Meet the Chinese Dragon

In China, dragons are considered to be auspicious. (Image: via  pixabay /  CC0 1.0)
In China, dragons are considered to be auspicious. (Image: via pixabay / CC0 1.0)

Did you know that the Chinese dragon has purple whiskers that are 3-feet long? Did you know the saliva of Chinese dragons is said to be purple and “the most fragrant of perfumes”?

Well, if you didn’t know that, you aren’t alone. Although everyone has heard of the Chinese dragon and welcomed in the Year of the Dragon in 2012, very few know the details of this mysterious and ancient mythical creature.

The Chinese dragon is very different from the Western concept of dragons as terrifying creatures in the myths and legends of Europe. The Chinese dragon does not have wings, but travels magically upon the clouds.

Unlike the Western dragon, which is known for its ferociousness and regarded as a dreaded, often fire-breathing creature feared by all, Chinese dragons are respected by all as friends to mankind that bring rain to crops, among many other things.

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Fire breathing Western dragon on a medieval tapestry. (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

According to ancient Chinese legends, the earliest human ancestors were said to be part human and part dragon, and therefore, Chinese people often call themselves “descendants of the dragon.” The most highly revered Chinese emperors were even given the sacred title of “The True Dragon.”

In folklore history, there are many eyewitness dragon sightings that give description of their appearance and behavior. Dragons have a great cow-like head, four legs, and a scale-covered body. They can be any size from extremely tiny to over 50 feet long. Dragon sightings have long been considered auspicious events.

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Nine-Dragon Wall in Beihai Park, Beijing, China. (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

Dragon designs appeared on Chinese military banners throughout many centuries; however, the use of the dragon emblem as a national insignia, such as the dragon flag, was only introduced late in China’s last dynasty. This was probably due to a cultural emblem on a national flag.

Dragons visit on the day Confucius was born

Chinese legend states that on the evening when Confucius was born, two dragons encircled the house. In the court of honor, the five old men, or the spirits of the five planets Venus, Jupiter Mercury, Mars, and Saturn, were seen to descend.

Surrounded by dragons

This palace portrait was a prized possession of the Manchu emperors. The Yongzheng Emperor, the son of Kangxi, is shown upon the throne, which he ascended in 1723. Countless dragons entertain themselves upon his costly robes of state and writhe and wreathe themselves in the lattice structure of his imperial throne.

Dragon gateway

Some dragons are said to be transformed from carp that leapt up the water of a certain cataract upon a western mountain stream. A large number of carp swim once each year to this waterfall, known as the “dragon’s gate.”

Here, under the cataract, they flounder about, jumping and springing up out of the swirling waters; a few of them succeed in getting over the falls to the higher water above. Those that are successful in this effort become dragons.

A large number of cities, prefectures, rivers, and mountains have the character “dragon” incorporated into their names. One of the most famous mountains of the province of Jiangxi is known as the “dragon-tiger mountain.”

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