All About Dragon

03/18/2024 Monday 38-50F Mostly Cloudy

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"Among the twelve Chinese zodiac animals, the dragon is the only one that exists totally in people’s imagination. Nobody ever saw it; but everyone heard about it, adored it, and it has become a totem of Chinese culture for centuries.

The ancient documentation describes the dragon’s appearance as having “nine similarities”: It has bull’s head, snake’s body (that’s why some people call the snake “Lesser Dragon”), deer’s antler, shrimp’s eyes, lion’s nose, donkey’s mouth, cat’s ears, eagle’s claws, and fish’s tail. When we put all these nine components together, a vivid dragon reveals itself.


According to Chinese tales, a dragon could fly into the heavens, swim in the ocean; climb and gallop; it could transform, hide; decrease to be tiny, and expand to be huge. Since it was the only species which people in the old days believed could cross between the heaven and water, and when more than ninety percent of the folks lived on farming, people spontaneously believed, or wished, that the dragon was in charge of rain—If it brought rains, rains would bring harvests, therefore people could survive and make a living.

Land and rain were people’s core beliefs in an old agricultural society. Land could be sold or purchased, while rain only came from the heavens. Since the dragon drove rains, it is not surprising that it became so iconic. Inspired by this mythical, auspicious beast, the emperors or the rulers entitled themselves “Son of Dragon”, in the hope that they could inherit a dragon’s superpower, as well as gain their folks’ worship.

However, not every emperor was capable of managing a country; in most cases they obtained the throne through inheritance. After being failed too many times, people started to turn their eyes to someone else who could, or perhaps could, bring them a better future. Such a person was called “Dragon among the folks”, or hero.

During the famous and turbulent Three Warring Kingdoms era, Liu fled to Cao’s domain for shelter. Cao accepted him, while also keeping an eye on him. One day, unexpectedly, Cao invited Liu to come to his garden for a drink. They sat in a gazebo near a green plum tree. Soon it began to rain. Entertained by the warm wine and in a leisurely mood, Cao brought up the subject of dragons, then heroes. In his opinion, a real hero was like the dragon; ambitious and wise, firm yet supple. “Nowadays, only two men can be regarded as heroes—you,” he pointed at Liu, then at himself, “and me.”

Cao was right. As difficult and embarrassing as Liu’s situation was at the time, he was still a dragon, a hidden dragon, who hadn’t found his base yet. Years later, after making it through a lot of struggles, Liu finally built his own territory and became one of the three leaders (Cao was another one) in that part of China’s history.

We can see that legend clearly places the dragon in the realm of mythology as well as inside them, as an aspect of their character. What the dragon represents is why its legend and capabilities commands so much respect until this day.

Be the legend."


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