Chinese Dragons: Culture, Legend, Mythology, Symbols, and Types

Chinese Dragon

Photo: Videowok_art via Getty Images

Occasionally, Chinese dragons appear to be ubiquitous. I see their symbols in brands, sports, books, and movies. Even on people's bodies as dragon tattoos.

You must have seen dragon iconography, but did you ever consider where these dragons originate or what the symbols mean? 

Chinese dragons are powerful and kind-hearted symbols in Chinese culture, with assumed control over the watery phenomenon, e.g., the ability to summon rainfall during a drought. Dragons are all over the places in China - in art, astrology, idioms, festivals, legends, names, and education.

In China, Dragons are perceived as excellent and lucky symbols, which is quite different from Western stories' dangerous, evil, fire-exhaling dragons.

Chinese Cultural Tradition

As a stranger, bear in mind that the Chinese Dragon (known as loong, long, or lung) is entirely different from the Western Dragon. For instance, while Western dragons exhale fire, the Chinese Dragon naturally exhales clouds.

The rationale behind the Chinese Dragon is uniquely different. The head, for example, often appears like a camel's while the eyes seem like a demon's.

Comparably, the neck seems like a snake's, and its paws resemble a tiger's. As opposed to what many people presume, the legendary Chinese Dragon was typically not vengeful.

The earliest Chinese didn't always blame dragons for natural calamities and other mayhems. Instead, they usually saw dragons as wise, benevolent, and powerful.

Chinese Dragon Legends

Chinese Dragon

Photo: voraorn via Getty Images 

Nobody knows when legends of dragons first emerged, but the symbol went as far back as 3000 BCE. The legendary Chinese Dragon developed from ancient totem-worship practices in compliance with one hypothesis. The earliest people may have fabricated dragons by combining the qualities of several animals like tigers, eagles, snakes, and fishes.

Another theory postulates that the Yan emperor, a legendary Chinese leader from the pre-dynastic ages, was begotten by an encounter with a mighty dragon. Consequently, Yandi was more potent than most leaders. He associated with Emperor Huang Di. Together, they defeated their enemies, united China, and, as per myth, pioneered Chinese civilization.

Over time, many Chinese came to admit that Yandi was one of their legendary ancestors, which by expansion meant that the dragons were their ancestors.

Chinese Dragon Mythology

In the old days, the Chinese lived mainly on farming, fishing, and hunting. The wind and rain played a significant role in their people's lives. They admitted that something authoritative controlled the rain, thunder, and wind. And according to Chinese mythology, the Dragon was a powerful creature that inhabited lakes, seas, and rivers. The Dragon was utilized as a symbol of tremendous power, a king even of the emperor.

Conforming to the Chinese legend, Huangdi, a legendary tribal ruler (the Yellow Emperor), initiated a series of wars against 9 regions in the Yellow River Valley and integrated the other regions' totems into his dragon totem after conquering them.

That is why the Dragon possesses qualities that belong to nine other creatures; they are: 

  • a long tail like a snake
  • eyes like a shrimp
  • scales like a fish
  • a big mouth like a bull
  • a nose like a dog
  • claws like a hawk.
  • whiskers like a catfish
  • a lion's mane
  • antlers like a deer
  • scales like a fish

Chinese Dragon Symbols

Dragons are almighty animals in Chinese mythology. They are connected with the capability to regulate the seasons, harvests, and time. Typically, they symbolize the following:


Conforming to Chinese astrology, people born in the same year as the Dragon are more successful and noble than others who are not. For instance, 1988, 2000, and 2012 are seen as dragon years. Some Chinese indigenes consider those people born during the dragon years to be decisive, self-confident, and strong-willed.

Good luck

Chinese people also believe that dragons symbolize good luck and fortune. Therefore, people usually engrave dragons on their items like utensils to attract the best life offers. People also go as far as drawing Dragons on their bodies as tattoos.

Agricultural produce

As specified by Chinese mythology, Dragons administer the seasons and the weather. Nevertheless, most dragons have no wings. Male dragons can fly to the heavens and make it rain, while female dragons administer earthly waters like lakes, rivers, wells, and seas.


In customary Chinese organizations, men were seen as powerful, physically strong, and often influential in societal matters. Dragons were used as representations of this somewhat dominance in conventional society. Masculine qualities, hence, were considered physical demonstrations of the mythological Dragon.


Dragons are symbols of warmth and kindness in China. (Don't forget that the Chinese Dragon does not exhale fire like its European counterparts.) Meanwhile, there are exceptions to that.

Types of Chinese Dragons

Chinese tradition has different types of dragons. Each symbolizes one good thing or the other.

Gage Beasley's Large Chinese Dragon Soft Stuffed Plush Toy symbolizes many good things (though not on-par with your traditional Chinese Dragons, of course). They are trailblazers... for your wonderful sleep, pioneers... of great dreams! 


Chinese Dragon


Gage Beasley's Large Chinese Dragon Soft Stuffed Plush Toy

Winged Dragon

The fact that this Dragon possesses wings is bizarre, considering that all other Chinese dragons have no wings. It is, therefore, a very influential type of Dragon that symbolizes floods and, at times, rain.

Spiritual Dragon

This Dragon is blue and administers both the winds and the rain. Its responsibility is to ensure that its people benefit from these two elements.

Coiling Dragon

Well-known for living in the sea, the Dragon administers time. Meanwhile, most dragons can ascend to the sky; this coiling Dragon is limited to the waters.

Celestial Dragon

Celestial Dragon lives in the sky, from where it protects the celestial deities from falling to earth.

Treasure Dragon

Chinese admit that the Treasure Dragon can safeguard hidden treasures like cash vaults, precious metals, personal wealth, and money chests.

Underworld Dragon

The Underworld Dragon administers streams, seas, and rivers. Some believe it is the feminine interpretation of the spiritual Dragon; thus, the two can copulate.

Dragon King

The Dragon god or Dragon king is regarded as the most powerful of all the Dragons. He can materialize in various shapes and is often portrayed as human. He is believed to rule over the China Sea in all four directions (North, East, South, West).

Horned Dragon

Lastly, the horned Dragon is a mighty dragon in Chinese custom. It is sometimes depicted as possessing evil tendencies and associated with making rain.

Conclusively, you have seen the Chinese Dragons' culture, legend, mythology, and types. What more do you know about them? Please, add them in the comment box; thank you for reading.



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