Enter the Dragon

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For thousands of years, the dragon has been a symbol of the Chinese people. Some Chinese people call themselves “sons of the dragon”.

The Chinese dragon is a mythical animal which is connected with water and rainfall. In times of drought, government ministers used to offer sacrifices to the dragon and pray for rain. Dragons are also supposed to have power over moving bodies of water such as rip-tides, storms and tornadoes. They fly by magic and occasionally show themselves as twisters and waterspouts.

In ancient China, dragon is emperor’s symbol. Chinese children were told that when the Yellow Emperor died, he became a dragon and flew into Heaven. From then on, the yellow dragon with five claws on each foot became a symbol of imperial power. The emperor’s throne was called the Dragon Throne and his robe was called the Dragon Robe. Only the Emperor was allowed to wear clothes embroidered with a yellow dragon. In ancient times, any person who dared to wear such robes without permission was suspected of treason and might even be executed.

The number 9, the largest single digit, is associated with the dragon as well as the Emperor in Chinese minds. It is a lucky number in China because it is pronounced the same as another word, jiu, which means a long time or long life. The dragon is supped to have 117 scales – 81 Yang ( or male ) scales and 36 Yin ( or female ) scales. All these numbers are multiples of nine.

It was said the dragon had the characteristics of nine different animals. It had the horns of a deer, the head of a camel, the eyes of a demon, the neck of a snake, the belly of a clam, the scales of a carp, the claws of an eagle, the soles of a tiger and the ears of a cow.

The dragon was said to have nine children, each had a different temperament. A musical dragon would adorn a two-stringed Chinese violin (erhu ); one which was quarrelsome would appear on the handle of a sword; one which was scholarly would be carved on a tombstone; one which liked to jump was placed on the corner of a roof; one which liked to eat would be on chopsticks; one which rode would be on a saddle; one which painted would be on a brush; one which liked water would be on the stern of a boat; and one which liked to run would decorate shoes.

And, there are many places in China named Nine Dragons. For example, the Nine Dragon Wall in the Forbidden City in Beijing is a famous wall.

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