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March 10th, 2008

MCotD: Chinese Dragons

(Apologies for the late post! Hectic day...)
Welcome to Dragon week on MCotD! This week we'll be exploring dragons in mythology around the globe.
To kick the week off, we'll check out the dragon myths of China.

The people paint the dragon's shape with a horse's head and a snake's tail. Further, there are expressions as 'three joints' and 'nine resemblances' (of the dragon), to wit: from head to shoulder, from shoulder to breast, from breast to tail. These are the joints; as to the nine resemblances, they are the following: his horns resemble those of a stag, his head that of a camel, his eyes those of a demon, his neck that of a snake, his belly that of a clam (shen, 蜃), his scales those of a carp, his claws those of an eagle, his soles those of a tiger, his ears those of a cow. Upon his head he has a thing like a broad eminence (a big lump), called [chimu] (尺木). If a dragon has no [chimu], he cannot ascend to the sky. - Wang Fu via Wikipedia's Dragon entry.

"Chinese dragons are physically concise. Of the 117 scales, 81 are of the yang essence (positive) while 36 are of the yin essence (negative)." -Wikipedia

"Many pictures of oriental dragons show a flaming pearl under their chin. The pearl is associated with wealth, good luck, and prosperity." -Wikipedia

The wing thing is interesting, I'd often wandered about why they appear sometimes and not others.
"Chinese dragons are occasionally depicted with bat-like wings growing out of the front limbs, but most do not have wings, as their ability to fly (and control rain/water, etc.) are mythical and not seen as a result of their physical attributes." -Wikipedia

Unlike Western dragons which are generally considered to be evil monsters, the Chinese consider the dragon to be a potent symbol of auspicious power. Traditionally only the emperor of China was allowed to associate himself with the imagery of the Dragon, and commoners were forbidden to use the image. "The Chinese dragon is traditionally also the embodiment of the concept of yang (male) and associated with the weather as the bringer of rain and water in an agriculturally water-driven nation." - Wikipedia

A ridiculously thorough entry on Wikipedia about the Chinese Dragon.