Characteristics of Chinese Dragons and Their Developmental Stages
Chinese art and cultural beliefs have been dominated by dragons for thousands of years. A mix of animal features are seen in Chinese dragons, and thanks to the diligent scholarship of Wang Fu some time between 206 B.C. and A.D. 220 during the Han Dynasty, the features and complex stages of dragon growth and maturity were described.
A Chinese Dragon has:
- Camel head
- Demon eyes
- Cow ears
- Stag antlers
- Snake neck
- Clam belly
- Tiger feet
- Eagle claws
- 117 Carp scales around it body
The character of the carp scales account for the tendency of Chinese dragons to be benign. Eighty one scales are imbued with softer, gentler yang energy whereas only 36 scales radiate a malevolent yin energy.
From Hatchling to Maturity The Fantastic Stages of Chinese Dragon Development
The long tail that dragons coil around Chinese culture can be seen in the complexity and detail with which their mythical character has been envisioned. Chinese dragons go through a lengthy series of metamorphic stages before becoming the rare wonder of a winged Chinese dragon.
To begin, a Chinese dragon does not even hatch from its gem-like egg until 1,000 years after it has been laid. The hatchling dragon looks like a water snake and 500 years will pass before it develops the head of a carp. Then over another 1,000 years the carp scales will cover its body and four short limbs will grow. During this time the tail will grow long, the face will become elongated, a beard will develop, and sharp claws will emerge from the feet.
Antlers will grow over the next 500 years, and strangely the Chinese dragon hears through its antlers. Despite the presence of ears, it has been deaf until the growth of antlers. Not until the passing of another 1,000 years will the dragon grow wings and achieve the ultimate state of a mature and glorious Chinese dragon.
The Four Most Important Types of Chinese Dragons
Creative minds over thousands of years of Chinese civilization have imagined a multitude of dragons, but four enjoy preeminence in the culture.
T'ien lung This is a celestial dragon that protects heaven, specifically the homes of the gods.
Shen-lung A spiritual dragon, it is the master of storms. A special type of shen-lung is the five-toed imperial dragon that could only appear on the clothes and furnishings of the emperor.
Ti-lung This is a dragon of the land and rivers. Apparently a good all-purpose dragon.
Fu-ts'ang lung This is a treasure dragon that hoards jewels and precious metals in deep caves (a trait in common with the greedier dragons of western cultures).
Source: "Dragons: A Natural History." 1995. Dr. Karl Shuker.
. Pages 87-89.
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