Dragon is oldest legendary creature in China. It was always respected with some level of awe and was considered as symbol of power. Chinese folktales say that Chinese people are descendants of Dragon and they believed that from dragons qi energy was transfered to humans. It was believed that dragons govern the weather and can bring rain. Since pre-imperial Hongshan culture there are first traces of respect and attention to dragon there was found out jade dragon totem that dates from around 4700BC or almost 7000 years ago. Black dragons were often associated with water, rain, storm, mist, fog, white dragons with sadness, yellow dragons with sun and clear sky, green dragons with spring and blooming and red dragons with fortune and happiness. There are other colors as well such as purple and special long dragons. It was believed that they live in water but also that they can fly and move on ground. People worshiped them as they believed that dragons can spit water while flying over crops and thus make rain. Dragons are also important part of Chinese zodiac as they are one of most powerful and bravest zodiac signs. During major festivals dragon dances are performed about which you have probably heard.
Dragons were symbol of imperial power which were depicted on emblems and flags of China. Also dragons were often carved on walls, rocks …In many regions dragon is worshiped as kind of deity. For example in Yunnan province near city of Lijiang there is Black Dragons Pool. In past was believed that black dragon lived in lake and people were going there to pray for rain.
Dragon is considered as compatible being to phoenix an another powerful legendary being. They together represent two sides of yin and yang and are considered as perfect couple, balance of two powers and their coexistence in harmony. They are often symbol of marriage and infinite love.
Below is one of important legends about dragons.
Legend of 4 Dragons–
Ancient legend says why they were worshipped for bringing rain. It was believed that there are 4 main Dragon Kings- Black Dragon, Yellow Dragon, Purple Dragon and Long Dragon. – Black Dragon of the North Sea( Baikal Lake), another Dragon of the West Sea( Qinghai Lake), Yellow Dragon of East Sea( East China Sea) and Dragon of South Sea( South China Sea). Many years rain didn’t fall and people were starving and were desperate. They prayed to Heaven to bring them rain in order to have better harvests. But heavenly Jade Emperor didn’t want to send rain. 4 Dragons gathered and went to Jade emperor in his Heavenly Palace to beg him to bring rain he promised so but after many days rain didn’t come. So Dragons decided to refuse the emperors will and use their power to help people despite fear of mighty emperor. They took water in their large mouths and started flying over fields and spitting water and that’s how they made rain to people. Harvests already improved and people were happy. But because of disobeying emperor Jade emperor became angry and using his magic he moved 4 mountains to run over dragons and block them on ground from moving. But dragons overpowered him again and turned themselves into rivers and passed through mountains so they could always provide people with water so they don’t have to depend on rain completely. Those 4 rivers are largest 4 rivers of China that legendarily were created from Dragons- North- Heilongjiang( Black Dragon River), Huanghe( Yellow River) Central China, a bit more to the South- Yangtze or Long river and at the South- Pearl River- Zhujiang. I think that this legend says the best why dragon is so important in Chinese culture.
Enjoy China 😉