Friday, August 28, 2009

Eastern Vs. Western: Dragons in Symbolic Art

I remember discussing in my Junior/Senior Lit. and Mythology Classes about the representations of certain objects or things in different cultures' written works and pieces of art. The one that fascinated me the most was the Dragon.

Western Dragons
In Western Culture, the dragon is a ferocious, fire-breathing beast that is usually depicted as bad tempered with impenetrable scales, bat-like wings, jagged fangs, and sharp claws. The Western dragons were symbolically viewed as being the embodiments of man's greed and ego and were displayed as guarding hoards of golden treasure and maidens.

Famous example of western dragons is the dragon that Saint George the Dragon Slayer slays.

St. George and the Dragon
Gustave Moreau
Oil on Canvas

Image Source

Statue of St. George and the Dragon
Berlin, Germany
Image Source

Eastern Dragons
The Eastern Dragons are typically viewed as embodiments of all that is good, beautiful, courageous, wise, wealthly and prosperous. They are normally depicted with large sharp tooth grins on their faces with a loins mane and deer antlers and have long, flowing snake-like bodies with fish scales.

Bronze Dragon Statue in China
Image Source

"Two Dragons Playing Pearl"
Wall of Nine Dragons
Bei-Hai Park in Beijing, China
(There are 3 walls of Nine Dragons in China)
Image Source

I just thought it was an interesting comparison of two cultures and their takes on a certain object. Any thoughts?


  1. Splendid post, Aubrey. It is interesting to contrast different cultures' treatments of certain images and ideas. Have you ever read a description for the Dragon in the Chinese Zodiac? It's very complimentary - most descriptions of this sign indicate that it's the best of the 12 signs.

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    The Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed in the Sun by William Blake.  For Blake - the Dragon is Satan.