When the average westerner thinks of Asia, cherry blossoms, martial arts, and dragons come to mind. The eastern or asian dragon has been in art and mythology possibly longer even than the western dragon, holding both stark contrasts and yet also amazing similarities. Can these dragons hold the key to proof for the existence of dragons?
The oriental dragon is seen just about anywhere one looks–from temple walls to pagoda arches, from Mulan to The Dragon Pearl, from chopsticks to china plates.
They are long, serpenty creatures with whispy whiskers and pointy toes. Before writing this post, I didn’t realize that you can tell where a dragon is from based on those toes! Most oriental dragons have either three, four, or five toes. Japanese dragons have three toes. Korean dragons have four, and Chinese dragons have five. Each of the three countries have myths about why there are different amount of toes. The Chinese believe dragons lose toes as they travel away from China; hence no dragons made it to the western hemisphere because they had no toes by the time they would have gotten there. The Japanese believe dragons gain toes as they move away from Japan. While Koreans believe dragons either gain or lose toes depending on where they go.
Males vs Females
According to blackdrago.com, dragon you can tell a dragon’s sex by their tail. Females hold fans in their tails, while male dragons hold clubs. Different horns indicate the different sexes as well. Male horns are almost a reverse cone in that they’re thinner at the base and get thicker and stronger as they move away from the head. Females are given the rounder and fuller manes with straighter noses and smaller bodies granting them thinner scales, and yet they have fuller, thicker tails compared to males.
Most oriental dragons do not have wings and yet they can fly! How can that be? Most say it is due to their magic. Dragons after all are magical creatures.
Dragon temperments may vary from country to country, but overall dragons are benevolent, wise leaders. Often embodying the spirit of the elements, they are friends, like in Spirited Away. In fact, they can be seen with a pearl which is called the Pearl of Wisdom. Dragons bring good luck. Just like in Dragon Rider by Cornelia Funke.
“These people believe that a dragon brings a year of good luck–good luck and rain, which is the best luck of all in these parts.” ~Zubeida in Dragon Rider
I never realized eastern dragons had any similarities to western dragons, but I discovered they do! The life-cycle of an eastern dragon actually involves wings. When a dragon reaches his thousandth birthday, he gains wings. I imagine there aren’t a ton of art with thousand old dragons, and hence, the lack of pictures of oriental dragons with wings.
Another similarity comes from Japan. As I stated earlier the average oriental dragon is seen as benevolent and wise. However, in Japan dragons were known to kill innocent people and demand young maidens for food. This is much like the European dragons.
What does all this have to do with if dragons really existed? One of the main points to know if something actually was, is to study the different myths of different cultures. When many cultures separated by long distances have similar myths, there has to be a grain of truth somewhere. So, if cultures all around the world have similar stories about dragons with similar body types and abilities, just maybe it’s possible that dragons really did exist!