Looking at the Chinese Symbol for Dragon Meanings

Looking at the Chinese Symbol for Dragon Meanings

As the biggest economy in Asia, China has been called “the dragon of Asia.”

It's more than just the economy. The dragon symbol and China have a long history with each other. So today, we will explore the intertwined history between the Chinese symbol for dragon in Chinese culture and more!

An introduction to the Chinese dragon

The Chinese dragon is a legendary creature in Chinese culture, in the past and even today. 

The Chinese character for dragon is 龍 or , traditional and simplified Chinese respectively. Despite the different stroke order, both are pronounced as “lóng.”

Most commonly, Chinese dragons are depicted as giant snake-like creatures with the scales of a carp, the antlers of a stag, the talons of eagles, the feet of a tiger, and the eyes of a (dragon) lobster.

Chinese dragon origin theories

There are four theories on the origin of the Chinese dragon including snakes, Chinese alligators, thunder, and nature.

While there is no consensus on the origin of the Chinese dragon, a theory suggests that the symbol of the Chinese dragon dates back to at least 3000 BCE. This theory of Chinese dragons evolved from ancient totem-worship practices where people created the dragons by combining features of tigers, snakes, eagles, and carp.

A different theory claims that the many emperors in China were incarnations of the dragon as they are symbols of great leadership and conquered land. Many emperors would wear robes with embroidered Chinese dragon symbols as a social status.

Chinese dragon symbol in Chinese culture

The dragon in the Chinese zodiac

The Chinese zodiac is a 12-year cycle where each zodiac animal represents a year. The most widespread Chinese mythology of the Chinese zodiac is that the Jade Emperor invited many animals to where the first 12 will represent one year on the Chinese calendar.

The dragon is the fifth animal in the Chinese zodiac lineup. Of all twelve animals, the dragon stands out as the most powerful and mythical creature. 

People used the Chinese zodiac to determine their personality, relationships, and even destiny. So, those who were born in the year of the Dragon would demonstrate leadership, power, and charisma. Additionally, those who are blessed by the dragon god are said to be naturally lucky and gifted. Most of these traits are associated with the Chinese dragons which symbolize wisdom, benevolence, and power. 

Chinese dragon dances

Many Chinese immigrants brought their culture and built a community surrounding it. Resulting in many Chinese festivals, cuisine, and art. So you’ve heard about many Chinese festivals such as Chinese New Year, the biggest festival each year. 

Dragon dance tournament | 2023 Taoyuan

Chinese New Year has a lot of performances including the Chinese dragon dance. Here, the dragon Chinese symbol in the dance will scare away evil spirits and bring good luck to people, which is why many Chinese communities will perform it. 

The dragon boat festival

China Longzhou dragon boat tournament | ​​CGTN

The Dragon Boat Festival occupies a spot on China’s major holiday list. Dragon Boat Festival is held on the 5th day of the 5th month in the Chinese lunar calendar It’s commonly called the Double Five Festival (and there are other double-day festivals in Chinese culture!). 

People celebrate this holiday to commemorate the death of Qu Yuan, a Chinese poet, and minister known for his patriotism as he drowned himself to protest the corrupt feudal dynasty. 

Upon hearing news of this tragic attempt, villagers raced to save him but their efforts were in vain. So, during this traditional festival, Chinese people attend intense dragon boat races in search of Qu Yuan’s body as a race.

Color meanings for the Chinese symbol for dragon

colorful Chinese dragons decorations

Colorful Chinese dragons on top of a temple

Eastern dragons exist in different colors with each color bearing a symbolic meaning in Chinese culture. 

Chinese green dragons

The color green can stand for nature, harmony, and wealth. Together with the Chinese dragon results in a new meaning.

Farmers would pray for green dragons to bring them good harvests and well-fed lives as they are considered the gods of weather who can control the rain and water. 

Chinese red dragons

Red is the color of blooming, good luck, happiness, and so much more. 

This color is also the loved color of many in China. You can easily catch this color being used in big festivals or special occasions such as Chinese New Year, grand openings, or weddings.

Chinese People believe that if they worship red Chinese dragons, they’ll be granted luck, passion, vitality, and most importantly prosperity.  

Chinese yellow dragons

Yellow is a color associated with solidity, reliability, and warmth, and it is set aside for royalty and those of higher social class. 

Gold dragons share many of these assets and are recognized as symbols of wealth, wisdom, and compassion. 

In Chinese imperial times, yellow color costumes were reserved only for the emperors. Dragon robes which come in yellow and decorated with dragon figures were the everyday dress of the kings of China. 

Chinese black dragons

In color psychology, black suggests mystery, elegance, and sophistication. But at the same time, it can evoke emotions such as evil, cruelty, and sadness. 

In Chinese culture, black stands for bad luck, irregularity, and illegality. In the Chinese Five Elements Theory, the water element is represented by the color black instead of the traditional blue. Combining all the information will give us the black dragon which is known for its dark power of mystery and vengeance. They are also connected to furious storms. 

Chinese white dragons

The color white represents the element of metal in traditional Chinese culture. It also symbolizes purity and innocence. But in some instances, this color is associated with death and is worn at funerals.

As a result, white dragons function as an omen of death.

Frequently asked questions

What is the Chinese symbol for dragon?

The Chinese characters for dragon are 龍 (traditional Chinese) and 龙 (simplified Chinese). Both are pronounced as “lóng.”

In closing

The Chinese symbol for dragon is very prominent even in today’s culture. However, you will mostly see it when celebrating traditional holidays such as Chinese New Year and the Double Five festival.

Whether or not you believe in what Chinese dragon symbols represent, you can not deny the effect it has on Chinese culture. Next time you see a Chinese dragon symbol somewhere, it may bring you luck in the place you least expect it.

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