Dragon culture exists in both the Eastern world and the Western world. However, dragons have different reputation in western culture and in Chinese culture. The Wes tern dragons are evil animals from hell. They usually have wings and can send out fire from their mouths.
Dragons are deeply rooted in Chinese culture, so the Chinese often consider themselves as "the descendants of the dragon". In Chinese culture, dragons are generous and wise. They are closely connected with the ancient royal family. According to the popular belief, if you are born in the year of dragon, you will be an intelligent and brave leader.
Why is dragon culture so prosperous in China? This is a mystic journey to find the key.
Dragon and Chinese Culture
Dragon Culture in Archaeology
Offspring of the Dragon
As a matter of fact, the dragon creation is the Chinese ancestors' imagination. the dragon is now a kind of culture phenomenon. It has become a spiritual tie linking the nation. The dragon, as the symbol of the Chinese nation, has become part of the Chinese people. They have deep feelings for the dragon, and are proud to call themsevles "the offspring of the dragon".
China is the birthplace of dragon culture. This has ben shown by relics of the Neolithic Age discovered in the Yellow River, Yangtze River and Liaohe River Basins.
(fossile of a young dragon)
(porcelain pot with dragon patterns in Yuan dynasty)
Origin of Dragon Culture
Dragon was one of the totem worship images in remote times when people liked to use the images of creatures or plants which they held in awe as symbols of their tribes. They believed that totem worship could bring them protection and good luck.
Chinese dragon is of magic power. It can change the length of its body as it wishes, it can either fly or swim and it can even bring rainfalls.
People in ancient China often offered sacrifices to Dragon for favorable weather and good harvest. In the Warring States Period (475-221BC), dragon was often drawn in the painting on silk.
Find Dragon Culture in Daily Life
In Chinese New Year’s celebration, we have Dragon Dance performance on the street or in public places. It is a special and delicate performance of arts which also symbolizes the bringing of good luck and prosperity in the year to come for all the human beings on earth.……Find more
Lantern festival is on the fifteen day of the first month in Chinese lunar calendar. On the night of the day, people and children carry lanterns depicting animals, flowers, landscapes, and other different themes on the street. We can see many beautiful lanterns hanging around……Find more
Dragon Boat Festival
On Dragon Boat Festival (the fifth day of the fifth Chinese lunar month) we have dragon boat racing. It has today become the highlight of all the festivities held during Dragon boat festival. When the race begins, all we can see are the rowers of each team driving their boats forward…… Find more
The robe with dragon patterns was made exclusively for the use of an emperor during the Qing dynasty(AD1644 - 1911.) A dragon robe is either yellow or apricot-yellow, which is the color for Chinese emperors, and embroidered with nine yellow dragons. The dragon robe is embroidered with a dragon on the front and the back, before or behind the knees, on the shoulders ,and on the lining of the chest. Thus a total of nine dragons are embroidered on a dragon robe. And besides nine dragons, there are five-hued auspicious cloud patterns because the numbers “nine” and “five” represent the power and dignity of emperors.
On dragon robes, there are twelve other patterns and each of them denotes different meanings--the sun, the moon and stars (the light of the throne),mountains (stability) ,dragon(adaptability to changes and power) auspicious bird (elegance and beauty) water reeds(purity and cleanness),and fire (light).
Dragon and Temples
Dragon pillars are common to be seen in Chinese temples because dragons themselves are regarded as gods by Chinese. Besides, the beautiful sculptures of dragon patters on the pillars are the important decoration for Chinese temples. Dragon pillars must be strong enough to support the whole temples so they are often made of stone, brazen, marble or concrete.
In many Chinese shrines, in addition to dragon pillars, visitors can see dragons on many places like the ridgepoles, wall beams, walls, the incense burner, the eaves of temples and so on. It is because Chinese think dragons can protect the temple and people. The vivid and elegant images of dragons have become the important features of Chinese temples.
Dragons on the eaves
Dragons on the walls
Dragons on the gateway
Dragons on the ceilings and ridgepoles
The I Ching & The dragon exceeding the proper limits The I Ching (Book of Change) is considered the
oldest of the Chinese Classics, famous with its yin-yang theory, occupies the first place among Six Classics in China and ranks the first among the three great scriptures in the world.
The dragon has ben venerated as a supreme thing in The I Ching. The first stage (The dragon exceeding the proper limits) means: Things will develop in the opposite direction when they become extreme.
Eighteen Stages to Subdue A Dragon
These eighteen stages, based on The I Ching and Chinese folk tales, are edited by Jin Yong, a master of wuxia novel writer, in his novel Demi - Gods, Semi - Devils.
1.The dragon exceeding the proper limits
2.The dragon on the wing in the sky
3.The dragon appearing in the field
4.The geese gradually advanced to the dry plains
5.The dragon lying hid (in the deep)
6.It will be advantageous to cross the great stream
7.How abrupt the coming is!
8.Terrifying all within a hundred li
9.(The dragon looking) as if he were leaping up, but still in the deep
10.Two dragons absorbing water
11.The fishes leap in the deep
12.Driving those six dragons at the proper times
13.(There are) dense clouds without rain
14.To diminish leads to others’ trust.
15.Dragons fighting in the wild
16.Treading on hoarfrost; the ice will come
17.A ram butting against a fence
18.A godly dragon swinging his tail
Click here to know more about the kongfu world created by Jin Yong