Chinese dragons are legendary creatures in Chinese mythology and folklore. In Chinese art, dragons are typically portrayed as long, scaled, serpentine creatures with four legs. In contrast to European dragons, which are considered evil, Chinese dragons traditionally symbolize potent and auspicious powers, particularly control over water, rainfall, hurricane, and floods. The dragon is also a symbol of power, strength, and good luck.
The origin of Chinese dragon is not certain, but some scholars believe that it originated from totems of different tribes in China. Some have suggested that it comes from a stylized depiction of existing animals, such as snakes, fish, or crocodiles.
From its origins as totems or the stylized depiction of natural creatures, the Chinese dragon evolved to become a mythical animal. 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 mystical and not seen as a result of their physical attributes.
Symbol of Imperial Authority
The dragon, especially yellow or golden dragons with five claws on each foot, was a symbol for the emperor in many Chinese dynasties. The imperial throne was called the Dragon Throne. During the late Qing Dynasty, the dragon was even adopted as the national flag. The dragon is featured in the carvings on the steps of imperial palaces and tombs, such as the Forbidden City in Beijing.
In modern times, belief in the dragon appears to be sporadic at best. There appear to be very few who would see the dragon as a literally real creature. The worship of the Dragon Kings as rulers of water and weather continues in many areas, and is deeply ingrained in Chinese cultural traditions such as Chinese New Year celebrations. Dragon kites are also used in these celebrations.