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Chinese Dragons: What Does the Chinese Dragon Symbolize?

Chinese Dragons - What Does the Chinese Dragon Symbolize?
Chinese dragons are popular iconography in clothes, books, and body art, like tattoos. It is only natural to want to learn about these Chinese dragons and their relevance in different cultures and religions.
In sharp contrast to Western portrayals of dragons, Chinese dragons are benevolent, symbolic creatures. They are in festivals, legends, idioms, art, astrology, and even some names. You will also find Chinese dragon statues throughout China.
In China, the spiritual meaning and symbolism of Chinese dragons directly relate to good luck, power, and much more. For that reason, they have been an influential part of Chinese culture for centuries. The Han Chinese ethnic group even believes that they are “Descendents of the Dragon.”
Continue reading this piece to learn about the meaning of Chinese dragons.

What are Chinese Dragons?

Chinese dragons are serpent-like, legendary creatures with long bodies and claw-like talons. Some Chinese religions also believe that these creatures bring rain to fertile lands and are gods of moving bodies of water.
Chinese dragons also symbolize power and luck, which is a symbol representing emperors. Additionally, the Chinese dragon is also one of the twelve Chinese zodiac signs.
Figurines of Chinese dragons, such as art galleries, museums, architecture, temples, and much more, exist throughout China. However, Chinese dragons live underwater- beneath rivers, lakes, and seas, according to Chinese mythology and legends.
In ancient times, Chinese emperors identified themselves as sons of the Chinese dragons. The ordinary Chinese population did not have permission to take pictures of these dragons.

What Do Chinese Dragons Symbolize?

Chinese dragons hold astrological personalities in the Chinese zodiac. But, the symbolism associated with these mythological creatures extends beyond astrology in Chinese culture. Here are a few things to know if you’re wondering what do Chinese dragons mean.


Chinese society, culture, and traditions consider men to possess incredible physical strength and power. Intense and impressive masculinity is influential in various communities throughout China.
Due to their physical appearance, traditional Chinese dragons represent relative male dominance and power in traditional Chinese society. In fact, the Chinese also believe that the males manifested and somehow inherited their masculine traits from Chinese dragons.

Imperial Power and Authority

Chinese feudal society believes that Chinese rulers and emperors are the natural children of the dragons. In other words, the ruling men in China identified as dragons and sons of heaven.
During the age of imperial dynasties, the emperors used clothes and other items that heavily features Chinese dragon iconography. It was against the law for ordinary people to include images of dragons in their regular lives. Even today, in the imperial palace, you can find carvings of Chinese dragon emblems on furniture, walkways, stairs, etc.
As such, the mythical Chinese dragons represent supreme authority and power associated with the role of an imperial emperor.

Agricultural Life

Chinese dragons are divine mythical creatures in Chinese myths and legends.
According to one legend, Dragon Kings, a type of Chinese dragon, are the rulers of the weather and climate. Although most Chinese dragons are wingless, those with wings are responsible for bringing harvest.
With the Chinese dragon wings, male Chinese dragons fly to the heavens to bring rain. The Chinese believe that the female Chinese dragons control the waters, such as rivers, seas, and waterfalls, and bring fertilizing rains.
The four dragon kings each are responsible for controlling the Chinese seas, also known as Chinese direction dragons. These include the South China Sea (South), Lake Baikal (North), East China Sea (East), and Qinghai Lake (and other lakes to the West).
Many Chinese villages have shrines and temples to worship the four dragon kings even to this day. Chinese people go to these dedicated buildings to worship and seek the blessings of these creatures for ample rainfall and a suitable climate for harvests and high yields.
The local population also offers sacrifices to the Dragon Kings to appease them for stopping extreme weather conditions such as droughts and floods. However, the practice has stopped in modern times.


The years 1988, 2000, and 2012 are dragon years in Chinese Astrology. Chinese astrology suggests that anyone born in the Year of the Dragon is nobler than others. It also suggests that these people’s lives are much more prosperous.
Some Chinese cultures also believe they're more confident, decisive, and strong-willed due to their birth year.

Chinese Ancestors

Chinese mythology suggests that humans are descendants of these famous Chinese dragons.
Thousands of years ago, a tribal leader named Yandi was born due to a telepathic union between his mother and a mighty dragon. According to the legend, Yandi set the prelude of the Chinese civilization.
He did this with the help of Huangdi, the grandson of another dragon and a legendary tribal leader, and the (father) dragon. Yandi and Huangdi are the ancestors of the entire Chinese civilization. They also believe that both dragon sons ascended to heaven and became immortal dragons.
Over time, some people in Chinese cultures began identifying as Yandi’s and Huangdi’s descendants, which made the Chinese dragons their ancestors.
Due to this Chinese legend, the Chinese dragons now symbolize wisdom and bravery associated with Yandi and Huangdi.

Good Fortune

The Chinese people also believe that Chinese dragons symbolize good luck and fortune. For that reason, they engrave emblems and images of Chinese dragons on personal items. For example, some believe that they will have enough food if they carve Chinese dragons on their dishes. They believe that integrating pictures or iconography of these Chinese dragons allows them to live a prosperous and happy life.
The Chinese dragons' symbolism of good fortune closely relates to harvest and high crop yields. Shennong, also known as the ‘Divine Farmer,' is a famous character in many Chinese mythological legends. According to the belief, Shennong was the son of a mighty dragon and a gorgeous princess. Some legends also suggest that he is the father of Huangdi, the tribal emperor.
Shennong is famous for teaching people how to use herbal medicines and developing agricultural practices. Considered a hero and primogenitor, he represents prosperity, bountiful harvests, and good fortune.

Colors of Chinese Dragons- What Do They Represent?

Different cultures and religions have depicted ancient Chinese dragons in different colors. Each of these colors represents unique symbolism for different Chinese dragons.

Red Dragon

Chinese people consider red a lucky color, making it important in their cultures.
People in China prefer decorating their houses, festivals, and special events in red colors to attract happiness and good luck. Red is also an essential color in traditional dragon dances.
Therefore, red Chinese dragons symbolize good fortune, luck, and happiness.

Black Dragon

Black Chinese dragons represent vengeance.
In Chinese pop culture, most criminal organizations have a black dragon as their emblem. The criminal characters will also have black dragon tattoos on their back to represent evil.
In contrast to the symbolism of good fortune, people often link black dragons with catastrophes such as floods, storms, and others.

White Dragon

In traditional Chinese cultures, the color white represents death and mourning.
However, white dragons tell a different story. Like most Western cultures, white for these creatures represents values like virtue and purity.

Yellow Dragon

Chinese people regard yellow as a royal color since the age of Chinese imperial dynasties. During ancient times, it was the color of the emperors that represented their power and dominance.

Blue and Green Dragons

As with several other cultures worldwide, some Chinese cultures recognize blue and green as colors of healing, nature, and growth. They believe that blue and green Chinese dragons symbolize plants, spring, health, and new life.

Golden Dragon

Gold is a royal color, especially in China. As the color symbolizes wealth, prosperity, and power, golden dragons Chinese represent harvest, strength, and powerful deities.

Types of Chinese Dragons

Here are the top 9 types of Chinese dragons with rich symbolism. Each of the dragons have very interesting depictions in different religions and hold unique importance in these 9 dragons.
  1. Winged Dragon

In Simplified Chinese, Winged Dragons are called Yinglong 应龙, meaning the ones with wings.
  1. Coiling Dragon

Coiling Dragons are called Panlong 蟠龙, meaning the ones that did not ascend to heaven.
  1. Horned Dragon

In Chinese, Horned Dragons take on the name Qiulong 虬龙, which means a young dragon with horns.
  1. Underworld Dragon

Underworld Dragons, also known as Dilong 地龙in Chinese, control the waters.
  1. Treasure Dragon

Treasure Dragons or Funzalong, Fucanglong 伏藏龙 in Chinese, are the guardians of precious treasures.
  1. Celestial Dragon

Celestial Dragons, also known as Tianlong 天龙, are the guardians of the celestial gods.
  1. Dragon King

Dragon King, Longwang, 龙王, meaning the Chinese Dragon King of the four seas.
  1. Spiritual Dragon

Spiritual Dragons, Shenlong 神龙, are masters of storms. These Chinese dragons control the winds and bring rain.
  1. Green Dragon

Green Dragons or Azures, Qinglong 青龙, are the dragon god of the Five Regions.

List of Chinese Dragons

According to Chinese mythology, the dragon has nine sons, each unique from the last. The names of Chinese dragons include:
  1. Bixi Dragon (赑屃)

Bixi is a turtle-like dragon with sharp teeth. This Chinese dragon is fond of carrying weighted objects on monuments and graves.
  1. Qiuniu Dragon (囚牛)

Quiniu Chinese dragons have yellow, scaly bodies. These animals adorn musical instruments and are very skilled with his instruments.
  1. Yazi Dragon (睚眦)

Yazi dragons look like a hybrid of snakes and leopards, and as such have instinctive fighting and killing traits.
  1. Chaofeng Dragon (嘲风)

A hybrid of dragon and phoenix, Chaofengs are adventurous.
  1. Pulao Dragon (蒲牢)

Pulao dragons are famous for their loud roars.
  1. Chiwen Dragon (螭吻)

Chinwens are fish-like Chinese dragons that lie in the sea. They have a harsh voice and are known for devouring other creatures.
  1. Bi’an Dragon (狴犴)

Bi’an Chinese dragons are a hybrid of dragons and tigers. They stand at the jail gates.
  1. Suanni Dragon (狻猊)

Suannis look very similar to lions the smell of incense delights these Chinese dragons.
  1. Fuxi Dragon (霸下)

Fuxi dragons are the only Chinese dragons that resemble a typical Chinese dragon.

Why Are Dragons Important in Chinese Culture?

Chinese dragons hold significant importance in Chinese culture. The impact of these creatures in the Chinese tradition is far-reaching due to their symbolism and powers.
Chinese dragons promote good health, harvest, and business prosperity. Their significance is associated with the following traditions:

Chinese Zodiac Dragon

The Chinese Dragon is the fifth of the twelve Chinese zodiac animals. According to traditional Chinese beliefs, your birth year greatly influences your life.
Since the Chinese dragon is a powerful creature, it brings good fortune, prosperity, and power. Chinese dragon years that have passed include 1904, 1916, 1928, 1940, 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000, and 2012. The year 2024 is the year of the dragon.

Dragon in Feng Shui

Feng Shui refers to geomancy in Chinese culture.
In Chinese geomancy, dragons represent the earth element. Additionally, these animals are one of the Four Great Beasts, further symbolizing the East as they control the weather.
As such, dragons are a masculine token in Feng Shui.

How to Get the Power of Chinese Dragons from Dragon Jewelry?

According to Chinese mythology and folklore, Chinese dragons are strong, powerful, and fierce creatures. They also symbolize good fortune, courage, and strength.
The Chinese believe wearing dragon jewelry can summon the dragons’ powers.

What does the Chinese Dragon Bracelets do?

Many people prefer wearing a dragon symbol bracelet for protection, while other believe that also attracts the best life has to offer.
According to various Chinese beliefs, dragons and phoenixes are symbols of success. Some even believe that wearing a dragon bracelet can help manifest an individual’s goals into realities.
Since Chinese dragons are powerful creatures that can control rain, typhoons, and other waters, wearing a bracelet can also fill the wearer with strength and power. While you may not necessarily be able to control waters, dragon symbol can fill you with determination to achieve your goals.
Besides attracting good fortune, health and prosperity, dragons also represent the male element Yang. Typically, the belief system views dragons as males while the phoenix (female) pair with these creatures for symbolizing matrimony. As such, dragon bracelets symbolize protection and strength.

What does the Chinese Dragon Pendant do?

Since dragons represent strength and superior masculinity, you can also call upon their powers by wearing a dragon strength pendant necklace.

Dragon in Buddhism

Since most Chinese people firmly believe in the power and strength of Chinese dragons, Buddhists adapted to this belief system not long after. As Buddhism spread through China, they adopted the dragon as a symbol of enlightenment.
The story of the ‘true dragon’ also reinforces the idea of practice in Buddhism. As the parable goes, a young man named Kung-Tzu who was fond of dragons finally met one. Although he loved these creatures, meeting a ‘true dragon’ scared him so much that he lunged at it with a sword. The dragon, however, flew away before Kung-Tzu committed the deed.
An important part of Buddhist schools, Kung-Tzu’s story highlights the importance of having a teacher who can provide refuge. Not forgetting, the parable illustrates why Buddhism values practice over knowledge.
The role of dragons in Buddhism extends further than the parable of the true dragon. For instance, depictions of Tara and Guanyin often feature a dragon in Mahayana Buddhism. As such, they symbolize raw power, strength, and compassion.
Additionally, dragons symbolize various natural elements in Buddhism, including rivers, heavens, and oceans. Here, it is necessary to note that that Buddhism holds nature close; it represents a sovereign spiritual path.
Furthermore, dragons also appear in sutras (written teachings of the belief system). Sutras in Buddhism present dragons as influential characters. For example, Lung-Wang Nu, Guanyin’s main attendant was the daughter of the Dragon King. Similarly, a dragon serves as Vairochana’s guardian, according to Buddhist sutras.
In Tibet, the dragons are responsible for protecting Buddhism. According to the Tibetian Buddhist belief, a dragon’s powerful roar can wake up people drowned in delusions.

Dragon in Zen

Zen is a distinctive school of Buddhism that emerged in China in the sixth century. The Chinese culture and traditions nurtured Zen in its early stages. Therefore, it adopted China’s belief regarding Chinese dragons. You will frequently come across folks about Chinese dragons when studying about Zen (Chan).
The Chinese dragons play important characters in famous works of Zen literature. Believers see these creatures as a symbol of enlightenment and a true representation of their selves. Adding to the latter symbolism, they have a famous metaphor featuring Chinese dragons: ‘to meet the dragon in the cave.’ Here, the dragon represents one’s deepest, internalized fears and hardships.
The parable of the ‘true dragon,’ in several Chan teachings also significantly proves the role of Chinese dragons in Chan. The parable is part of Zen teachings, even today.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can Chinese Dragons Breathe Fire?

No, Chinese dragons cannot breathe fire. However, some Chinese legends suggest that a few heaven-punished dragons breathe fire. Typically, most Chinese dragons can control the weather and summon fertilizing rain.

Why Do Chinese Dragons Hold Balls?

Some images of Chinese dragons show these creatures with a ball called the ‘Pearl of Wisdom.’ This pearl represents the dragons’ knowledge and ability to see into the future.

Is It Okay to Wear a Chinese Dragon?

Dragons symbolize power, strength, and good luck in Chinese culture and mythology. As such, wearing symbolic jewelry can be beneficial for the wearer.

How to Say Dragon in Chinese?

The English word ‘dragon’ translates to long/long or 龍 in Chinese.

Are Chinese Dragons Real?

There is no factual evidence to prove the existence of Chinese dragons. They are mythological creatures in Chinese culture.

Can Chinese Dragons Fly?

Most Chinese dragons are wingless, yet many scriptures specifically state that they fly across different places. However, Yinglong dragons that live in the sky possess physical wings. According to Chinese mythology, winged dragons are the ancestors of all other types of dragons.

Are Chinese Dragons Evil?

According to Chinese mythology, Chinese dragons may bring luck and fulfill wishes. They are not evil, though some Chinese dragons may have evil tendencies.

What is the Difference Between a Chinese Dragon and a Western Dragon?

Western Scandinavian dragons typically symbolize greed, power, and evil. In sharp contrast, Chinese dragons bring good luck and harvest. They are symbols of power, prosperity, and fortune.