I hope you have enjoyed exploring the wonderful exhibit from the
American Museum of Natural History: Mythic Creatures
and their section on dragons titled: Dragons – Creatures of Power.
I am finishing up this tour with links to the last three sections:
Revered above all other creatures in East Asian tradition, the dragon is also a symbol of imperial rule. The Chinese emperor was known as “the dragon.” His hands were the dragon’s claws, and his seat was the dragon throne. United with heaven and earth, a wise emperor ruled in harmony with the cosmos and brought peace and prosperity to all.
Chinese dragons are said to spend winter on the floor of a lake or the ocean. Each spring they rise to the heavens with a clap of thunder, to form clouds and water the land. The dragons embroidered on imperial robes are shown soaring up to the sky from the sea, represented by the broad expanse of diagonal lines near the hem.
- bump on the forehead called chi mu helps the dragon float up to the heavens.
- 81 scales, equal to nine times nine, a lucky number.
- sweet-smelling saliva.
- excellent eyesight.
- four legs with up to five claws on each foot.
- Chinese dragons live underwater in winter. In spring, they rise to the sky and make rain.
“There once was a king with magical powers who ruled the kingdom of Kuqa, near the western border of China. In those days, the markets were rich in gold, silver and precious gems. But one night, a mischievous dragon turned these treasures to charcoal, and the wealth of the kingdom was lost. So the king struck back. He took up his sword, tracked down the dragon and leaped on its back. Furious, the dragon belched fire like lightning, then soared to the sky. The king remained calm. ‘If you don’t surrender,’ he quietly told the dragon, ‘I’ll cut off your head.’ ‘Please don’t kill me!’ the dragon cried. ‘I’ll take you wherever you want to go!’ And from that time on, the king traveled by dragon instead of by horse, flying swiftly all over the realm.”
–based on a story from the Silk Road, recorded by Chinese scholar Li Fang (AD 925-996)
and Natural History of Dragons
In legends and folktales, dragons are magical–yet early naturalists often treated these creatures as part of the natural world. Biologists in Europe once wrote accounts of the behavior and habitat of dragons, along with lizards and snakes. Chinese scholars have classified the dragon as one of the 369 animal species with scales. Long before the development of paleontology, people unearthed fossilized bones in Asia and Europe–and believed they had found the remains of dragons from an earlier age.
“The dragons of the mountains have scales of a golden color, and in length excel those of the plain, and they have bushy beards, which also are of a golden hue; and their eye is sunk deep under the eyebrow, and emits a terrible and ruthless glance.”
–Greek scholar Philostratus (c. AD 170-245)
To read the full article click on the blue links above.
Be sure to explore more of the current and past exhibits on their website:
American Museum of Natural History