Author：Verbena C. W，Elaine Yang，Kitten Wang
The dragons are coming!
After Godzilla and How to Train Your Dragon, a new group of “dragons” has arrived in the June 2015 movie Jurassic World. Dragons have always been a fan favorite worldwide; they are beloved icons because they are mythical creatures surpassing all national borders. The unique design of the dragon in Chinese fantasy has also gathered a lot of interest and curiosity among Western fantasy fans.
Unlike the fire-breathing, treasure-guarding, and man-eating creatures with wings in Western culture, the Chinese dragon is a totem respected by the Chinese people. Chinese living worldwide also call themselves ”the dragons’ descendants.” Many Eastern fantasy fiction and movies depict the dragon as the god in charge of water. More than 100 meters long, covered in snake-like scales, glittering, with five-pronged claws and fish tails, Chinese dragons can fly effortlessly across the sky and also swim in the deep depths of the ocean. A simple sneeze from a dragon could turn into a great rainstorm. Jam Hsiao, a Taiwanese singer, was nicknamed “Dragon King” by his fans since it rained every time he toured in mainland China.
The Chinese novelist Jiang Nan has managed to create some new conventions with the Eastern dragon in his novel Dragon Raja. His dragon pretended to be human to hide in a city, such as protagonist Ricardo M.Lu(Lu Mingfei), whose dragon-slaying mission meant he needed to kill a dragon who was also his human friend. As the storyline continued, many fans realized Ricardo himself may be the head of all dragons, a black dragon king who represented desperation.
In Dragon Raja, all the dragon kings were once part of twins. During the fight for power, one dragon always needed to kill his twin sister or brother in order to reach the throne, which was a new invention by the writer. Ricardo, who could be the reincarnation of the black dragon king, created the four kings in ancient times, who then had four sets of descendants. The winner of each set of twins became king, who were in charge of bronze and fire, land and mountain, sky and wind, as well as ocean and water respectively.
During the Renaissance, the dragons made more alliances with humans to produce a half-human-half-dragon breed. Some of these mixed-breed offspring relied on dragons while others became “dragon-slayers” to defend human society. In fact, the academy Ricardo attended was founded by the dragon-slayers, specializing in how to kill reincarnated dragon kings. The books also featured story lines about how to keep the dragon blood pure and research on human abilities, including work on unique powers and genetic drugs. The popular novels have sold tens of millions of copies, and are being made into a movie of the same name by Alibaba Pictures and a Hollywood team, possibly becoming the next fantasy blockbuster in China.
Another novel with a dragon theme, Dragon Tracks, has not had a popular reception, and is already out of print. The book used a documentary-like tone to describe a Chinese soldier’s encounter with a dragon-like creature during a mission, and followed his conversion to believing that there indeed are dragons in this world. The protagonist then began searching for dragons allover China with his friends, with some help from ancient Chinese texts.
Since we’re talking about dragons, we have to mention the phoenix, which is another mythical creature related to the dragons. While the phoenix is shown covered in colorful feathers in both Western and Eastern cultures, symbolizing reincarnation and fidelity, it is more often considered immortal in Western cultures because of its willingness to live in loneliness and pain in order to appease Zeus and to save its beloved. In Eastern cultures, the phoenix is the leader of all birds. If the Eastern dragon resembles a king, then the Eastern phoenix represents a queen, which may be why it looks more like a pheasant than an eagle.
Dragons and phoenixes may share the same name but are completely different in their connotations in the East and West. Eastern and Western fantasy cultures are full of such mysteries and puzzles, which will be sure to provide us with more pleasant surprises in the future.