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Dragon and China
06/11/2008 17:37:28    Author : ANDY    Browse : 1326

The Chinese dragon is a divine creature that was described visually by the Chinese ancients as chimeral combination of animals such as fish, alligators, snakes and horses, and having powers generlly attributed to gods such as the forming of clouds, mist, thunder, lightning, and rainbows. The Dragon"s blurred aggregation process originates during the development of primitive Asian societies around 5000 years ago when spirit worship became popular as society formed the fundamentals of both polytheistic Toaist religion and the imperial state. 

Some people think that the Yanzi crocodile is the archetype of the dragon. However, most people hold that dragon is a combination of many animals. And the abilities of those animals have been collected to it. Wang Chong, a scholar of Han dynasty, once pointed that the horn of dragon liked deer"s one, the head liked camel"s one, the eyes liked rabbit"s one, the neck liked snake"s one, the belly liked clam"s one, the squama liked carp"s one, the talon liked eagle"s one, the palm liked tiger"s one and the ear liked cattle"s one.

Why ancient Chinese people wanted to create a dragon? Many scholars think that it originated from the worship to animals. In remote antiquity the main human activity was hunt. So animals were what people most interested in. Ancient people had to survive from hunting animals which were the main food for them and also had to dodge the attacks which were the threats to their lives from fierce animals. In the course of those activities worships and fancies to the special abilities of those animals including flying in the sky, swimming in the river, walking without feet and hibernating etc. were originated. They put the special abilities together and created the dragon whose power were beyond all other animals. They made dragon a deity and worshiped it thereafter.

The formation of the Chinese dragon legend historically kept pace with the integration of different ethnic nations during ancient China. In Chinese myth, the dragon is considered the creator of heaven and earth, enjoying the same popularity as Pan Gu, and having actively taken part in the marriage of Fuxi Nvwa.  By taking part in the marriage, the dragon helped perpetuate the human race as its descendants.  The mythical creature also reportedly helped Emperor Qin Shi Huang (259 BC- 210 BC) win the unification of China and assisted Xia Yu in controlling the flooding of the Yangzi River centuries later.  We can see that the myths and legends of the dragon are intertwined closely with Chinese history, and that the Chinese people are aptly called "the descendants of the dragon".

As a witness and participant in the integration of the Chinese nation, the spirit of Chinese dragon is the spirit of unity and cohesion. Meanwhile, the dragon is also a god controlling weather. To produce an autumn of good rain after a long drought and the control of rivers is the duty of the dragon. Therefore, the spirit of the dragon is the spirit of creating happiness for human beings. In modern times, the dragon has evolved from a divine chimera to a sort of mascot for the Chinese. As a modern symbol, the dragon has implied meanings such as "rising rapidly", "getting roused", and "opening up and changing". In other words, the spirit of the dragon is the spirit of stirring oneself to action and living as a pioneer.

Being water related, able to fly, being changeable, having direct access to the highest authorities, educating leaders on propriety, and foretelling misfortune are the basic qualities  of the dragon. After the myth began to be used by the upper social classes, the dragon also reflected the increasing deity of the imperial throne as the symbol of the emperor¡¯s divinity. As times have changed and civilization has evolved, the impact of modernization has impaired the dragon¡¯s divinity and power as a symbol. Concurrently, its importance as a mascot has been strengthened and is gaining momentum.

China is the homeland of the dragon. Dragon culture has penetrated into every field of social life such as the industrial arts, buildings, places of interest, songs, dances, and movies.  Its influence can be seen in seasonal celebrations, weddings, funerals, etiquette, and costume. An indispensable part of Chinese culture, the dragon occupies a striking amount of mythical history in China and its position embodies essential elements of Asia. People summon the soul of the dragon by way of offering sacrifices to the dragon and forms of prayer such as displaying the image of the dragon in sculpture, art, and folk dances.  They explore the origins and the secrets of the dragon through writing and associate with the dragon¡¯s deity by promoting an atmosphere of national strength.

The Chinese dragon is a cultural sign rich in history and importance, as well as a symbol of the Chinese nation.  It is a symbol of all things essentially Chinese as well as an insignia of strength through the centuries.


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