Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Animal Folklore: the Chinese Dragon

Animals in folklore are very common. Dragons, in particular, are powerful, magical animal that can be benevolent or evil, depending upon where they show up in legends and folklore. From Grendel in English literature’s Beowulf to Vitra, the Hindu Dragon of the Waters to the Chinese Imperial dragon that is celebrated in Chinese New Years’ Day parades, it is a mythical force to be reckoned with.

In Oriental cultures, the dragon is a supreme force that represents both celestial and terrestrial wisdom and strength. These water-based animals are believed to bring wealth and good luck and can, according to Chinese folklore, bring rain for crops. The dragon often associated with the Chinese New Year parades is a protector against spirits that could otherwise ruin the upcoming year.

Traditionally portrayed in Chinese art as long, scaled serpentine creatures with four legs they are, unlike their European counterparts, primarily a positive symbol.

As an imperial sign, the dragon was a form taken by the first legendary Emperor when he ascended to Heaven. Emperor Huang Di’s brother Yan Di was also a legendary Emperor who was born by his mother’s spiritual connection with a mythic dragon. From then on the imperial throne was known as the Dragon Throne and that particular dragon (with five claws on each foot) became the Imperial Dragon which appears in carvings at the Forbidden City.

In all there are nine types of Chinese dragon. Here is an overview of four of them:

· The Dragon King: This is actually four distinct dragons each of which rules over the four seas. They can change into the form of a human and are guarded by shellfish soliders.

· Shenlong, the Spiritual Dragon: This creature generates wind and rain for the benefit of all.

· Dilong: Earth Dragons who rule over the rivers and streams. They are the female counterpart of the Shenlong.

· Tinalong: These Celestial Dragons pull the chariots of the Chinese gods and also guard their dwellings.

For more information about Oriental dragons, visit these sites:

Chinese Dragon Myths and Legends

Japanse and Chinese Dragon Myths and Stories


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