Chinese Dragon - Symbols, Facts, Methodology

Written by Sally Guo Updated Apr. 7, 2021

The Chinese dragon also called: Loong or Long, or 龙 in Chinese, is a long, serpentine-like creature in Chinese mythology.

In sharp contrast to Western ideas about dragons, Chinese dragons are a symbol of strength, good luck, and power.

The Dragon figurines appear everywhere in China: temples, architecture, stone statues, museums, books and movies, art galleries, and many artworks.

5 Amazing Facts About Chinese Dragon

dragon and a phoenix
The dragon and the phoenix

The Symbolic Meanings of Chinese Dragon

The dragon is highly respected in Chinese culture. It usually symbolizes power, nobility, honor, luck, and success. It is also a symbol of the Chinese nation, which is why Chinese people refer to themselves as descendants of the dragon. 

Imperial Authority 

 The dragon was the exclusive symbol of the highest ruler. Ancient Chinese emperors referred to themselves as the true dragon sons. Dragon emblems can be found everywhere on their robes, chairs, carriages, and walkways...

 All the foods they ate were even labeled with the word dragon to display their high privilege. 

Great Success in Life

 Chinese dragon also symbolizes good fortune and great success. 

In Chinese mythology. dragons often jump out from the sea and soar into the clouds with a powerful and uplifting force. Therefore, the dragon has been recognized as a symbol of success and making a name for oneself.

A famous Chinese idiom goes 望子成龙 wàng zǐ chéng lóng, which means hoping one's son will become a dragon. The Chinese saying expresses the hope and expectation that one's child will achieve great success in life.  

Business Prosperity and Wealth 

Chinese dragon is always associated with water, it hence signified bountiful harvest in ancient times. As water was extremely important in agricultural planting, abundant water sources often meant a good harvest. 

Also,  the word "dragon" sounds similar to "prosperity" in Chinese.  So today,  people see the dragon as a symbol of business prosperity and wealth. 

The Hard-Working, Brave, and Unrelenting Spirit

 To the Chinese people, the dragon is a symbol of the great history of China's five thousand years, and the spirit of hard work, bravery, and unrelenting. 

dragon lantern
Dragon Lantern at Chinese Lantern Festival

The 9 Chinese Dragons

In Chinese mythology, the dragon gave born to 9 sons - that's the nine famous dragons. They are endowed with unique merits, but none of them looks like a dragon. 

Qiuniu (in Chinese: qiú niú 囚牛), a yellow body with scales, likes music and squats at the head of the musical instrument.

Yazi (in Chinese: yá zì 睚眦), instinctive killing and fighting, use engraved on the knife ring and sword handle;

Chaofeng (in Chinese: cháo fēng 嘲风) hybrid of phoenix and dragon, likes to adventure, is placed on four corners of the roof.

Pulao (in Chinese: pú láo 蒲牢), roars when attacked, and acts like an animal used on top of the bell.

Suanni (in Chinese: suān ní 狻猊), shaped like a lion, likes to sit down and smoke, so the image generally appears on the incense burner.

Bixi (in Chinese: bì xì 贔屭), which looks like a turtle with teeth, likes to carry heavy weights, often under the stone tablet.

Bian (in Chinese: bì àn 狴犴), a hybrid of tiger and dragon, its image is used on both sides of the prison gate or the main hall of the central government.

Fuxi (in Chinese: fù xì负屃), appearance taking after the dragon, elegant and gentle, coiled around the top of the stone tablet.

Chiwen (in Chinese: chī wěn 螭) fish-like, hornless dragon, with a moist mouth, large, usually found along roof ridges of temples, protecting against fire.

11 Chinese Dragon Names in Chinese Mythology

According to Chinese mythology, there are many types of dragons with different characters. 

screen of nine dragons
The Nine Dragon Screen in the Forbidden City

Chinese Dragon Methodology

It is difficult to determine how the myth of the dragon in China built itself. The most popular legends about the origin of Chinese dragons go as follows:

Ancient Chinese lived in agriculture, and rain and water played an important role in people’s lives. They believed a mysterious creature with ultimate power ruled heaven. Hence the imaginative figurine of the dragon has been gradually created as an agricultural numen, representing the rain, lightning, and thunder.

The Yellow Emperor, widely known as Huangdi, was an ancient tribe leader who conquered neighboring tribes in the Yellow River Valley and united the country. He unioned several different tribes' totems into his dragon totems, such as the snake and fish, used as a symbol of the power of the emperor.

dragon robe
The pattern on the dragon robe

Western Dragon VS Chinese Dragon

In Western countries, dragons used to be depicted as evil, dangerous monsters, they appear as fire-breathing dragons or keepers of treasures in most Western stories.

Unlike the negative energies associated with Western Dragons, most Eastern Dragons are beautiful, friendly, and wise. They are the Angels of the East, considered symbols of vibrant energy, and are a favorite among the public.

Dragons in 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 honoring the dragon can also be seen today during the celebration of the Dragon Dance.

The Chinese Zodiac Dragon

The Chinese Dragon ranks 5th of the 12 Animals of the Chinese Zodiac. The Chinese Dragon Years include 1940, 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000, 2012. 2024. Dragon is a symbol of power and strength. People born in the year of the dragon have a personality of confidence.

Dragon's Compatibility

The Dragon Dance

Dragon Dance was originally used as a ceremonial dance to please the Dragon King to help bring rain to the fields and bless a good harvest. Nowadays, the Dragon Dance has become a popular form of entertainment.

The dragon can range in length from 9 meters (30 feet) to 20 meters (66 feet), at least ten men hold poles to raise and lower the dragon, and they are usually wearing dragon costumes with long pants. The head of the Dragon must be able to coordinate with the body movement and stamp to the beat of the drum.

The dragon dance used to be performed during Chinese New Year, Lantern Festival (lunar January 15th), and Dragon Boat Festival.

dragon dance
Chinese dragon dance performance

The Dragon Boat Festival

People hold dragon boats racing at the Dragon-Boat Festival. The boats measure more than 10 meters and have ornately carved and painted dragon heads and tails.

dragon boats racing
Dragon boats racing

Chinese Dragon in Ancient Architectures

The dragon decoration used on the roof of Chinese architecture can be dated back to the Han Dynasty (202 BC–220 AD). It is generally related to imperial power and royalty. In feudal China, the royal hierarchy strictly followed the principle of, the dragon pattern only used in the imperial palace and mausoleum.

In the Forbidden City and the Ming Tombs in Beijing, visitors can see the image of the dragon everywhere in forms of sculpture arts and paintings.

sons of dragon
The sons of the dragon were placed at the corner of the roof in Forbidden City

Chinese Dragon Movies

The movies about this fictional creature to be found on the big screen, here are the movies about the Chinese Dragon you have to watch: The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, 2008《木乃伊3:龙帝之墓》; The Dragon Pearl 《寻龙夺宝》, 2011; Chasing the Dragon Chinese 《追龙》, 2017; The Dragon Strikes Back 《龙族的反击》, 2018.

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