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Why a 'Chinese dragon' isn't a dragon - and what it's really called



What if a Chinese dragon… isn't a dragon? Want to know what it actually is? Read to the end…

You all know about dragons, right? The fire-breathing. The scaly wings. The bad temper. 

You might have seen one in Game of Thrones. Or in Wales. Or on a painting. 

Dragons feature in ancient religious texts, including the bible, mainly as an enemy of God. Remember St George killing one?

Sounds like a dragon is a baddie. But that's not always this case.

The Celtic dragon has long been a symbol of power, strength, and magic. Dragons were often depicted as guardian figures, protecting treasure and guarding against evil. Today, the red dragon (y ddraig goch) is the symbol of Wales, proudly presented on the national flag.

So, not a baddie, then. 

And it's not just in Celtic mythology that dragons have been loved rather than feared. Thousands of miles to the west on the southern Gulf Coast of what is now Mexico, around 3,000 years ago the Olmecs' dragon was believed to be the patron god of the elite - while also being responsible for the earth, water, fire and agricultural fertility.

So what about those Chinese dragons, so well-known around the world? Well firstly, they look a little different.

Take a look at this animal, now in the Chinese National Museum. From this figure, subtly carved in jade during the neolithic era, we can already see the basic outline…

Over time it developed a clearer image with a variety of unique features - horse's head, eagle's claws, fish scales, deer antlers and a snake's body. But, you'll notice, no wings - unlike most dragons.

Oh, and this animal is a symbol of good luck. And rather than fire, it's more often associated with water, having the ability to form clouds and bring rain.

Why is this? Experts reckon it's because its origin is in lightning that lit up the ancient skies, flying rapidly through the air before bringing much needed water for the farmers' crops.

So if you want to call it a dragon, that's fine. But if you ever meet one, and you don't want to offend it, you might be better to use its Chinese name... and call it a Loong.

Why a 'Chinese dragon' isn't a dragon - and what it's really called

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