fredag 9. februar 2024

How the Dragon King Emerged From the Waves

Of the 12 animals in the Chinese zodiac, the dragon, or loong, is the only one that doesn’t exist in the real world. Its inclusion highlights the magical creature’s status in Chinese culture, yet few might be aware of its more divine qualities. In ancient Chinese mythology, the dragon was a powerful rainmaker. During the Han dynasty (202 B.C.–220 A.D.), people made clay dragons to use in rituals to pray for rainfall. Over time, these local customs merged with the Buddhist concept of the Dragon King, who people began to worship as the God of Water, replacing the previous deity Hebo, Lord of the Yellow River.

Paying tribute to the Dragon King became part of the spiritual ceremonies led by rulers in the Tang dynasty (618–907), with the practice quickly spreading through the Central Plains.According to legend, the Dragon King rules over all creatures in the sea, commanding armies of shrimps and crabs, and controls the weather on land. Yet, rather than a single deity, he is a legion. Wherever there is water — be it a lake, river, sea, or spring — there resides a Dragon King. The most prominent among them are the Dragon Kings of the Four Seas, who appear in the Chinese classic “Journey to the West” as Ao Guang of the East Sea, Ao Qin of the South Sea, Ao Shun of the North Sea, and Ao Run of the West Sea.