The celestial Chinese dragon is different in many ways from the western dragon depicted in medieval times.
While the western dragon takes the form that resembles a lizard with wings, the eastern dragon resembles more like a serpent with legs that is not restricted to the laws of gravity.
The Chinese dragon can be best described as a creature with a snake-like body, a head consisting of features of various animals which include antlers, the snout of a crocodile, and legs with claws that reminds one of condors.
It is so deeply rooted in Chinese history that the dragon is universally used as a representation of China. Much like the eagle for USA and bear for Russia.
When China was predominantly agricultural, farmers believed that the dragon brings rain for their crops. Therefore, they worshiped the creature.
In feng shui and Chinese culture, the dragon is the ultimate symbol of yang energy.
The dragon zodiac is also the only celestial creature to be among the Chinese zodiac.
And in the Shuowen dictionary (說文解字), which is the oldest Chinese character dictionary from the Han dynasty, states the dragon as the chief of all reptiles.
Not only is the dragon a mainstay in Buddhism and Taoism, it is often used as a symbol embedded into imperial clothing, interior design, decorative fabric, etc.
There are 3 main categories of dragons in Chinese mythology.
- The long (龍) which is the most superior and powerful that conquers the sky
- The li (蜧) which don’t spot horns and resides in the ocean
- The jiao (蛟) which lives in the mountains
When we are talking about the celestial dragon in feng shui, the long (龍) is the authentic one that we are referring to, unless expressly stated otherwise.
Along the ridge of it’s back are 117 scales. Of which 81 are yang and 36 yin. Some come with three-claw, four-claw, and five-claw which is a representation of rank and status.
It also don’t react to sound which is a reason why people who are deaf are called long (聋) which is a hynonym of long (龍).
While the primitive form of dragon is known as kui (夔), there are 9 classical types of dragons in Chinese culture.
- Tian Long (天龍) literally translates to heaven dragon is the celestial dragon that guards the heavenly palace
- Shen Long (神龍) literally translates to god dragon is capable of summoning wind and rain
- Fu Cang Long (伏藏龍) literally translates to hidden treasure dragon is often depicted with a magical pearl and is a guardian of jewels and treasures like precious metals and gemstones
- Di Long (地龍) literally translates to earth dragon which controls the seas and rivers
- Ying Long (應龍) literally translates to response dragon is a winged dragon
- Jiao Long (蛟龍) literaly translates to horned dragon is the king of all aquatic creatures
- Pan Long (蟠龍) literally translates to coiling dragon resides in lakes
- Huang Long (黃龍) literally translates to yellow dragon is hornless and a symbol of the emperor
- Long Wang (龍王) literally translates to dragon king and refers to the rulers of the 4 seas in the 4 cardinal directions
This by no means a complete list of all the types of dragons depicted in Chinese culture.
There are in fact, many more.
Just that these are the 9 classical types.
Furthermore, what is just as prominent are the 9 types of dragon offsprings.
- Bixi (贔屭) brings the luck of knowledge and academic success
- Chiwen (螭吻) is the symbol of of water conquering fire
- Pulao (蒲牢) a protector against danger
- Bian (狴犴) a protector against litigation
- Baxia (霸下) brings inner strength
- Yazi (睚眦) a protector of physical injuries
- Suanni (狻猊) a protector against betrayal
- Qiuniu (囚牛) is a lover of music
- Chaofeng (嘲風) who love to climb and often found on the corners of roofs
Bixi is often carved on stone tablets. Chiwen is commonly found perched on rooftops. Pulao regularly makes it’s way onto the designs of bells. Bian is sometimes used as an alternative to the pixiu to appease the grand duke. Baxia can be found on the base of landmark monuments. Yazi was a favorite motif designed onto swords of great warriors. Suanni is the one commonly embroidered onto clothing. Qiuniu is used on the design patterns of musical instruments. And Chaofeng also regularly makes appearances on rooftops.
While the above 9 dragons are recognized to be the 9 sons of the dragon, there are actually many more. This can sometimes cause confusion as to the status of the different dragons sons.
For example, among those that are not listed above include the Jiaotu (椒圖) is one who is solitary and generally don’t like to be disturbed, Taotie (饕餮) is one who love to eat and associated with food, fuxi (負屓), etc.
The reason for these irregularities is due to differing lists being generated by different ancient scholars who lived in different eras.
One might notice that the number 9 is often associated with dragons. This is because 9 represents wholeness and completeness. Which is an attribute with the dragon.
There’s a myth about the 9 dragons sons which was sent down to earth by the jade emperor to assist a military strategist named Liu Bowen. He was a follower of Zhu YuanZhang who was building the Ming empire. Zhu was later dethroned by his son Zhu Di. wary of the 9 dragon sons who had no affiliation with him, Zhu Di plotted to trap Baxia under a celestial stone tablet and succeeded. The dragon brothers then turned themselves into stone statues to stay with Baxia.
Applications of the dragon in feng shui
With such a colorful history and strong cultural significance of the dragon, it is of little surprise that the celestial animal had found it’s way into the practice of feng shui as well.
An infamous brick wall with colored tiles of the 9 dragons was originally erected at the temple of ten thousand buddhas. But it was disastrously destroyed by fire.
Another concrete screen of similar nature was built near the Xi Qing Men (Gate of Bestowal of Rewards) of the Forbidden City in Beijing.
This is the one that most people would recognize in modern history.
The 9 dragons are so life-like that they seem ever so ready to defend the Emperor against all evil and invaders.
A replica was then built in Hebei park. Another was built in Hong Kong to face Kowloon which reads 九龙 in mandarin and literally means 9 dragons.
As such, the symbolism of the 9 dragons was one of protection and various feng shui masters advocate hanging paintings of it near the front door of the house for protection from evil and negative energy.
However, real pictures of the 9-dragon sculptures framed up is recommended by most instead of getting one that is painted by an artist.
Dragon and phoenix
This combination, or partnership as some would call it, is the most multi-tiered symbols of prosperity and good fortune.
The dragon is the symbol of yang energy. The phoenix which on it’s own symbolizes yang, take on an yin energy role when coupled with the dragon.
The dragon represents the patriarch and the phoenix represents the matriarch.
Such a painting, motif, or design item can be placed in various locations in the house for a variety of feng shui enhancements.
- Northwest for patriarch luck
- Southwest for matriarch luck
- South for status and recognition for family
- East for good health to the residents
In ancient China, when accompanied by each other, the dragon symbolizes the emperor and the phoenix symbolizes the empress.
When two dragons are depicted playing with a pearl, it is meant to enhance fertility and descendants luck for a couple to have sons.
The dragon on it’s own is probably the most powerful all-encompassing symbol of good fortune.
It is no coincidence that it is the most popular symbols of success and used in a variety of things including business logos.
It is one of the 4 celestial creatures in land form feng shui.
It is also the incumbent of the East as this is the direction where the sun rises. This is technically the ideal sector of a dwelling for it to be placed and displayed.
When placed in the southwest or northeast, they are best made in crystal, porcelain or ceramic material.
When place in the east or southeast, they are best made with carved wood.
This follows the elemental base energies that reside in these directions according to the concept of the 5 elements.
As figurines, they are most potent in green with reference to the green dragon in landscape feng shui.
This means that they can be very powerful symbolic monuments at home when made with crystals and precious gemstones like jade and aventurine.
What one must note is that because of the powerful presence of the dragon, it is better not to have one that is too big at home. In this case, it is better to go small than large.
A large dragon can take over the house and work for itself rather than the household. Saying that, a fat dragon is better than a skinny one.
Placement of the dragon should be at prominent places but never above eye level or on the floor.
When there is a water feature, a dragon nearby would have it’s powers enhanced. Remember that the toilet is not a water feature.
When the dragon is worn as jewelry and accessories, take note that it should never be at the area close to the heart. This implies that pendant necklaces and T-shirts with a dragon in the left check area is never good.
Dragon rings should be worn on the left hand of men, and right hand of women.
Green dragon on the left
As mentioned earlier, the green dragon occupies the left of a house in landscape feng shui.
The implication of this is that the left of a house should be higher than the right, preferably with trees or hedges that mimic the serpent shape of a Chinese dragon’s body.
Doing so will awaken the dragon and enable it to bestow good fortune the the house and member of the household.
At the same time, it would protect the residents from harm and evil.