Marinus Willem de VISSER (1876-1930)

Marinus Willem de VISSER (1876-1930) : The Dragon in China. Extrait de : The Dragon in China and Japan. Johannes Müller, Amsterdam, 1913, pages I-IX, 1-134 (Book I), 231-237 de XII+247 pages.


Extrait de : The Dragon in China and Japan

Johannes Müller, Amsterdam, 1913, pages I-IX, 1-134 (Book I), 231-237 de XII+247 pages.

  • "No mythical creature is more familiar to Far-Eastern art and literature than the dragon. It is interesting to observe how in Japan three different kinds of dragons, originating from India, China and Japan, are to be found side by side. To the superficial observer they all belong to one and the same class of rain bestowing, thunder and storm arousing gods of the water, but a careful examination teaches us that they are different from each other."
  • "The Indian serpent-shaped Nāga was identified in China with the four-legged Chinese dragon, because both were divine inhabitants of seas and rivers, and givers of rain...
    In order to throw light upon these facts we must examine the Buddhist ideas concerning the Nāgas which came from India to the East... This being our only aim with regard to the Nāgas, we will deal with them only by way of introduction.
    In the First Book we have systematically arranged the most interesting quotations concerning the dragon in China, selected from the enormous number of passages on this divine animal found in Chinese literature from the remotest ages down to modern times."
  • "We arrive at the conclusion that the ideas on the dragon prevailing in China at the present day are just the same as those of the remotest times. It is a water animal, akin to the snake, which uses to sleep in pools during winter and arises in spring. It is the god of thunder, who brings good crops when he appears in the rice fields (as rain) or in the sky (as dark and yellow clouds), in other words, when he makes the rain fertilize the ground. But when he flies too high and cannot return, the thirsty earth must wait in vain for his blessings, and sorrow prevails. As this beneficient being is full of Yang, it symbolizes those among men who are fullest of Light, namely great men, and its appearance is considered to be an omen of their coming, i. e. of their birth. In the first place the greatest and fullest of Yang among them all, the Emperor, is, of course, symbolized by the dragon. He is, indeed, the representative of Imperial power, as we shall see later on."

Les illustrations et leurs commentaires sont extraits de l'ouvrage de G. Combaz, Masques et Dragons en Asie.

Extraits : Nature and shape of the dragon - Causing rain, thunder and storm - Emperors connected with dragons - Transformations
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Deux k'ouei-dragons serpentiformes. Marinus Willem de VISSER (1876-1930) : The Dragon in China. Extrait de : The Dragon in China and Japan. Johannes Müller, Amsterdam, 1913,
Sur un vase de bronze des environs du XIIe siècle av. J.-C., nous voyons s'allonger deux k'ouei-dragons serpentiformes, à tête unique. À côté de chacun d'eux, un oiseau évoque le complexe dragon-oiseau.


Nature and shape of the dragon

1. Nature of the dragons.
In Kwan Chung's philosophical work entitled Kwan tszĕ, "The philosopher Kwan", we read the following : "Those who, hidden in the dark, can live or die, are shi (a plant the stalks of which are used in divination), tortoises and dragons. The tortoise is born in the water ; she is caused to disclose (what she knows) in the fire, and then becomes the first of all creatures, the regulator of calamity and felicity. A dragon in the water covers himself with five colour. Therefore he is a god (shen). If he desires to become small, he assumes a shape resembling that of a silkworm, and if he desires to become big, he hides (covers) the world. If he desires to ascend, he strives towards the clouds, and if he desires to descend, he enters a deep well. He whose transformations are not limited by days, and whose ascending and descending are not limited by time, is called a god (shen)".

The philosopher Han Fei says :
"Ah, a dragon, as being an animal, is so mild, that one may approach him (be familiar with him, i. e. tame him) and ride on him. But under his throat he has scales, lying in a reverse direction, one ch'ih (foot) in diameter. If a man touches them, the dragon is sure to kill him".

The Classics have taught us that the dragon belongs to the four creatures that have the most ling, i. e. whose shen manifests itself in the most powerful way. The 'Rh ya yih goes further and states that the dragon possesses the most ling of all creatures. According to the Shui ying t'u "the yellow dragon is the quintessence of shen, and the chief of the four dragons. If a king does not drain off ponds and lakes, their water can penetrate into deep pools, and the yellow dragons, following their nature, swim in ponds and lakes".

Lü Puh-wei relates the following :
"Confucius said :
— A dragon (lung) eats what is pure and moves about in what is pure. A chi eats what is pure and moves about in what is muddy. A fish eats what is muddy and moves about in what is muddy. Now I, in ascending do not reach the dragon (i. e. I am not such a high being as the dragon), and in descending do not reach the fishes (i. e. I am not such a low creature as the fishes) ; I am (like) the chi".

Hwai nan tszĕ goes as far as to declare the dragon to be the origin of all creatures, as we learn from the following passage :
"All creatures, winged, hairy, scaly and mailed, find their origin in the dragon. The yü-kia produced the flying dragon, the flying dragon gave birth to the phoenixes, and after them the lwan-niao and all birds, in general the winged beings, were born successively. The mao-tuh ("hairy calf") produced the ying-lung, the ying-lung gave birth to the kien-ma (and afterwards the k'i-lin and all quadrupeds, in general the hairy beings, were born successively. The kiai-lin produced the kiao-lung, the kiao-lung gave birth to the kwun-keng, and afterwards the kien-sié and all fishes, in general the scaly beings, were born successively. The kiai-t'an produced the sien-lung, the sien-lung gave birth to the yuen-yuen ("original tortoise") and afterwards the ling-kwei ("divine power manifesting tortoise") and all tortoises, in general the mailed beings were born successively".

The same author says that "mankind cannot see the dragons rise ; wind and rain assist them to ascend to a great height".

The Ta tai li ki states that "the essence of the scaly animals is called dragon", and that "the dragon does not ascend if there is no wind".

In the Historical Records we read a quotation from Chwang tszĕ, where Confucius after having talked with Lao tszĕ says :
— As to the dragon, we cannot understand his riding on wind and clouds and his ascending to the sky. To-day I saw Lao tszĕ ; is he not like the dragon ?

According to the P'i ya
"none of the animals is so wise as the dragon. His blessing power is not a false one. He can be smaller than small, bigger than big, higher than high, and lower than low. Therefore according to the Yih king, Kien (the first diagram) by means of the dragon rules Heaven, and Kw'un by means of the horse rules the Earth ; the dragon is a heavenly kind of being, the horse an earthly one".

Li Tao-yuen, in his commentary on the Shui king, states that the expression 'fishes and dragons consider the autumn days as night' means that "at the autumnal equinoctium the dragons descend and then hibernate and sleep in pools".

The 'Rh ya yih quotes the following passage from a work of Wang Fu :
"When rain is to be expected, the dragons scream and their voices are like the sound made by striking copper basins. Their saliva can produce all kinds of perfume. Their breath becomes clouds, and on the other hand they avail themselves of the clouds in order to cover their bodies. Therefore they are invisible. At the present day on rivers and lakes there are sometimes people who see one claw and the tail (of a dragon), but the head is not to be seen. In summer, after the fourth month, the dragons divide the regions amongst themselves and each of them has his territory. This the reason why within a distance of a couple of acres there may be quite different weather, rain and a clear sky. Further, there are often heavy rains, and those who speak about these rains say : 'Fine moistening rain is heavenly rain, violent rain is dragon rain'. Dragon fire and human fire are opposite. If dragon fire comes into contact with wetness it flames, and if it meets water it burns. If one drives it away by means of fire, it stops burning and its flames are extinguished."

The P'i ya states the same fact with regard to the dragon fire, referring to the Nei tien, and in the same passage says the following :
"The dragons are also born from eggs. When they intend to hatch, the male dragon's cry makes the wind rise, and the female dragon's cry makes the wind abate, and the wind changes... According to popular belief the dragon's vital spirit lies in his eyes, for this is the case because he is deaf. The 'Discussions on the spontaneous phenomena of Yin and Yang say : 'The li-lung's pupils see a mustard plant or a straw at a distance of a hundred miles'. Further they say 'A dragon can make (litt. change) water, a man can make fire'. Further : 'A dragon does not see stones, a man does not see the wind, fishes do not see the water, demons do not see the earth'. Sun Ch'oh tszĕ says : 'Kao Tsu (probably the Emperor of the Han dynasty, who reigned B. C. 206-159) drove in a dragon carriage, Kwang Wu (who reigned A. D. 685-717) drove in a tiger carriage'."

Dragon sur relief. Marinus Willem de VISSER (1876-1930) : The Dragon in China. — J. Müller, Amsterdam, 1913, pages I-IX, 1-134 (Book I), 231-237 de XII+247 pages.
Dragon sur un relief de haute époque.

2. Shape of the dragons.
Wang Fu says :
"The people paint the dragon's shape with a horse's head and a snake's tail. Further, there are expressions as 'three joints' and 'nine resemblances' (of the dragon), to wit : from head to shoulder, from shoulder to breast, from breast to tail. These are the joints ; as to the nine resemblances, they are the following : his horns resemble those of a stag, his head that of a camel, his eyes those of a demon, his neck that of a snake his belly that of a clam (shen), his scales those of a carp, his claws those of an eagle, his soles those of a tiger, his ears those of a cow. Upon his head he has a thing like a broad eminence (a big lump), called ch'ih muh. If a dragon has no ch'ih muh, he cannot ascend to the sky."

The P'i ya states that "the dragon's 81 scales form a number consisting of nine times nine. Nine is Yang. The carp's 36 scales form a number consisting of six times six. Six is Yin."

In the Yang kuh man luh we read : "The dragon has five fingers".

Finally, the Pen-ts'ao kang-muh teaches us that
"a dragon has whiskers at the sides of his mouth and a bright pearl under his chin ; under his throat he has scales lying in a reversed direction ; upon his head he has a broad eminence called in writing ch'ih muh ; if a dragon has no ch'ih muh, he cannot ascend to the sky. His breath turns into clouds, and then can change into water and into fire (rain and lightning)..."

The Shih tien says :
"When dragons copulate they change into two small snakes".

3. Male and female dragons.
The difference between male and female dragons is described as follows :
"The male dragon's horn is undulating, concave, steep ; it is strong at the top, but becomes very thin below. The female dragon has a straight nose, a round mane, thin scales and a strong tail.

The Shing i ki relates of a painter, who was very skilled in painting dragons, but whose work one day was criticized by a man and a woman. They said that he did not distinguish male from female dragons, although they were different in reality. When he got angry and asked them how they knew this, they answered that they were dragons themselves and were willing to show him their shapes, whereupon they changed into a male and a female dragon.

Dragon sur bassin de bronze. Marinus Willem de VISSER (1876-1930) : The Dragon in China. — J. Müller, Amsterdam, 1913, pages I-IX, 1-134 (Book I), 231-237 de XII+247 pages.
Dragon sur un bassin de bronze de l'époque des Han.


Causing rain, thunder and storm

1. The gods of thunder, clouds and rain.
The Classics have taught us that the dragon is thunder, and at the same time that he is a water animal, akin to the snake, sleeping in pools during winter and arising in spring. When autumn comes with its dry weather, the dragon descends and dives into the water to remain there till spring arrives again. When in the first month of the year now and then thunderclaps were heard and a little rain came down, the ancients were convinced that this was the work of the dragons, who in the form of dark clouds appeared in the sky. If our interpretation of the words of the Yih king is right, the "advantage" given by them when they were seen soaring over the rice fields, and the "blessing power then spread by them everywhere", was nothing but the fertilizing rain they poured down upon the earth. In later texts, at any rate, we have seen them clearly qualified as the gods of clouds and rain, whose breath turned into clouds and whose power manifested itself in heavy rains. Koh Hung, e. g., in the Pao P'oh tszĕ states the following :

"If on a yin day there is in the mountains a being who calls himself a "forester", it is a tiger,... and if on a ch'en day a being calls himself "Rain-master", it is a dragon... If one only knows these their animal names, they cannot do him any harm".

The tiger, indeed, is the god of the mountains and woods, as the dragon is the divinity of water and rain.

According to the Kwoh yü, Confucius stated that "apparitions ("strange beings") in the water are called lung and wang-siang, while apparitions between trees and rocks are called khwei and wang-liang".

As to these khwei, we learn from De Groot, who quotes the Shwoh wen and the Shan hai king, that this is a class of one-legged beasts or dragons with human countenances, which were fancied in ancient China to be amphibious and to cause wind and rain. The Shan hai king, as quoted by De Groot, describes them as follows :

"In the Eastern seas is a Land of rolling Waves, extending seaward over seven thousand miles. There certain animals live, shaped as cows with blue bodies, but hornless and one-legged. Whenever they leave or enter the waters, winds are sure to blow, and rains to fall. Their glare is that of the sun and the moon, their voice is that of thunder. They are named khwei. Hwang the emperor caught some and made drums of their hides, which, when beaten wich bones of the 'thunderbeat', resounded over a distance of five hundred miles, and thus struck the world under heaven with awe".
"In this description, says De Groot, we immediately recognize the lung or Dragon, China's god of Water and Rain".

Further, De Groot quotes the Tszĕ puh yu, which states the following :

"There are three species of drought-causing pah. Some are like quadrupeds ; an other kind are transformations of kiang shi (corpse-spectres), and both these species are able to produce drought and stop wind and rain. But the principal, superior drought-demons, called koh (or koh-tszĕ), cause still more damage ; they resemble men but are taller, and have one eye on the top of the head. They devour dragons, and all the Rain-masters fear them much, for when they (the koh) see clouds arise, they raise their heads and disperse them (the clouds) in all directions by blowing, the sun thus increasing in intensity. No man can conquer them. Some say, that when it is Heaven's will that there shall be a drought, the vapours of the becks condense and become these demons. When the latter suddenly vanish, it will rain.

The term "Rain-master" (yü-shi) for dragon is also mentioned by Wu Shuh. The Japanese applied it especially to one of their dragon-shaped river gods, most famous for his rain bestowing power.

Ascending dragons cause rain, but if they descend from the sky this is not always the case. According to the "Various divinations of farmers", when black dragons descend this means drought or at least not much rain, hence a proverb says : "Many dragons much drought". The descending of white dragons, however, was explained to be a sure sign of coming rain.

2. Violent rains accompanied by heavy winds and thunderstorms.
In a passage from the History of the Sung dynasty, mentioned above with regard to the dragon omens, the appearance of a black dragon above the capital was said to be an omen of big floods which in the next year destroyed the fields and houses in 24 prefectures. We also read there that a dragon, which the fourth month of the sixth year of the K'ai Pao era (973) rose from a well, caused violent rains to destroy a large number of houses and trees and sweep away the inhabitants. And in the sixth month of the next year, when the tower of a castle gate was struck by lightning, this accident is described as follows :

"In Ti cheu there fell a fire from the air upon the tower of the Northern gate of the castle. There was a creature which embraced the eastern pillar. It had the shape of a dragon and a golden colour ; its legs were about three ch'ih long, and its breath smelled very bad. In the morning, when people looked for it, there were on the upper part of the wall thirty six smoky stains, the traces of claws".

Such traces were also seen, much to the astonishment of the people, after a heavy storm accompanied by thunder, which lifted up the tablet of a gate and threw it down at some distance, destroying one of the characters of the inscription.

Another time a white dragon brought heavy wind and rain. The sky was black and it was pitchdark. More than five hundred houses were destroyed ; big trees were uprooted and lifted up into the air, from where they fell down quite broken.

According to the Yiu-yang tsah tsu, wind, rain and thunder were caused by a dragon, which in the shape of a white reptile had wound itself around one of the legs of a horse, when this was bathed in a river. The creature had coiled itself so tightly, that the horse lost much blood when the monster was loosened. The general who possessed the horse took the reptile and preserved it in a box. One day some guests advised him to examine its nature by means of water. It was laid in a hollow, dug in the earth, and some water was sprinkled over it. After a little while the animal began to wriggle and seemed to grow. In the hollow a well bubbled up, and all of a sudden a black vapour like incense smoke rose and went straight out of the eaves. The crowd beyond was afraid and ran home, convinced that it was a dragon. But before they were some miles away suddenly the wind arose, the rain come down, and several heavy thunderclaps were heard.

Especially the whirlwinds, called in Japan "tatsu-maki" or "dragon-rolls", which form waterspouts and carry heavy objects into the air, were looked upon as dragons winding their way to the sky amidst thunder and rain. Holes in the ground, due to volcanic eruptions and emitting smoke, were thought to be the spots from where dragons which had been lying in the earth had dashed forth and flown to heaven.

Two boys, born from the marriage of a man with a dragon who first assumed the shape of a snake and then of a woman, suddenly caused a heavy thunderstorm to arise, changed into dragons and flew away.

When in the year 1156 a thunderstorm raged and darkness prevailed, suddenly a cry was heard over an extent of several miles, which repeated itself for more than a month. The people ascribed it to the dragon of a neighbouring pond. Another time a little snake, which crept out of a small crack of the unplastered wall of a house, became bigger and bigger, changed into a dragon and flew away amidst storm and rain.

How a kiao brought heavy rains and inundations was seen above, as well as the fact that tempests often were ascribed to dragons fighting in the air.

Marinus Willem de VISSER (1876-1930) : The Dragon in China. — J. Müller, Amsterdam, 1913, pages I-IX, 1-134 (Book I), 231-237 de XII+247 pages.

Sur une brique de l'époque des Han ou des Six Dynasties, du Musée Est-Asiatique de Stockholm, deux dragons au corps serpentiforme entrecroisent leurs queues dans un grand anneau, ou disque « grainé » percé d'un trou, qui ne peut être que le symbole bien connu du Ciel ; leurs têtes cornues à la mâchoire puissante se retournent au-dessus de l'anneau, que surmonte un animal difficilement identifiable (une tortue ?). Sous les pattes antérieures des dragons se trouvent deux fauves (des tigres ?) et sur les têtes des dragons sont perchés deux oiseaux portant un anneau. M. O. Sirén voit dans ce complexe un rappel des quatre animaux symboles des quatre orients ; mais il nous semble que tout l'intérêt de la composition est placé sur le symbole central, le disque « grainé », représentant le Ciel, dont les deux dragons sont l'émanation pour répandre la fertilité dans l'univers.


Emperors connected with dragons

1. Hwang Ti rode on a dragon.
The dragon being the symbol of the Emperor and his blissful reign, a large number of legends point to the close connection between this divine animal and the Son of Heaven. In the first place, of course, the holy Emperors of the oldest times are mentioned in this respect.

The Historical Records contain the following passage :
"The Emperor Hwang gathered copper of Mount Sheu and cast a tripod at the foot of Mount King. When the tripod was ready, there was a dragon which dropping its whiskers came down to meet Hwang Ti. The latter ascended the dragon and rode on it after which the ministers did the same, more then seventy men in all. Then the dragon ascended and flew away. The remaining lower ministers had no opportunity to climb upon the dragon, and all at a time got hold of its whiskers, which (by their weight) were pulled out and fell down.

According to the Ku kin chu Hwang Ti was melting cinnabar (in order to prepare the liquor of immortality) in the Tsoh ye mountains, when he became a sien and rode on a dragon to the sky. When the ministers clung to the animal's whiskers, the whiskers fell down. To the question whether they produced the so called "Dragon's whiskers herb" the answer is given that this is a false tradition caused by the other name of the same herb "Red clouds herb". The same monarch made a winged dragon (ying lung) attack and ward off the troops of the rebel Ch'i Yiu.

2. Yao and Kao Tsu were sons of dragons.
The Emperor Yao was said to be the son of a red dragon, who came to his mother, hearing on his back the inscription : "You also receive Heaven's protection". Darkness and wind arose on all sides, and the dragon touched her, whereupon she became pregnant and after 14 months gave birth to Yao in Tan ling.

A similar story is told about Kao Tsu (B. C. 206-195), the founder of the Han dynasty. T'ai kong, his father, saw a kiao lung above his wife amidst thunder and lightning and black darkness, while she was asleep on the bank of a lange pond : She dreamt that she had intercourse with a god, and afterwards gave birth to Kao Tsu. This Emperor, who was very fond of wine, was always protected by a dragon, when he was drunk.

3. Shun was visited by a yellow dragon.
The Emperor Shun, Yao's famous successor, was visited by a yellow dragon, which came out of the river Loh. On its scaly armour the inscription : "Shun shall ascend the Throne" was visible. As we have seen above, the same holy sovereign instituted the "Dragon-rearer family", whose members had the task of rearing dragons for the Emperor.

4. Yü drove in a carriage drawn by dragons, and was assisted by a ying lung.
Yü, the celebrated founder of the Hia dynasty, drove in a carriage drawn by two dragons, which had descended in his court-yard, because with him the virtuous power of Hia was at its highest point. When he had completed the regulation of the waters, blue dragons stopped in the suburbs of the capital. According to a later tradition a ying lung assisted Yü at the work by making the ground with its tail.

5. Ming Hwang's vessel was moved forward by a dragon.
Also in later times dragons were said to assist Emperors, as was the case in the T'ien pao era (742-755), when a small dragon arose from a pond the evening before the Emperor Ming Hwang, conquered by the rebel Ngan Luh-shan, left the capital and fled to the South. The dragon went in the same direction and, when the Emperor crossed a river, the animal appeared in the water and carried the ship forward on its back. His Majesty, deeply moved by the dragon's loyalty, thanked it and gave it wine.

6. Two yellow dragons threatened to upset Yü's vessel.
Sometimes, however, the dragons of rivers and seas caused trouble even to Emperors. Thus two yellow dragons threatened to upset Yü's vessel by taking it on its back, when His Majesty crossed the Yang-tszĕ-kiang ; but Yü, not in the least frightened, laughed and said :

— I received my appointment from Heaven and do my utmost to nourish men. To be born is the course of nature ; to die is by Heaven's decree. Why be troubled by the dragons ?"

The dragons, on hearing these words, fled, dragging their tails.

7. Shi Hwang died on account of having killed a dragon.
Another Emperor was severely punished for having killed a dragon. This was Shi Hwang, the founder of the Ts'in dynasty (246-210 B. C.), who was so anxious to have a long life, that he was highly rejoiced when two sien came, pretending to know how to seek the life-prolonging herb. After having been favoured with high dignities and salaries, they set sail with a crowd of six thousand girls and boys, not older than fifteen years, to seek the island of the blessed, but although they sought for it a long time, it was all in vain. The sien, who were afraid of punishment on account of their lies, now invented a new scheme. On returning to the Court they advised the Emperor to go on board himself and set out with a large army. Again the foolish monarch believed them, and put to sea with not less than three millions of soldiers, who made a terrible noise by crying in chorus and beating drums (in order to frighten the sea-gods and thus be able to reach the island of the blessed). The dragon-god, aroused by the din, appeared at the surface of the sea in the shape of an enormous shark, five hundred ch'ih (feet) long, with a head like that of a lion. He was immediately surrounded by the fleet and killed with poisonous arrows, so that his blood coloured the sea over a distance of ten thousand miles. That night the Emperor dreamt that he had a battle with the dragon-god ; and the next day he fell ill and died within seven days.

Arc à têtes de dragons. Marinus Willem de VISSER (1876-1930) : The Dragon in China. — J. Müller, Amsterdam, 1913, pages I-IX, 1-134 (Book I), 231-237 de XII+247 pages.
Arc à deux têtes de dragons sur un relief du Wou Leang ts'e.



1. The dragon's transformations are unlimited.
From Kwan tzĕ and the P'i ya, quoted above, we have learned that the dragon's transformations are unlimited. Therefore it is no wonder that Chinese literature abounds with stories about dragons which had assumed the shape of men, animals or objects. When they transformed themselves into human beings, they mostly appeared as old men or beautiful women ; the latter remind us of the Nāga maidens of Indian tales. Sometimes fishes, which, when being cooked, spread a five-coloured light, or spoke with human voices, were recognized to be dragons ; but also quadrupeds, as dogs, rats or cows, sometimes proved to be the temporary shapes of these divine animals. Snakes, of course, closely akin to the dragons, often served them as metamorphoses to hide their real nature, and new-born dragons were said to creep out of the eggs in this form. Finally, trunks of trees or other objects floating in the water sometimes suddenly resumed their real dragon shapes. One passage says that dragons can always transform themselves except at the time of their birth, when they sleep, or when they are angry or lustful, but this stands alone among the innumerable other statements with regard to their nature and capacities.

2. Appearing as old men or beautiful women.
As to their appearing as old men we may refer to the Süen shih chi, where a yellow dragon is said to have come to a house in the mountains in the shape of an old man with a yellow robe. The Kwang-sin-fu chi contains a story about a wu-sorcerer, who in the beginning of the Sung dynasty was praying for rain above a well, when he fell into it in trying to catch the white cow horn on which he had blown and which suddenly dropped out of his hands. At the bottom of the well he saw a majestic old man, sitting in a tower in the water, with the horn in his hands. This was the dragon of the well, who for this time allowed him to return and gave him back the horn on condition that he never should make noise near the well again. But at the next drought the man forgot his promise and blew on the horn above the well like before. This was too much for the dragon, who made both horn and man tumble into the water, and this time the sorcerer was drowned. Afterwards he appeared to one of the villagers in a dream and at his advice a shrine was erected in honour of the dragon, who thenceforward heard their prayers for rain.

Also the Yiu-yang tsah tsu mentions dragons which assumed the shapes of old men, as well as of beautiful women. Liu Tsung-yuen tells how a dragon which was punished by the Emperor of Heaven fell down upon the earth in the shape of a woman, spreading a brilliant light. She had to stay there for seven days, and then, after having drunk some water, her breath became a cloudy vapour, she changed into a white dragon, and flew up to Heaven.

3. Appearing as fishes.
Transformations of dragons into fishes are to be found as well in the Dynastic Histories as in books of tales and legends like the Lang hüen hi (Yuen dynasty) and even in a geographical work as the Yih t'ung chi, where we read about a white eel which was caught by some villagers. They were about to cook it when an old man said :

— This is a dragon from the Siang River. I am afraid of calamity.
But the others considered this to be foolish prattle and did not listen to his words. The next day the whole village collapsed.

In the Shwoh yuen a white dragon is said to have assumed the shape of a fish and to have been hit with an arrow in its eye by a fisherman. The dragon accused the man before the Emperor of Heaven, but the latter remarked that it was his own fault because he had been foolish enough to change himself into a fish. The fisherman was not to be blamed for having treated him like other fishes. This story is often referred to in Japanese literature, e. g. in the Zoku kojidan, where the fish is said to have fallen into the fisherman's net, and to have lodged a complaint with the Dragon king (an Indian conception, cf. the Introduction and the next chapter), who gave him a similar answer and advised him not to do such a foolish thing again. In the Taiheiki Nitta Yoshisada, who died in battle, is compared to the dragon of this legend, which, instead of hiding itself in the depths of a pool, came to a shallow place and was caught in the net.

As we have seen above, fishes were believed to become dragons when they succeeded in ascending the Dragon-gate (apparently a waterfall), and that old tiger-fishes or fishes weighing two thousand kin became kiao.

4. Appearing as snakes, dogs, or rats.
The Poh mung so yen relates about a child which in the T'ong-kwang era (923-926) met a white snake on the road, tied it with a rope and swayed its head to and fro till it fell down. In a moment a thunderstorm arose and the child was carried into the air, where it was struck by lightning and dropped dead on the ground. On its back vermilion writing was to be read, announcing that Heaven had punished it for having killed a Celestial dragon.

Two dragons in the shape of mao dogs, ridden through the air by sien, are mentioned in the Lieh sien chw'en. A sien brought them to a diviner, more than 100 years old, and invited him to ride on them together with an old woman. According to the Lang hüen ki two guardian gods of a cave palace were dragons. The Kiang-si t'ung-chi speaks about a very deep "Dragon-rearing pond" near the castle of Kwang ch'ang district in Kien ch'ang fu, inhabited by a dragon. Over the pond there was a stone tray, in which remains of food were always laid for the animal, which used to change into a black dog and eat the food. This pond was still there in the author's time, and a "Dragon-well temple" had been built on the spot.

In the seventh year of the Kia-yiu era (1062) an enormous white rat was. seen smelling the sacrificial dishes offered in the temple on the Great White Mountain in Fu fung district (Shen-si province), a mountain with much ling, i. e. where the divine power of its god as clearly manifested itself in hearing the prayers of the believers as was the case on the Japanese mountain of the same name (Hakusan). Old people declared the rat, which only smelled the dishes but did not eat them, to be a dragon.

5. A cow transformed into a dragon.
The author of the Hwai-ngan-fu chi tells us how a cow became a dragon. A rich farmer who possessed a large herd of cattle one night dreamt that one of his cows said to him :

— I have become a dragon and have fought with the dragon of the Sang-k'u lake, but without conquering him. You must bind small knives upon my horns". The next day he discovered that an extremely big cow of the herd had scales under its belly. When he had attached knives to its horns, the cow conquered the other dragon, which was wounded at the eye and retired into its lake. The cow itself became the dragon of the Great Lake. Down to the author's time those who passed this lake avoided the character (cow), and those who passed the Sang-k'u lake avoided the character (blind of one or both eyes) ; otherwise suddenly a storm burst forth and big waves arose.

6. Appearing as objects.
With regard to objects which proved to be dragons we may refer to the I yuen, where we read how a man while fishing in a river found a shuttle and took it home. After a short while the utensil, which he had hung on the wall, changed into a red dragon and ascended to the sky amidst thunder and rain. A dragon which had assumed the shape of a tree growing under water is mentioned in the Shuh i hi. A woman who touched this tree when going into the water in order to catch some fish, became pregnant and gave birth to ten male children. Afterwards when the dragon appeared in his real form above the water, nine of the boys ran away in fright, but the tenth climbed upon his dragon-shaped father's neck and in later years became the king of the land. The same work tells us about a girl in the Palace, under the Hia dynasty, who changed into a fearful dragon and then, reassuming her human form, became a very beautiful woman, who devoured men.

In the Books of the Tsin dynasty an astrologer is said to have discovered the vital spirits of two precious swords among the stars, and pointed out the spot where they were buried. There a stone box was dug up, from which a brilliant light shone ; but as soon as the swords were taken out of the box their spirits in the sky were extinguished. On one of the swords the characters lung-ts'üen, "Dragon-spring", on the other t'ai-o, were written. According to the astrologer such supernatural swords could not remain for a long time in human hands. Actually one of them soon disappeared, and the other one afterwards jumped by itself out of its sheath into a river, which its owner was crossing. When it was sought, nothing was found except two dragons, two or three chang long, wound together and emitting a brilliant light which illuminated the water. Then they vanished, raising turbulent waves by their violent movements. Evidently the swords had changed into dragons and were united again.

Enroulements et contorsions du dragon. Marinus Willem de VISSER (1876-1930) : The Dragon in China. — J. Müller, Amsterdam, 1913, pages I-IX, 1-134 (Book I), 231-237 de XII+247 pages.

Ayant saisi la vérité des enroulements et des contorsions du dragon, l'artiste est maître de sa fantaisie : il peut à son gré plier le dragon aux nécessités des cadres qu'il doit remplir, l'étirer en longueur ou le ramasser sur lui-même ; il donne des preuves de son savoir-faire dans les innombrables images de dragons que sous les T'ang, les Song, les Ming, et jusqu'à nos jours on rencontre à profusion dans l'art chinois.



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