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Chinese dragon

The Chinese dragon (龍, in pinyin: long2) is a mythical creature resembling a snake. It is the embodiment of the concept of yang. Associated with weather and water--the bringer of rain--the Chinese dragon is also a shape-changer (or at least a size-changer). It is thought of as benevolent and often caretakers.

The legend has it that the Huang Di (Yellow Emperor) used a snake for his coat of arms. Every time he conquered another tribe, he added his defeated enemy's emblem into his. Huang Di was immortalized into a dragon that looks like his emblem. That explains why the Chinese dragon has a body of a snake; the scales and tail of a fish; the antlers of a deer; the face of a qilin (a deer-like mythical creature with fire all over its body); and two pairs of talons of eagles; and the eyes of a demon. They fly in the sky among the clouds. Almost all pictures of Chinese dragons show them playing with a flaming pearl. Supposedly it is the pearl that gives them their power and allows them to ascend to heaven.

Also, since the Chinese consider Huang Di as their ancestor, they sometimes refer themselves as "the descendants of the dragons".

Another legend says the carps become dragons after they leaped over the dragon gate.

Chinese Dragons have five toes on each foot; Korean or Indonesian dragons have four and Japanese dragons have three. To explain this phonemenon, Chinese legend states that although dragons originated in China, the further away from China a dragon went the fewer toes it had, and dragons only exist in China, Korea, Indonesia ,and Japan because if they travelled further they would have no toes to continue. Japanese legend has an opposing story, namely that dragons originated in Japan, and the further they travelled the more toes they got and as a result if they went too far they would have too many toes to continue to walk properly. In Korea and Indonesia, depending upon which direction the dragon travels it will either gain or lose toes and the principles of the previous two myths both apply here.

Another interpretation: according to several sources, Chinese dragons had four toes--but the Imperial Dragon had five. It was a capital offense for anyone other than the emperor to use the five-clawed dragon motif.

The dragon is one of the 12 Chinese zodiacs which is used to designate year in the Chinese calendar. It is thought that each animal is associated with certain personality traits. (see Dragon (Zodiac)).

The dragon was a symbol for the emperor in many Chinese dynasties. During the late Qing dynasty, the dragon was even adopted as the national flag. It was an capital offense for commoners to wear clothes with a dragon symbol. The dragons are believed to be the rulers of the seas. They can show themselves as water spouts (tornado or twister over water).

Classical types

See also: