carve rivers, valleys, and mountains, thus drying floods. Apart from their abilities, Chinese dragons can exhibit a variety of colors. Moreover, their favored food has played a role in identifying legends and is linked to many items used by Chinese emperors.

    Works Cited

    • Birrell, Anne. Chinese mythology: an introduction. JHU Press, 1999.
    • Hayes, L. Newton. The Chinese Dragon., 1922.
    • Yang, Lihui, and Deming An. Handbook of Chinese mythology. Abc-clio, 2005.
    • Ter Haar, Barend J. Ritual and Mythology of the Chinese Triads.

    Vol. 41. Brill, 2000.

  • Zhao, Qiguang. A study of dragons, East and West. P.
  • Lang, 1992.

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