In sharp contrast to Western ideas about dragons, the Chinese dragon is a beneficent creature, the bringer of fertilising rains. It has long been the symbol of the emperor. This screen of nine dragons was built in 1756 in Beihai Park close to the Imperial Palace in Beijing.
Dragons are referred to as the divine mythical creature that brings with it ultimate
abundance, prosperity and good fortune.
The Celestial Chinese Dragon is an icon in the founding myths of the Chinese civilization.
One of the more interesting legends –that is symbolically represented today throughout China in various signs and festivals- is that the Chinese are "Lung Tik Chuan Ren", the descendents of dragons.
Throughout history, the dragon has represented divine power and authority, only later developing into a symbol of the monarch.
Unlike the negative energies associated with Western Dragons, most Eastern Dragons are beautiful, friendly, and wise. They are the Angels of the East. Although the Buddhists view the dragon to be evil, instead of being hated, they are loved and worshipped. They are considered symbols of vibrant energy and are a favourite among the public.
In the East, numerous temples have been constructed to pray the dragons, because they are considered to be the masters that control rain, rivers, lakes and the seas of the world.
Many Chinese cities still have some temples dedicated to burn incense and to worship the dragons, in order to catch their benevolence.
For example, the “Black Dragon Pool Chapel”, near Beijing, is one of the religious institutions that still adore these beings of light.
Dragon shrines and altars can still be seen in many parts of the Far East. They are usually along seashores and riverbanks, because most Eastern Dragons live in water.
The dragon is sometimes used in the West as a national emblem of China. But, due to its negative connotation there -which the Chinese government wishes to avoid-, the giant panda is far more often used within China as a national emblem.
In Hong Kong, however, the dragon is part of the design of Brand Hong Kong, a symbol used to promote Hong Kong as an international brand name.
To note: The district of Kowloon in Hong Kong means Nine Dragons.
The appearance of the oriental dragon, and thus Chinese, is very different from that of the western dragon. Long-legged such a snake and endowed with four legs, it mixes the lines of several animals: the horns of a stag, the head of a camel with the eyes of a demon, the neck of a snake, the scales of a fish, the claws of an eagle, the paws of a tiger, the ears of an ox, and a barbed tail.
The pearl which we sometimes see below the chin symbolizes the well-being, the luck and the prosperity. They are often shown flying even though they don’t have wings; this capacity recovers from a mystic power.
It is difficult to determine how the myth of the dragon in China built up itself, and the only answers can come from primitive cultures: it could be the result of the fusion of the totems of various tribes, in particular by merging animals such as the snake and the fish.
Another hypothesis implies that the Chinese dragon would have been inspired by the marine crocodile, the bigger reptile living today. Crocodiles were moreover in ancient times perceived as a variety of dragons...
The Chinese take a lot of importance and meaning in figures. It is thus logical that the Dragon is associated with one of the most positive one, the 9. That is why the Dragon is considered as having 9 attributes and 117 scales: 81 yang and 36 yin (every time a multiple of 9). In the imperial palaces (example in the Park Beihai in Peking), we can find walls with nine dragons.
DRAGON YEARS: 1904, 1916, 1928, 1940, 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000, 2012
2012 is the year of the Dragon. What does that actually mean?
Each year of the Chinese calendar is associated with one of the twelve animals of the Chinese Zodiac and every 12 years this cycle begins again. In 2012, Chinese New Year begun January 23rd and will be the year of the Dragon - or more specifically, the year of the Water Dragon. Every animal of the zodiac has 5 elements associated with it. Because of this, there are five dragons, one for each element. Thus, every twelve years there is a different Dragon.
Street festivals are a common feature of New Year’s celebrations
What does the dragon represent?
The Chinese Dragon is one of the most popular and well known of the 12 Chinese Zodiac signs. It is the strongest animal, the top of the zodiac, so it’s a special year. The Chinese say that the animal ruling the year you were born will influence your life. The Chinese Dragon is one of the most powerful representations due to the fact the Dragon has probably the largest category of traits and characteristics that bring fortune, luck and power to the person born in this period.
The influence of the Water Dragon will increase the likelihood of success for the progressive movement gaining momentum all across the globe. Energy conservation and green energy-producing technologies, curtailing global warning, challenges to multinational corporations, attention to world hunger and the renewed health of the oceans and sea creatures will all likely fare well.
A strong global economy, a greener world – we love it!
Dragons in Contemporary Chinese Culture:
Even though dragons are mythological creatures, the Chinese still pay tribute to the dragon,and images of the dragon can be seen in Chinese art and architecture.
Events honouring the dragon can also be seen today during the celebration of the Dragon Dance.
The Dragon Dance was originally used as a ceremonial dance to please the "Dragon King" to help bring rain to the fields. Nowadays, the Dragon Dance has become a popular form of entertainment but which illustrates the importance of the dragon to the Chinese.
Another festivity: the Dragon Boat Festival – Fifth Moon, Day 5
This ancient event, also known as Tuen Ng Festival, commemorates the death of a popular Chinese national hero, Qu Yuan, who drowned himself in the Mi Lo River over 2,000 years ago to protest against the corrupt rulers. Legend has it that as townspeople attempted to rescue Qu Yuan, they beat drums to scare fish away and threw dumplings into the sea to keep the fish from eating his body.
The real highlight of the festival is the fierce-looking dragon boats racing in a lively, vibrant spectacle. Teams race the elaborately decorated dragon boats to the beat of heavy drums. The special boats, which measure more than 10 meters, have ornately carved and painted dragon heads and tails, and each carries a crew of 20-22 paddlers.
Participants train in earnest for the competition. Sitting two abreast, with a steersman at the back and a drummer at the front, the paddlers race to reach the finishing line, urged on by the pounding drums and the roar of the crowds.
Today, festivals activities recall this legendary event. People eat rice-and-meat dumplings wrapped into bamboo leaves; and many look forward swimming or even simply dipping their hands in the water.
Hong Kong rowing teams compete during one of the many races that take place during the Dragon Boat Festival.
If you are thinking about getting a tattoo, but you have no idea of what it should be like, you should know that the Chinese dragon tattoos are some of the most popular in the world due to all dragons’ significations.
Chinese dragon tattoos are suited for both men and women, who either opt for fierce-looking designs or for softer-looking ones. A growth in popularity has been noticed after Angelina Jolie, one of the most notorious American actresses, has decided to get a Chinese dragon tattoo. It is one of her 13 tattoos and she wears it proudly. Most of Chinese dragon tattoos are painted according to dragon’s mythological description. However, many people want their Chinese dragon tattoo to be black, because it looks classy and it is more clear and noticeable.
The Jade temple on the pool of the Black Dragon at Lijiang, historic city of Yunnan registered on the UNESCO world heritage. Far off, the mount of the Jade Dragon. The site was fitted out in 18th century by Quianlong, emperor of the dynasty Quing, the last one of China.
Between Jianshui and Tuanshan: the bridge of the double dragon. This very beautiful work which is also called bridge of 17 arcs steps is in the confluence over river Tachong and Lu. (Yunnan)
Note: The permanent exhibition “CRUISING THE UNIVERSE” at the Hong Kong Museum of Art has on display objects representing animals or bearing animal motifs including dragons.