2012 is the Dragon Year in Chinese mythology.
Throughout history and all around the world, in both Western Medieval and Eastern Chinese dragon histories alike, dragons have been a major influence on the cultures of humankind. Information amassed from different parts of the world can be found that depicts dragons as incredibly diverse and complex creatures. No other creature in the history of mythology has appeared throughout time in so many cultures from almost every continent in the world (with no influence from each other until much later in history). This can be perplexing, as seemingly mystical dragon creatures were not only a major part of Medieval and Eastern cultures, but around the same time the Aztecs, Mayans and other South American cultures had dragons as part of their cultures.
The Emmy and Golden Globes’ winner Game of Thrones, part of George R. R. Martin‘s best-selling A Song of Ice and Fire series of fantasy novels, is also centered on the magical creature–dragon!
Mysterious Kings of the Food Chain
Although the history of dragons differ between specific Chinese and Medieval legends, dragons have remained as one of the most recognized creatures from past civilizations to the present day! Dragons hold a special place in the ancient history, mythology and folklore of planet earth. If dragons have appeared throughout nearly every time period and culture isolated across distant lands surrounding the globe throughout the history of man then how could they not exist? These enchanted creatures seem to sit at the very top of the food chain and have inspired many myths, and even entire mythologies, for so long. Dragons appear in uncounted as well as documented historical information sources found worldwide. Strangely enough, the English word for dragon originates from the Greek word: draconta – which means “to watch.” So who knows, maybe dragons have been watching us all along?
Contrasting Dragon Tales of the Chinese and Europeans
The Medieval and Chinese dragon, as far as mythological creatures go, is typically depicted as a large and powerful serpent, or other reptile-like animal, with magical and often unique spiritual qualities. There is simply no creature alive that can match the physical majesty of the dragon. For centuries dragons have been a powerful symbol of mystery itself. All through ancient history dragons are mentioned in the numerous legends of both Medieval and Chinese cultures with dragons provoking man to live in fear of them, and worship them simultaneously. In Medieval Europe, the dragon is considered a vicious fire-breathing character with both a malevolence and fierceness that caused terror in nearly all people of the Middle Ages. On the other hand, Chinese dragons are regarded as supreme beings that protect the weak and are worshipped, not out of fear, but out of love by the local Asian and Chinese people of the past, and even the present.
Understanding the Rationality of Dragon Beliefs
When most people from Western Civilization [North America, Canada and Europe] think “dragon” they are most likely thinking of a Medieval dragon, and not a Chinese dragon. Medieval dragons, also known to the world as Western dragons, or European dragons, are usually portrayed as enormous fire breathing, evil, mean-spirited and downright ferocious bloodthirsty beasts. Some individuals have the misconception that Chinese dragons are a symbol of evil as well. This is an erroneous belief which probably stems from the Western world mythology where Medieval dragons were thought to be in the business of abducting maidens, wreaking havoc on the populace, stealing gold, meanwhile they destroyed the brave of knights and their castles. In a Medieval context, the Western dragon is often confused with the symbol of Satan incarnate. Remarkably, this association is not carried over for the dragons of the Orient. Interestingly enough, the Asian cultural has it just the opposite! The dragons of China and Japan are almost exclusively benevolent mythological creatures. So different in nature from Western Dragons, Chinese dragons may be more reasonably considered as a different dragon sub-species entirely, rather than as the same dragon species interpreted differently.
Guardians or Monsters?
As guardians of the basic Elements: Earth, Fire, Water, and Air… plus spirit, Chinese dragons exemplify mastery over the full powers of nature and were considered to be powerful wise guardians as opposed to Medieval dragons which were, in general, considered evil monsters. Common to Eastern and Western mythologies, dragons were enemies of the sun and the moon, and whenever eclipses occurred it was believed that dragons were responsible, that they had somehow caused it with their vast wings.
Oriental Chinese Dragon and Western Dragon Differences
The legends of Medieval dragons and Western dragons describe the mythological dragon species as being akin to large lizard-like creatures that breathed fire, had large powerful pterodactyl-like wings and a long scaly tail. In Europe, there are many dragon tales, myths and legends. Traditionally, dragons represent all that is evil and fought against by human beings, and are portrayed as ferocious beasts because of this conflict and inner battle. In Asia, especially for China and Japan, the dragon is generally considered a friendly creature that almost guarantees you good luck and wealth if you are fortunate enough to have a dragon cross your path. The Oriental, or Chinese dragon, is a graceful, flowing beast that seems to glide effortlessly through the air at will. Also, in complete contrast to Medieval dragons, Chinese dragons are represented as long serpent-like creatures with no wings, and simultaneously they are seen as ancient and highly intelligent creatures.
Are Dragons a Fable or a Fact?
The dragon is truly something else. It is an admirable, intelligent and educated creature, who leads a most interesting life. Even in the realm of the most fantastic animals, the dragon is quite unique. No other highly intelligent creature has appeared in such a rich variety of forms. It is as though there was once a whole family of different dragon species that really existed, until they mysteriously became extinct, like a dragon tale. Indeed, even as recently as the seventeenth century scholars wrote of dragons as though they were a scientific fact, with their anatomy and natural history being recorded in painstaking detail. Is there something the Smithsonian Museum is hiding from us or where they all wrong?
Dragons Stories as Old as Written Language Itself!
Six thousand years ago in ancient Mesopotamia near present day Iraq, the early Sumerians developed the first writing systems and amazingly enough humankind’s very first writings were about dragons! They wrote that dragons created both the earth and humanity. Maybe dragons really have been around since the dawn of civilization. Especially since dragons are still, to this day, the best known creature that ever existed! If dragons have appeared in almost every time period and culture in isolated regions and across distant lands throughout the entire history of humankind, then how could they not exist?
Dragons as Imagination Fodder
Why dragons? Is it their magical presence? Are they still watching us without us being able watch them? Some people think so. Until dragons want themselves to be known to the masses again one day, they will continue to present themselves to only those who truly believe! Dragon stories and myths, in both Chinese and Western Medieval cultures, have been around for thousands of years, the memory of dragons isn’t going away any time soon. It is almost certain that even more new fascinating dragon myths, dragon legends, and dragon movies will continue to fascinate children and adults alike with wonder. Artists and film makers alike will continue to draw, paint, sculpt and otherwise create dragons of all sorts, with their imaginations returning us to the mysterious realm of the dragon.
Find out more about Dragon, check the article: “Lucky Dragon Jewelry for the Dragon Year 2012”!