The Almighty Dragon
Dragons are deeply rooted in Chinese culture. In fact, the Chinese often
consider themselves "descendants of the dragon."
Nobody really knows where the dragon came from. But it looks like a
combination of many animals. For the Chinese people, dragons were described
visually as a composite of parts from nine animals: the horns of a deer, head of
a camel, eyes of the devil, neck of a snake, abdomen of a large cockle, scales
of a carp, claws of an eagle, paws of a tiger and ears of an ox.
In China, the dragon is credited with having great powers that allowed it to
make rain and control floods by striking the river with its mighty tail, for
example. Dragons are also revered for their ability to transport humans to the
celestial realms after death. They are symbols of the natural world,
adaptability and transformation. When two dragons are placed together in
opposite directions, they symbolize eternity, i.e., the famous Yin-Yang symbol.
Chinese emperors thought they were the real dragons and sons of heaven. Thus,
the beds they slept on are called "dragon beds;" the throne, a "dragon seat;"
and the emperor's ceremonial dresses are known as "dragon robes."
Dragon robe worn
by Emperor Kangxi of the Qing
In the minds of the early Chinese people, the dragon was a god that embodied
the will and ideals of the Chinese people. It is said that the dragon is a
large-scaled reptile, which can become dark or bright, large or small, long or
short, and fly into the sky in the spring and live underwater in the fall. It
seems that the dragon is capable of doing almost anything. Traditionally, the
dragons were considered the governors of rainfalls in Chinese culture: They had
the power to decide where and when it would rain. They also believed kings of
water dragons lived in dragon palaces under the ocean. The Chinese sign for the
dragon appeared during the Yin and Shang dynasties (16th-11th century BC -- the
period of the earliest Chinese hieroglyphs), between inscriptions on bones and
turtle shields. The inscriptions depicted a horned reptile, with teeth, scales
and sometimes even claws.
In ancient China nobody had any doubt about the existence of dragons. People
showed great respect for any depictions of dragons -- in paintings, carvings and
writings. As a result, the dragon became the symbol of the Chinese nation. All
people in China, including the emperor, prostrated themselves before the image
of a dragon with reverence and awe. As a result, this fictional creature became
the spiritual sustenance for the nation first as the totem of a tribe and then
as the symbol of the nation. Eventually, the dragon became the symbol on the
national flag of the last feudal dynasty, the Qing Dynasty. The Chinese people
considered themselves the descendants of the dragon.
As the emblem of the emperor and imperial command, the legend of the Chinese
dragon permeates the ancient Chinese civilization and has shaped its culture.
Its benevolence signifies greatness, goodness and blessings.
The Chinese dragon symbolizes power and excellence, valiancy and boldness,
heroism and perseverance, nobility and divinity. A dragon overcomes obstacles to
achieve success. He is energetic, decisive, optimistic, intelligent and
Unlike the evil energies associated with Western dragons, most Eastern
dragons are beautiful, friendly and wise. They are the angels of the Orient.
Instead of being hated, they are loved and worshipped. Temples and shrines have
been built to honor dragons since they control the rain, rivers, lakes and seas.
Many Chinese cities have pagodas where people used to burn incense and pray to
dragons. The Black Dragon Pool Chapel near Beijing was reserved for the Empress
and her court.
Special worshipping ceremonies took place there on the first and 15th day of
every month. Dragon shrines and altars can still be seen in many parts of the
Far East. They are usually located along seashores and riverbanks since it was
believed that most Eastern dragons lived in water. The Isle of the Temple in
Japan's Inland Sea has become a famous stopover for pilgrims who pray to the
dragon. They believe that both male and female dragons have mated with humans.
Everything connected with Eastern dragons is blessed. The Year of the Dragon,
which takes place ever 12 years, is considered lucky. Present-day Oriental
astrologers claim that children born during Dragon Year enjoy health, wealth and
The Dragon brings the essence of life in the form of its celestial breath,
known to many as "Sheng Chi." It yields life and bestows its power in the form
of the seasons, bringing water from rain, warmth from the sunshine, wind from
the seas and soil from the earth. The Dragon is the ultimate representation of
the forces of nature. It is the greatest divine force on earth.
The Chinese dragon is often seen as a symbol of divine protection and
vigilance. It is regarded as the Supreme Being among all creatures. Apart from
its ability to live in the sea, fly up to the heavens and coil up on land in the
form of mountains, the divine mythical animal can ward off wandering evil
spirits, protect the innocent and bestow safety to all who carry its emblem. The
Chinese dragon is regarded as the ultimate symbol of good fortune.
Personality traits of people born in the Year of the Dragon: A "dragon
person" is self confident and impulsive and consequently does not always listen
to the advice of others. He or she is also a perfectionist and sets high
standards for him/herself. Although strong and decisive, the dragon is not
manipulative or sly. He or she refuses to deceive or compromise and fails to
spot subversive intents. He or she enjoys being in command and, like a good
emperor, he or she eliminates obstacles until success is achieved.
WOODEN DRAGON: The Wooden Dragon is creative, imaginative and inquisitive. He
or she is both a thinker and a doer and capable of brilliant new concepts. His
or her every move is guided by sound logic. His or her drive and ambition allows
him/her to put many of his/her ideas into practice. Nevertheless this dragon is
capable of concealing his/her domination and tries not to offend anyone. He/she
will even compromise if it is advantageous to him/her. Although not as
self-centered as other dragons, the Wooden Dragon is still outspoken and
fearless when challenged.
FIRE DRAGON: The Fire Dragon is the most extroverted and competitive dragon.
He/she tends to push too hard and expects a lot from everyone. His/her
criticisms are objective and he/she has the ability to arouse massive popular
support. His/her insatiable ambition can make him/her short-tempered and
intolerant. He/she is an empire builder who needs to master his/her less
favorable traits and learn how to communicate more humbly with people as
EARTH DRAGON: The Earth Dragon is a quieter, more reflective dragon. He/she
will be appreciative of other people's opinions even if he/she fails to agree
with them. He/she is reasonable in his/her approach to problems and his/her
leadership is less dictatorial. He/she is not prone to outbursts, but, at the
same time demands respect. He/she knows the value of cooperation and is more
diplomatic than other dragons. He/she is ambitious, but his/her initiatives are
less hurried and more carefully thought out.
METAL DRAGON: The Metal Dragon is the most strong-willed dragon. He/she is
inflexible, unbending and combative. He/she gives little regard to the feelings
of others. This ruthlessness can result in a rapid rise to a position of
authority, but often at the cost of destroying important relationships. It is
futile to attempt to convince the metal dragon that certain things are simply
unfeasible. He/she will go it alone if he/she cannot gain support. He/she
succeeds because he/she refuses to accept failure.
WATER DRAGON: The Water Dragon is less selfish and opinionated than the other
dragons. He/she is more inhibited and less power-hungry. He/she can accept
defeat without recriminations. The Water Dragon makes a good negotiator since
he/she knows when, where and how to apply pressure. He/she has a tendency to be
over-optimistic and needs to learn how to relinquish what is unfeasible so that
he/she can concentrate his/her energies on the most rewarding endeavors.
Types of Dragons
There are nine major types of Chinese dragons. They include the horned
dragon, the winged dragon, the celestial dragon (which supports and protects the
mansions of the gods), the spiritual dragon (which generates wind and rain for
the benefit of mankind), the dragon of hidden treasures (which keeps guard over
concealed wealth), the coiled dragon (which lives in water) and the yellow
dragon (which once emerged from water and presented the legendary Emperor Fu Shi
with the elements for writing).
The last of the nine is the dragon king, which actually consists of four
separate dragons, each ruling over one of the four seas -- the east, south, west
and north sea.
The most powerful, generalized type of Chinese dragon is the horned dragon,
or lung, which can produce rain and is completely deaf. Additionally, there is a
homeless dragon ("Ii") that lives in the ocean and another type ("Chiao") that
is scaly and usually inhabits marshes, but also has dens in the mountains.
There are also nine ways the Chinese have traditionally represented these
dragons, each one revealing a different dragon characteristic. There are dragons
carved on tops of bells and gongs due to the beast's habit of shrieking when
A second type is carved on the screws of fiddles since most dragons are fond
A third is carved on tops of stone tablets because of dragons'
love of literature.
A fourth is found at the bottom of stone monuments since
dragons can support heavy weights.
A fifth is placed on the eaves of temples
since dragons are always alert to danger.
A sixth appears on the beams of
bridges since dragons are fond of water.
A seventh is carved on Buddha's
throne since dragons like to rest.
An eighth is placed on the hilts of
swords since dragons are also capable of killing.
The ninth is carved on
prison gates since such dragons are fond of quarreling and trouble-making.
The colors of Chinese dragons are evidently quite varied, but in the case of
the Chiao, its back is striped with green, its sides are yellow, and it is
The nine major characteristics of a lung-type dragon include a camel-like
head, deer-like horns, hare-like eyes, bull-like ears, an iguana-like neck, a
frog-like belly, carp-like scales, tiger-like paws and eagle-like claws. It has
a pair of large canine teeth and long, tendril-like whiskers extending from
either side of its mouth probably used for feeling its way along the bottom of
In color, dragons vary from greenish to golden, with a series of alternating
short and long spines extending down their backs and along their tails, where
they become longer. One specimen had wings on its sides and walked on water.
Another tossed its mane back and forth, which sounded like a flute.