The Chinese Dragon


Chinese cosmology shows that the Ten Thousand Beings (the world) are born from the rhythmic play of two complementary and eternal principles, which are Yin and Yang. Yin corresponds to concentration, darkness, passivity, even numbers and cold, and Yang corresponds to growth, light, impetus, odd numbers and warmth.

Yin symbols are the woman, earth, orange, valleys, riverbeds and the tiger; Yang’s are the man, sky, blue, mountains, poles and the Dragon.

The Chinese Dragon, called Lung, is one of four magical animals. The other three are the unicorn, the Phoenix bird and the turtle. The Western dragon is, at best, frightening, and in the worst case ridiculous; instead, the traditional Lung is of divine origin, being a kind of angel which also has something from a lion.

So, in Ssu-Ma Ch’ien’s Historical Memoirsn we can read how Confucius went once to consult the librarian or archivist Lao Tse, writing this testimony:

Birds fly, fish swim and animals flee. The being that runs can be stopped by a trap, the one that swims, by a trawl, and the one flying, by an arrow. But the Dragon is different: I don’t know how it travels on the wind, nor how it gets the heaven. Today I saw Lao Tse and I can say that I saw the Dragon.

A dragon or a dragon horse emerged from the Yellow River and showed to an emperor the famous circular diagram, diagram that symbolizes the mutual play between Yin and Yang.

In King I, the Canon of Mutations, the Dragon is usually the symbol of the wise. For centuries the Dragon had been the imperial coat of arms. The King’s throne was also called the thron of the Dragon, and the emperor’s image was the face of the Dragon. When it was announced that the emperor had died, it was said the emperor had risen to heaven by riding the Dragon.

Folk imagination puts the Dragon in correspondence with the clouds, the rain and the great rivers. The Chinese Dragon has horns, claws and scales, and his back is full of spikes. It often appears with a pearl that either swallows or spit it; in this pearl is its power. If someone takes it, it becomes harmless.

Jorge Luis Borges, Chinese Dragon

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