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Chinese Dragon Symbolism Part I

The dragon has become a legendary and fascinating creature that appears in historic tales of culture and religious belief. One of the most significant cultures to worship and use the dragon as an important aspect of their lives is the Chinese. In this article, you will learn about the historic references of the dragon, as well as its meaning.

In many works of art, the Chinese show the dragon as a long creature with scales and four legs. Whereas, the Europeans viewed the dragon as an evil creature, the Chinese saw the beasts as powerful symbols that possessed the ability to control water, rainfall, and floods. In the West, the dragon is often seen as a national emblem of China. As a general symbol of culture, the dragon also signifies power, strength, and good luck.

It was the Emperor of China that is associated with starting the historic significance of the dragon. During the Zhou Dynasty, the 5-clawed dragon was assigned to the Son of Heaven , a title given to a rule of that time. Dragons possessing different numbers of claws, including three and four represented other people, including commoners. During the Qing Dynasty, the dragon was placed on national flags.

In Chinese Culture

The dragon plays a significant role in the history of China, making an appearance in a wide range of cultural associations. Below you will find some of the most significant.

The Chinese Zodiac

The Chinese zodiac includes 12 animals, including the tiger, horse and snake. It also uses the dragon as one of the ways to designate some of the years of the Chinese calendar. It is believed that each animal possesses a certain crop of personality traits. It is believed that dragon years are the most popular to conceive a baby. Because of this, there are more babies born in dragon years than any other animal years of the Chinese zodiac.

Up in the Sky

The Chinese view four celestial guardians as being important constellations in the sky. The Azure Dragon (known as the Qing Long) is considered the foremost out of all the constellations. It is the star set that is linked to the East and the element, wood.

Dragonboat Racing

When festivities take place during special occasions, dragonboat racing usually takes place as a form of popular entertainment. This activity also plays a significant role when the Duan Wu festival rolls around. It is during this event that dragon boat racing takes center stage. A team of up to 12 rowers man boats that showcase the carving of a dragon head. When Chinese New Year is celebrated in other parts of the world (outside of China), the dragon boat racing plays an important role.

In Part 2 of Chinese Dragon Symbolism, you will learn why the number nine is so important and why it is associated with dragons.