From the earliest beginnings of humankind to modern times, mythical dragon drawings have been part of the culture and legends of countries around the world. When studying mythical creatures like dragons, drawings can illustrate how the concepts have changed and evolved over time.
The Earliest Mythical Drawings of Dragons
Some of the earliest drawings of dragons appear on earthenware and jade dating from the Neolithic period of the Stone Age. Mythical dragon pictures during this period, circa 9000-8000 B.C., are drawn with a human face and a snakelike body with legs. Archeologists believe these early mythical dragon pictures developed from the image of the snake.
During primitive eras, snakes were revered as gods. They were seen as the creators and protectors of humans. This was especially true in Chinese culture where the emperors were said to be descendants of dragon gods, such as NuWa, the Chinese creator Goddess and FuXi, the inventor of fishing and trapping and the four-eyed dragon god, Cang Jie that invented writing.
Mythical Dragons of Europe and Asia
As centuries passed, dragons evolved into two distinct types of mythical creatures, the European dragon and the Asian dragon. The dragons of each region had distinctive physical attributes that were depicted in often colorful mythical dragon drawings.
Mythical dragon pictures of Europe generally show fire breathing creatures with bat-like wings, lizard legs, and a serpentine body. Although depicted slightly differently by each European culture, they commonly represent dragons as scaled, scary, evil creatures. In European cultures, the dragon is almost always the natural enemy of man, and it possesses evil supernatural powers, including breathing fire.
Variations of the European, or Western, dragons include:
- Dragons with two pairs of lizard like legs is the most common
- A dragon with one pair of legs (no front legs) is called a wyvern
- No legs
- Dorsal spines
- Three, four or five toes
- Multiple heads and necks
Not all European dragons breathed fire; some spit out poison or ice. Visit DeviantArt to see an amazing frost dragon created by pixelcharlie.
Unlike the evil dragons of Europe, the mythical dragon pictures of Asian dragons, known as East Asian dragons, depict spiritual benevolent creatures full of wisdom. Unlike European dragons, Asian dragons are associated with water, not fire. Many of the drawings of East Asian dragons clearly represent a spiritual sacred symbol of power from the heavens associated with:
- Supernatural powers
- Cycles of the seasons
- Auspicious chi
- Good fortune
- The yang, or masculine power, of the yin yang
Anatomy of East Asian Dragons
Easy to distinguish from their European counterparts, most mythological Asian dragons are wingless until they age. Most have four legs, a beard, and a long snakelike body full of scales. Even while wingless, these dragons had the ability to fly. Asian dragons could shape shift into any form including human and change to any size ranging from as tiny as a silkworm to as big as the universe. Although the number of toes on an Asian dragon varies from three to five, the number of toes are indicators of the dragon's status and nationality. These include:
- Only the Chinese imperial dragons have five toes.
- Four-toed dragons are common Chinese dragons and also part of the Korean dragon mythology.
- Three-toed dragons are found in Japanese mythological dragon pictures.
The First Chinese Dragon
Ancient Chinese mythology tells of the first dragon appearing to the emperor Fu Shi after a monster named Kung Kung punched a hole in the sky. The dragon rushed to fill the hole and from that day, the dragon ruled the weather and seasons and dedicated day and night. These events and timetable were placed in sync with the dragon's sleeping, waking, and breathing habits.
The Nine Dragon Types of Chinese Mythology
Dragon drawings show the nine classical types of Chinese dragons.
- The Winged Dragon: Yinglong
- The Spiritual Dragon: Shenlong
- The Dragon King: The King manifests into four separate dragons, each ruling one of the four seas (east, west, south and north).
- Celestial Dragon: Tianlong
- Dragon of the Hidden Treasures: Fucanglong
- Underground Dragon: Dilong
- The Coiling Dragon: Panlong
- The Yellow Dragon: Huanglong
The Horned Dragon: Jiaolong
Mythical Dragon Drawings
Mythical dragon drawings illustrate the fierceness of European dragons and the auspicious power of the East Asian dragons. Modern artists often stylize and create new dragon forms in this ever evolving art of mythical dragon pictures.