The Images and Symbolic Meanings of Dragons in the Oriental Culture
The Images of Dragons in the OrientIn china, the dragons are said that be made up of many different animals of the Earth.The body of a snake, scales of a carp, head of a camel, horns of a giant stag, the eyes of a hare, ear like a bull, a neck like an snake, belly of a clam, paws like a tiger, and claws like an eagle. Most of them are shown to have a lion-type mane around its neck, on its chin, and on each elbo, they have two horns decorating their wide-mouthed head and two long “feeler” whiskers spreading out from their snout. Eastern dragons have 117 scales, 81 infused with yang; the good, and 36 infused with yin, the bad. This evens out the dragon’s temper and personality.
The image of the dragon has undergone a series of changes over the centuries becoming more mighty and beautiful. The original illustration on primitive bronze ware portrays it as ferocious and mysterious; in the Han Dynasty (206BC-220), it became magnificent and unrestrained. From the Song Dynasty Onwards(960-1279), the design became delicate and flowery.
There are several different kinds of dragons according to color, which may be yellow, blue, black, white or red. Of these the most highly revered was the yellow dragon and so each emperor wore a gown decorated with a yellow dragon pattern.
Although there are differences in appearance, the bases are similar. This is because it is a combination of the features of animals with which people were familiar. A dragon has a protruding forehead indicating wisdom and antlers signifying longevity. It’s ox’ ears denote success in the imperial examination; it has tiger’s eyes as a sign of power; eagle’s claws showing bravery; while a fish’s tail implies flexibility and the horse’s teeth are a mark of diligence and so on.
The Symbolic Meanings of Dragon in the Orient
From primitive times people have regarded the dragon as an auspicious creature with the power to bless and influence their lives. As tribes fought for domination and came to be united under a common banner the dragon was adopted as a national icon. Such was the mysterious creature’s power it was regarded as the god of rain, thunder, the rainbow, and the stars. In a society that was founded upon agriculture and animal husbandry totally reliant upon its natural environment and in particular the climate, the dragon was worshipped as the source of all that was beneficial to communal well being. This concept has been sustained for thousands of years as more and more deification was bestowed upon the dragon ranging from being a bringer of joy to prophecy and miracles. With the establishment of a feudal society, emperors compared themselves to the dragon thereby making it the exclusive symbol of imperial majesty. Anyone who subsequently used the dragon as a symbol either intentionally or erroneously could be regarded as offending their ruler and condemned to death.
From many Chinese legends, dragons have many different appearances and the different appearances express different symbolic meanings, such as a kind of dragons appeared as a tortoise that symbolizes good luck and tolerance. This kind of symbolic meanings express oriental people could take responsibilities and duty.