If you’ve visited China or also Chinese restaurants, you know the dragon is large business – it’s everywhere. However what’s so special around it the it merits all this attention? turns out there’s a lot much more to the Chinese dragon 보다 meets the eye.

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In the beginning

Everybody to know dragons don’t really exist. And also yet everybody to know what dragons look like. They carry out in China too, at the very least well enough to depict them already at the dawn the history. Now, what if you can go earlier in time, emerge through the mist and see one up close? transforms out girlfriend can, almost.

The Chinese word because that ‘dragon’ is in evidence on the very an initial examples of Chinese writing, dating back about 3,500 years ago.

In those more quickly of times, when the Chinese were just entering history with the radical innovation of composed records, many writing was ceremonial in nature. The king’s diviners request the oracle whether a hunt would revolve out well, if an enemy state had placed a curse top top the court or if rain would fall, come name simply a few. The oracular exchange were climate inscribed on animal bone, turtle shells or bronze vessels, depending upon the period. It is from these old fragments the we know that the dragon did undoubtedly exist in some way and what it looked like.

What’s in it because that me

And why carry out you need to recognize this? Well, 1.3 billion Chinese insurance claim to it is in “descendants the the dragon”. With about 5,000 years of background to the name, China is just one of the earliest living civilizations in the world. In the sense, the dragon is symbolic not only of China’s heritage but also of its spectacular rise to success in contemporary times. So, in a method it goes choose this: know the dragon, know China. Simply a small bit.

Listen up

But we are getting ahead that ourselves.First, a quick word about Chinese writing in general. Choose writing everywhere, Chinese writing began as images or stylized pictures. Human being drew what was important to communicate. A horse, a cow, the moon, the sunlight – points to feeling by hand, things to verify through sight. Together societal intricacy grew, an effort was forced in do the magic change from points to summary concepts. End time, this breakthrough synthesized into formal pronunciations of the written representation of things which is what do the primitive images change into genuine writing. Here’s critical point: no sound, no word. Keep this in mind as soon as you check out the dragon.

Proudly presenting

So, let’s view it:


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The faster versions, enrolled on bone, retain an image-like quality, while later incarnations, from copper vessels, appear rather much more stylized. Today, in its current form, the dragon is all yet unrecognizable from its forebears: 龍 in Chinese (Traditional), 龙 in Chinese (Simplified) and 竜 in Japanese. Either way, the inquiry that begs asking an ext than anything rather is this: what on planet is it? to answer this, we need to look both in ~ the type and the sound because that this elusive creature.

Don’t referee a dragon through its scales

Experts in beforehand Chinese composing tell united state that the personality is pictographic in origin, definition that it’s attracted to look favor a genuine creature. The left-hand side is said to stand for the head and the right-hand side the body.

Some develops see foot attached to the body. The pointy ar on the “head” is described as either horns or one ornamental headdress that’s also present on 2 of the various other sacred four animals (the phoenix and the tiger). Some have speculated that it can be a type of lizard or crocodile. But, really, what’s so great about base reptilians the you’d want to elevate them come the high status afforded the dragon over millennia? There’s acquired to be an ext to the story.

And words was with…nature

When kind has got to its limit, sound takes over. In modern-day Chinese, the dragon is recognized as lóng. Us don’t know for certain what the sound was hundreds of years ago, but researchers have reconstructed a likely scenario based on old rhyme dictionaries. Follow to one, it can have sounded something choose ljwong – of food there’s basically no method to verify this.

Often, researchers space able to pair indigenous in families, the is, words the share a common an easy meaning. In the case of the dragon, household ties aren’t feeling to be clear, a sign that we’re dealing with a unique word indeed. One researcher posits the the word might be concerned a composed Tibetan word, ‘brug, which means ‘thunder’ or ‘dragon’.

Somewhere over the rainbow

Staying in ~ the Chinese language, it could additionally be pertained to lóng (ancient ljung) 隆, meaning ‘thundering’ according to one source. One more potential family members member might be hóng (ancient gong) 虹, which means rainbow.

Interestingly, the faster graphic kind of 虹shows an arched dragon v a head at either end, the so-called rainbow dragon.


In part ways, this would certainly make sense since the Chinese dragon is a famously elusive creature and often related in renowned mythology come the watery elements, often as the controlling entity, and weather phenomena such as rain, clouds and also thunder. In fact, one scholar claims that it is the merged elemental forces of rain and also thunder that offer rise come the “true” an interpretation of the Chinese word because that dragon, specific ‘lightning’.

A storm is coming

In part ways, this id of the dragon together relating to weather phenomena is sustained by the summary of the dragon in an authoritative dictionary from the second century CE. Here’s what the says:

”The foremost amongst scaly and reptilian creatures, the dragon might hide in darkness or appear in daylight. It can diminish or enlarge, shrink or elongate. The ascends the sky in spring and dives come the depth of the pool in autumn.”

This had actually led one researcher come speculate whether the dragon is in fact the binding force, so to speak, in between air and water, the is, embodying hydro-electric power: thunder, storms, lightning. We’ll leaving you come ponder this for a moment. Perceived with a happy hat on, this explanation nicely ties with each other all aspects of the dragon:

The form: the phenomenon that lightning offered form, based on the twisting activity of a symbolic snake-like creature whose sacred elemental condition is suggested by a ritual ornamental headdress. The sound: a nature-mimicking joint approximating the thunderclap. The meaning: a primal natural force – hydro-electric power

All this symbolized by one solitary entity. Pure genius.

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Whodunnit?

So, was it really all that simple to cracked the dragon code? more than likely not. The dragon is a complex entity that could have a lot an ext going for it 보다 we’ve touched upon here. For starters, the dragon is not simply a Chinese phenomenon – practically the entire world is riddled with dragon lore and legends. Ancient Mesopotamia has actually its Marduk, Mesoamerica has actually its Quetzalcoatl, the Norse has actually their Midgard Serpent – and also these are just the ceiling beginnings. As far as the Chinese dragon is concerned, though, well, we won’t steel its thunder. It’s old enough to speak because that itself.