About Chinese Dragon Tattoo - What Most People Don't Know But Should
By Fanyun Ding
Chinese dragon is a mythical divine beast originated from ancient Chinese folklores. It is now commonly depicted as a huge, serpentine, and scaled creature. Unlike "western dragon" that has been described as evil, Chinese dragon has long been symbolized as the power of auspice both in folklore and art. Created on the land of an agriculture-oriented country, Chinese dragon is believed to bring rain and water, which well explains the position it takes in Chinese culture.
For centuries, Chinese people proudly refer to themselves as "Long De Chuan Ren", or "Descendants of the Dragon". This ethnic identity is believed to originate from Huang Di, a benevolent, legendary emperor who was said to have been immortalized into a dragon. Since Huang Di is considered to be the ancestor of Chinese, hence the saying "Descendants of the Dragon".
Due to that Huang Di myth, Chinese dragon is also symbolized as an imperial power. For dynasties, emperors were referred to as "Long Zi" or "offspring of the dragon", who wore imperial robes with dragons drawn on and claimed to have a dragon birthmark as a divine authorization by heaven.
Chinese dragon is also among the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac, a special Chinese way of designating years. To be more specific, year 2000,1988,1976,1964,1952 or any year with a 12-year gap between would be year of the dragon. In order to be "like a dragon", there are more babies born in the years of dragon than in any other animal years of the Chinese Zodiac.
Given all the foresaid reasons, it is not hard to understand why Chinese dragon is so popular among tattoo lovers. In fact, if you happen to be born in those dragon years, it's much recommended that you get a dragon tattoo because you are born blessed to be connected with Chinese dragon.
Basically, Chinese dragon is being tattooed in two forms: picture and character. Some prefer to have their whole back area tattooed with a vivid picture of dragon, while others may be satisfied with the Chinese character of "dragon" tattooed within a one-inch square of area. For dragon picture tattoos, a careful selection of the picture as well as the tattoo artist would be enough to ensure a quality dragon tattoo. For dragon character tattoos, however, it takes efforts to find a great tattoo idea, since you have to take many factors into consideration, including the literal meaning, the "actual" meaning, and the "cultural meaning" of the word that you select. Well, that's just the tricky thing of Chinese.
Fortunately, there are many Chinese phrases that associate with the idea of Chinese dragon. Followings are three dragon-related Chinese idioms for your reference.
Shen Long Ma Zhuang/ Long Shen Ma Zhuang
Strong and energetic with an impressive bearing.
Both Shen Long Ma Zhuang and Long Shen Ma Zhuang are legitimate as an idiom, as in many cases Chinese characters can be reversed in words yet remain a similar meaning, just like this one.
Literally speaking, Shen means "magical, with divine power", Long means "dragon", Ma means "horse" and Zhuang means "strong". In Chinese culture, horse is considered intelligent, powerful and friendly to human, which therefore is used together with dragon in this idiom to describe the state of being strong and energetic.
What's worth noting, however, is that Long usually appears before Hu in expression, and it would seem weird when reversed. That being said, it would be a great idea to add Hu to your tattoo if your former choice was to ink Long alone, yet the right way to do this would be to ink "Long Hu", not "Hu Long".