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Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Some More On Oriental Dragon Development

"Lifesized" dragon state in a Chinese park, from Wikipedia.

Characteristics of Chinese Dragons and Their Developmental Stages

Chinese art and cultural beliefs have been dominated by dragons for thousands of years. A mix of animal features are seen in Chinese dragons, and thanks to the scholarship of Wang Fu some time between 206 B.C. and A.D. 220 during the Han Dynasty, the features and complex stages of dragon growth and maturity were described.

From Hatchling to Maturity – The Fantastic Stages of Chinese Dragon Development

The profound influence the dragon has had on Chinese culture can be seen in the complexity and detail with which their mythical character has been envisioned. Chinese dragons go through a lengthy series of metamorphic stages before becoming the rare wonder of a winged Chinese dragon.
To begin, a Chinese dragon does not even hatch from its gem-like egg (1) until 1,000 years after it has been laid. The hatchling dragon looks like a water snake (2) and 500 years will pass before it develops the head of a carp. (3) Then over another 1,000 years the carp scales will cover its body and four short limbs will grow. During this time the tail will grow long, the face will become elongated, a beard will develop, and sharp claws will emerge from the feet.(4)
Antlers will grow over the next 500 years, and strangely the Chinese dragon hears through its antlers. (this legend arose because some reports specify "ears" and others say "Horns" for evidently the same protrusions on the head) Despite the presence of ears, it has been deaf until the growth of antlers.(5) Not until the passing of another 1,000 years will the dragon grow wings and achieve the ultimate state of a mature and glorious Chinese dragon. (6)
[Source: "Dragons: A Natural History." 1995. Dr. Karl Shuker. Simon & Schuster , New York . Pages 87-89.The photo is from another source, a book which is named A Natural History of Unnatural Things in the edition I own. This is a book of pretend-Cryptozoology and not the "Real Thing"]
Despite the description, Chinese dragons are almost universally wingless. Stage 6 does not ordinarily apply.
The story of eggs lying dormant for a thousand years is part of a separate tradition which has nothing to do with dragons. That the eggs are "Jewel-like" or "Pearl-like" is due to a confusion of the dragon's egg with the disc or "Pearl" that is often shown near the dragon's head in some representations. Peter Costello made the suggestion (unusual for him) that perhaps Plesiosaurs were ovoviviparous but occasionally dropped the bad eggs, similar in size and shape to an ostrich's eggs, which then in turn gave rise to the legend of dragon's eggs (In Search of Lake Monsters) This may be true but I think there is an actual reptile involved at the base of dragon stories and that is where the legend came from (Oddly enough, the lizard has also been suggested to be ovoviviparous, which is to say, laying eggs but reetaining them in the body until they hatch, and then giving birth to fully-developed young)

However stage 3 is the part which I'd like to point out first. It seems obvious to me that this is nothing more nor less than a depiction of the Chinese giant salamander. the earlier stages 1) and 2) therefore only represent its tadpole stages (Lasting a few months instead of many years)

Stage 4 is the Kao-Lung or the "Deaf" (Hornless) dragon. it has fully-developed and clawed digits and lives mostly in the water although it is also amphibious. Its measurements are identical to those given for the Buru and it seems certain that this is a large aquatic lizard akin to the Buru (as mentioned in one of my early CFZ Blogs)

Saturday, September 05, 2009


On August 6th Richard Freeman posted an article about Chinese lake monsters, and I'm going to say the dreaded word again: some of those Lake Monster reports from Richard sound like Burus and especially the mention of the forelimbs with five distinct digits....

The reason I say "Buru" is because it seems that the Tibetan reports are from off the Bramaputra River and just north of the region of the regular Buru reports. And when I went through my home files for Lake Monster reports in Tibet, Yunnan and Sichuan, I got a distinctive pattern: lizard-shaped creatures; usually about 10-12 feet long, with a head the size of a horse's; long neck about that long again; body as long as head and neck together; and tail about as long as head, neck and body together; with four regularly-shaped legs, with five distinct clawed toes on the feet. All of this is in agreement with the Buru and Meikong River Monster (One of the Yunnan reports is on the upper Meikong River) and those Chinese reports from Charles Gould's Mythical Monsters quoted here before (records allgedly from 200 BC to 1500 AD at the very least).

And once again, there is a sightings mockup of the types on file in this group, which has a photo of a Komodo dragon representing the Buru: that photo has the lizard in mud up to its elbows and knees, if an explanation for the one report of "Flanges not legs" still needs to be accounted for. That file is named 'Scale Mockup for Unknown Monitor Lizards.'

Not only are there adequate local fossils for Komodo-dragon-sized monitor lizards in India, their ancestors were in the Himalayan region at the same time as the highlands were building. Populations of them could conceivably have stayed put and adapted to the highland conditions. Viviparous lizards in Northern Scandinavia live under a similar climate and hibernate a long time, and the Burus could have become viviparous in parallel to them. I imagine the creatures ordinarily derive much of their diet from grubbing up crustaceans and molluscs out of the muddy bottoms, but that the will take fishes when possible and the old Chinese records speak of such creatures greedily eating birds and eggs when they can be had. They may only swallow solid food under water. I don't think that they are ambush predators like crocs, although that has been alleged, but that they would gladly eat carrion of drowned corpses. In other words, I doubt if they would drag a yak into the water but if there was the body of a drowned yak in the water, surely then they would be seen eating it.

Chinese Buru Dragon, from
Charles Gould's Mythical Monsters



THE KIAO-LUNG. (The four-footed coiled Dragon. The Iguanodon.
This animal, according to Shi Chan, belongs to the dragon family. Its eye-brows are crossed, hence its name signifies "the crossed reptile." The scaled variety is called the Kiao-Lung, the winged the Ying-Lung. The horned kind are called K‘iu, the hornless kind Li. In Indian books it is called Kwan-P‘i-Lo.[=Buru]
Shi Chan, quoting from the Kwan Cheu Ki, says: “The Iguanodon (?) is more than twelve feet long; it resembles a snake, it has four feet, and is broad like a shield. It has a small head and a slender neck, the latter being covered with numerous protuberances. The front of its breast is of a red colour, its back is variegated with green, and its sides as if embroidered. Its tail is composed of fleshy rings; the larger ones are several. Its eggs are also large. It can induce fish to fly, but if a turtle is present they will not do so.
“The Emperor Chao, of the Han, when fishing in the river Wéi, caught a white Iguanodon. It resembled a snake, but was without scales. Its head was composed of soft flesh, and tusks issued from the mouth. The Emperor ordered his ministers to get it preserved. its flesh is delicious; bones green, flesh red.”
From the above it may be seen the Iguanodon is edible.
On this blog the pertinent posting is "The Real Dragons" from 11th February of the current year:

And it can be easily understood that it has no horns or external ears (nor yet mane or beard imparted onto the dragon's image from other sources) but that it would be deaf because it had no horns would be a needless superstiotion. The real reason is that its ears are not noticeable and some people assumed that since it had no ears it must be deaf: a lizard's ears are flat to the head in any species anyway.

Now the point I wanted to impart especially is that the pig-dragon jade amulets are not the earliest representations of dragons in Chinese archaeology. There are lizardlike representations of dragons in the same Neolithic culture. A most important one is illustrated by the arrangement of shells in a royal grave.

Which appears to show a creature at least comparable to a Komodo dragon in size, although probably the tail would be longer in life. This is no doubt an early representation of the hornless Kiao-Lung

By the Zhou (Chou) dynasty, which follows the Chang, the larger-end of "Developed Dragons" are depicted a little more clearly. Here the lower extended dragon is another Kiao-Lung and it corresponds to some of the longbodied jade "dragon-pigs" of the Hongshan period. I would suggest that these be relabelled as "Water-Tigers" instead, and some of them could indeed be mant to represent giant otters (Megalenhydris?) But in this case the larger and more elongated dragon at the top has a definite long snaky neck and four flippers indicated on the sides of the

body at approximately the correct places where Plesiosaurs would have flippers. The more convoluted jade dragon shown below it starts to have the traditional problem with the traditional dragon, depicting a long and winding body and yet getting the perspective of the different limbs right. The body shape is still pretty well Plesiosaurian with the body being the more or less horizontal section in the middle with limbs on both ends, and the shorter tail shown as a fishtail. note that the four limbs are once again shown as winglike flippers. The head once again has thatcurlicue behind the eye to indicate a Euryapsid skull.
In fact the Hongshan Neolithic might well include the oldest forerunner of the Taotie mask if this goat head is meant to represent a dragon's head: we have plenty of Long-necked Water Monster reports that say it has a head like a goat, and in which case we can see where the traditional beard got stuck on the Oriental Dragon (The mane is evidently meaning the maned "Merhorse" males of the LongNeck, which can otherwise be called a lion's mane in other traditions) In this case the correspondance to a Euryapsid skull is once again striking but for the fact the nostrils are in the wrong place (A common enough mistake) The spot in the forehead where the pineal "Eye" would be located also might be indicated here.

Please also see the earlier blog on Taotie masks as representing Euryapsid Chinese Dragons:

Here are another couple of Zhou white jade dragons indicating somehat more clearly the breakdown of the body length into head and neck, body and tail, and the four flipperlike limbs at the front and rear end of the body section. I also assume that the heads are once again indicating the Euryapsid condition:

white jade dragons, tomb marquis of zeng, Zhou (Chou)dynasty

And if the dimensions given by the dragon statue at the start of this article (Which is from Wikipedia) are anywhere near accurate, the standard Chinese dragon has about the same linear proportions (Length of neck, body and tail) as Tim Dinsdale's reconstruction for the Loch Ness Monster, and the difference is of course that the statue does not have the same extreme variation in diameters of the body parts that Dinsdale's reconstruction shows. The dragon (Lung) statue might be construed as indicating two shallow humps along the back, also.

Odd late "Serpopard" as Astrological figure,
presumably imported from Babylon, Han Dynasty
(approx. equal to the Classical age Mediterranean)

And this last one is an oddity but seems to indicate once again that the Babylonian "Sirrush" dragon design had been imported Eastward into China during about Roman times, something which was suspected already and mentioned in the earlier blog posting on the matter.

Best Wishes, Dale D.

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