For centuries the dragon has been a symbol of power and mystery. Depicted in countless legends, the dragon has provoked man to fear and worship it. It was considered a bloodthirsty, fire-breathing figure in medieval Europe that struck terror in all. In Asia the dragon is a mythical beast celebrated for its benevolence and intelligence. The dragon is a symbol of identity for East Asian cultures. Chinese people all over the world are affectionately known as lung de chyan ren, or the descendants of the dragon. Known in China as lung, "the dragon," where it is believed to have originated. There are nine distinct types Chinese dragons:
- Considered the most powerful, the Horned dragon.
- Protects the Heavens and the Gods, the Celestial dragon.
- For the benefits of mankind, controls the rain and wind, Spiritual dragon.
- All waters that run through the earth are ruled by, the Earth dragon.
- The keeper of all precious gems and metals, the Underworld dragon.
- The only one with wings, the Winged dragon.
- Dwells in the oceans, the Coiling dragon.
- Emerged from the sea giving the ancient Chinese Emperor Fu Hsi, the knowledge of writing, the Yellow dragon.
- The four seas; North, South, East and the West are controlled by a group of four dragons known as the Dragon King.
Chinese dragons are also physically concise; with 117 scales, 36 are imbued with Yin energy and 81 imbued with Yang energy. These dragons are equipped with exactly 5 claws in each hand and foot. In China during the Han Dynasty (206B.C.) and the reign of Emperor Kao Tsu, the dragon with five claws was considered an emblem of imperial power. In China according to legend, it is believed that the farther the dragon travels away from China the more claws it will lose, explaining why dragons from other Asian countries have less than 5 claws. The Koreans, for centuries have lived with their distinct beliefs. In Korea, dragons are called Yong, with three main types,
- Protect the sky and is the most powerful, Yong
- Lives in the ocean and is hornless, Yo
- Dwells in the mountains on the earth, Kyo
The Korean dragon has the belly of a frog, the ears of an ox, the eyes of a rabbit, the scales of a carp, the claws of a hawk, the feet of a tiger, the head of a camel, the neck of a snake and the horns of a deer. Koreans like the Chinese believe the dragon originated in their homeland, born with 81 scales lining its back and each hand and foot with four claws. A yong traveling to the South or West would grow an extra claw according to legend. Is why it is believed that Chinese dragons have five claws. As the dragon travels to the North or East it is believed to lose a claw, is why dragons from Japan have three claws. Known as tatsu or ryu in Japan, it is also a national symbol and the royal Family insignia. A single female dragon spawned nine dragons according to Japanese lore, each becoming a distinctive sub-type, reigning all points of the earth, the seas and the heavens. Japanese dragons have the ability to alter its size at will, or become invisible and are serpent-like. The tatus can be identified by their three claws. Since the dragon has traveled far from China, it is believed why the dragon has lost all but three if its claws in Japan. The original Asian dragon born in Japan has three claws and grows extra claws as it travel away from Japan according to the Japanese beliefs. Asian dragons are depicted in the colors white, blue, red, black or the popular yellow, regardless of the region of origin. They are often shown bearing a pearl in their claw, in their mouth or under their chin, symbolizing the power to enable the dragon to ascend to heaven. Dragons are not only a symbol of identity, but is the essence of Asia.