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The following article has been shared from CLI: The Chinese Language Institue.
For more information, please view the full article at the original source: Chinese Dragons: Their Types, History, and Significance
Chinese Dragons: Their Types, History, and Significance
Sometimes, Chinese dragons seem to be everywhere. We see these symbols in sports, on clothing, in books, and in movies. Some people even have dragon tattoos.
You’ve seen dragon iconography, but have you considered where dragons originate or what they symbolize? How much do you know about the many types of Chinese dragons? Read on to discover more about China’s most famous mythological creatures.
A Distinctly Chinese Cultural Tradition
For starters, it’s worth noting that the Chinese dragon, or 龙 (lóng), is very different from the European dragon. For example, while European dragons breath fire, the Chinese dragon typically breaths clouds.
The anatomy of the Chinese dragon is also unique. The head, for instance, often looks like that of a camel while the eyes look like those of a demon. Similarly, the neck looks like that of a snake whereas its paws are those of a tiger. Contrary to what most people assume, the legendary Chinese dragon was usually not vengeful. Ancient Chinese people didn’t usually blame dragons for natural catastrophes and other disasters. Instead, they often saw dragons as benevolent, wise, and powerful.
The Origins of Chinese Dragon Legends
No one knows exactly when legends about dragons first originated, but the symbol dates back to at least 3000 BCE. According to one theory, the legendary Chinese dragon evolved out of ancient totem-worship practices. Ancient people may have created dragons by combining the attributes of several creatures like tigers, snakes, eagles, and carp.
A different theory posits that the Yan emperor (炎帝 Yándì), a legendary Chinese leader from pre-dynastic times, was born of an encounter with a powerful dragon. As a result, Yandi was more powerful than most leaders. He partnered with Emperor Huang Di and together they conquered their enemies, unified China and, according to myth, pioneered Chinese civilization.
As time progressed, many Chinese came to believe that Yandi was one of their ancestors, which by extension meant that they were also the descendants of dragons.
Where Do Dragons Live?
In the real world, dragons do not exist (surprise!). In the mythological stories they inhabit, however, dragons reside in a variety of places. The celestial dragon, for example, lives in the sky, while the coiling dragon lives in the sea.
According to ancient Chinese mythology, some dragons live in the sea while others live in the sky.
The Importance of Dragons in Chinese Culture
Dragons are significant in Chinese culture because they’re associated with the following:
There’s a lot more to be learned about dragons, so please continue to read the rest of this article at its source. Enjoy!