Tracking down the dragon throughout history

Updated: Feb 21, 2024 By Zhao Xu China Daily Print
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C-shaped dragon from northeastern China, dating to 3500 BC. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Archaeological digs uncover origins of mythical animal, Zhao Xu reports.

The Chinese call themselves "the descendants of the dragon" for a reason. Emperor Yandi, a legendary tribal leader in predynastic China, was said to have been born out of his mother's telepathic interaction with a mighty dragon.

Although opinions may differ, most researchers have identified the man with Shennong, or "the Divine Farmer", long venerated as someone who not only invented a wide array of farming tools but was also a pioneer in using herbal medicine.

Legend also has it that Emperor Huangdi (the Yellow Emperor), who once allied with Yandi to triumph over their common enemy, another equally powerful tribal leader known as Chiyou, enlisted the help of a dragon during the deadly battle. Upon his death, a dragon extended its whiskers down from heaven so that Huangdi was able to grab it and be lifted into eternity.

Given that the Chinese consider themselves to be yan huang zi sun, meaning the posterity of Yandi and Huangdi, it's only natural that they have placed the dragon at the very center of their ancestral worship.

Those who dismiss all this as pure mythology may need to think twice, says Guo Dashun, a renowned archaeologist who believes that the idea for a dragon began to germinate in the frozen expanses of northeastern China. There, in Fuxin city, Liaoning province, archaeologists discovered in 1982 what appeared to be a dragon made up entirely of granite pieces. The creature, nearly 20 meters long and 2 meters wide, whose different body parts are clearly discernible, occupies the center of the entire excavated ground, with its head close to more than 10 burial pits, and tail connected to the site of a big dwelling.

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