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In Asia the dragon is also an ambivalent symbol representing the Yin and Yang. (Dvarg / Adobe)

A Tale of Taming Dragons, Chinese Symbol of Divine Power and Defeater of Evil

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The dragon is a Chinese symbol of excellence and the Chinese consider themselves to be “The Descendants of the Dragon.” In the distant past, in China, the dragon was the symbol of the emperor, while the phoenix was the symbol of the empress.

About Chinese Dragons

Unlike the European case (where the dragon is seen as a malefic being ), Chinese dragons have a positive connotation. In Eastern Asia , the dragon has various aspects, being at once an aquatic as well as a terrestrial animal, and being both a subterranean and a heavenly being. In addition to this, the dragon is associated with various qualities and virtues. It represents the active and creator principle, holding both divine power and spiritual force.

Carved imperial Chinese dragons at Nine-Dragon Wall, Beijing. (HéctorTabaré / CC BY-SA 2.0)

Carved imperial Chinese dragons at Nine-Dragon Wall, Beijing. (HéctorTabaré / CC BY-SA 2.0 )

Either way, as a celestial symbol and as a power of life and manifestation, the dragon spits out the primordial waters or the egg of the universe, thus transforming it into an image of the creator. Therefore, the dragon is like a cloud forming above men while pouring its fertilizing waters. In addition to this, the dragon represents the kian principle, origin of the heaven and bringer of rain, whose six characteristics are six dragons.

In the “ Yijing”, it is said that the blood of the dragon is black and yellow. These are also the primordial colors of Heaven and Earth. The six lines of the kian hexagram present, in a traditional manner, the six phases of manifestation. They start from the potential hidden dragon who is inactive and un-manifested up to the floating dragon who realizes the return to the origins and passing through the dragon of the plain who is visible, who jumps and who flies.

In China the dragon is a celestial symbol. (thawornnurak / Adobe)

In China the dragon is a celestial symbol. ( thawornnurak / Adobe)

The Supernatural Virtues of Dragons

According to the Chinese sages , the dragon is said to have numerous supernatural virtues . In this sense, Confucius considered Lao-tse as the personification of the dragon as a reconciliation of the contraries. In China, the dragon ensured the road towards immortality guaranteed by soma, the divine drink of the gods.

By riding dragons, immortals reach the Heavens. With the help of a dragon, Huangzi was able to defeat the forces of evil . Also, with the help of a dragon, Emperor Yu the Great defeated the universal flood and restored order to the cosmos.

With the help of a dragon, Huangzi was able to defeat the forces of evil. (Boonsom / Adobe)

With the help of a dragon, Huangzi was able to defeat the forces of evil. ( Boonsom / Adobe)

As an imperial sign, the dragon is the symbol of the sovereign on Earth. Cosmologically, the coming of spring (therefore the cyclical renewal of nature) takes place with the appearance of the dragon flying to the heavens at the time of the spring equinox , and it disappears into the abyss in autumn. Astronomically, the head and the tail of the dragon are knots of the moon, the place where eclipses happen. This is where tales of the dragon eating the lunar aster have appeared.

The dragon is also an ambivalent symbol, being at the same time Yang (as a sign of spring and the rain, it is identified with solar animals such as the lion or the horse) as well as Yin (as a metamorphosed fish it is identified with the serpent) – therefore Yang as a geomantic principle and Yin as an alchemical symbol representing mercury.

A Tale About Breeding and Taming Dragons

There was once a man called Shimen who served Kong Jia. Even though Shimen was very talented, he was a man of a difficult nature who was full of various moods. In regard to breeding dragons, he asked everyone to follow his words exactly. In this regard, Shimen was like a general sitting in the middle of his tent giving commands which had to be fulfilled exactly.

Because of one certain dragon often misunderstandings and arguments occurred between Shimen and Emperor Kong Jia (who held the supreme authority). Shimen did not like silly and pointless words, even if these were uttered by the emperor himself. In these cases, he came up with ruthless response lines, a fact which bothered a lot Emperor Kong Jia (a vain and proud man).

Emperor Kong Jia statue at a Chinese temple. (Aethelwolf Emsworth / CC BY-SA 2.0)

Emperor Kong Jia statue at a Chinese temple. (Aethelwolf Emsworth / CC BY-SA 2.0 )

Breeding dragons had been a fun activity for the sovereign, but now he often became angry because of it. Once, Shimen laughed mercilessly at the ridiculous words of the emperor. The latter could no longer bear it and being extremely angry, he ordered that Shimen be taken outside and decapitated. In response, Shimen laughed and said: “It is pointless to cut off my head, in fact it is you who have lost, you have lost entirely.”

With these words, Shimen left behind the guards. Soon, his head was brought before the emperor. Fearing that Shimen’s spirit might perform bad deeds at the palace, Kong Jia ordered that he be buried in a remote place located far away from the capital.

As soon as the head was buried, a strong wind began along with a heavy rain. When the wind and the rain stopped, all the forests in the area caught fire. Even though a lot of people tried to put out the fire, they did not succeed. Kong Jia desperately watched all that was taking place from his palace. Not knowing what else to expect from the innocent sorcerer who had been killed, the emperor got into his carriage and went outside the city to pray to Shimen’s spirit to ask him to stop doing bad deeds.

Once the prayer was completed, the fire started to diminish and it soon was about to end. Then, the emperor’s heart lightened. He got back into his carriage and left to go back to the palace.

Once in front of the palace, the head guard opened the door of the carriage inviting the emperor to come out. Still, Kong Jia kept sitting there silently, without moving and with his eyes staring at nothing. Then, the head guard looked closer. Emperor Kong Jia was dead.

Top image: In Asia the dragon is also an ambivalent symbol representing the Yin and Yang. ( Dvarg / Adobe)

By Isa Vald

References

Ke, Y. 1965. Myths in Ancient China . Moscow.
Popescu, F. 2002. Divinitati, simboluri si mistere orientale Vol. IV . Floarea Darurilor Publishing.
Vald, I. 2019. Chinese Mythology and Symbolism – A Short Dictionary . Vald ePub.

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