East Asian Mythology: China and Japan

Chinese Heroes

What role do dragons play in Chinese mythology?

Dragons are and always have been important in Chinese mythology and folklore. Figures of dragons appear in Chinese archeological sites from as early as the fourth millennium B.C.E., indicating an ancient dragon mythology. Dragons in China are associated particularly with water, divinity, and heroes. They can fly, and their breath creates clouds. Many divine figures and heroes—including especially Fuxi and Nuwa, but also sometimes Z and Huang Di—have human heads and dragon bodies. Dragons such as Ying-long help heroes, for example, Yu, to overcome negative obstacles. In one myth it was a dragon, Zhulong, who created the universe with his body. In another, told by the Miao people in southwest China, we learn that before there were humans on earth there was only a dragon living in a cave. When monkeys came one day to play with the dragon, he turned them into human beings with his breath. Dragons are still much admired in China and, some Chinese even pray to them when rain is needed.


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