One of the earliest depictions of the dragon was found on a plate in Taoist southern Shanxi, carbon dated to 2500-1900 BCE, during China’s earliest dynasty, the Xia dynasty (Lindqvist, 2008). In Taoist Chinese ecological lore, the dragon is a shamanic symbol associated with the Great Water Goddess and sacred life-giving element of water. The dragon is also symbol of fertility, midst, dew, rivers and rain. Water cults’ primeval matriarchs performed ancient ceremonies (Schafer 1951, p. 132) celebrating river water deities (Schafer 1973, p. 60). From c. 1750 to 500 BCE, shamanism was the dominant spiritual force in China (Palmer, 1996). Additionally, in ancient Chinese mythological lore, the dragon motif embodies transformation, yin, as well as a spell invoking water deities. The dragon is also associated with imperial power; China’s first emperors were believed to be decedents of the celestial dragon-spirit.
“The dragon was not just another mythical animal. It was regarded as the most sacred of all creatures and symbolized China and the power of the emperor. The Yellow Emperor, who, according to legend, ruled the land along the Yellow River, the cradle of China around 2700 B.C., and is considered to be the father of all China, was said to have been the incarnation of the dragon.” (Lindqvist 2008, 115).
In the chapter Women, Nymphs and Dragons from "The Divine Woman, Dragon Ladies and Rains Maidens," a book written in the early 1970s by Dr. Edward H. Schafer, professor at the University of Berkeley, and Harvard graduate, we learn about the magical legend surrounding China’s first emperor.
“This lucky-unlucky woman had been embraced by the same kind of being that had embraced many Chinese queens to make them mother of kings. Such dragon lovers were themselves kings, by virtue of their power over rain and fertility, like the ancient rulers of the Middle Kingdom.” (Schafer 1973, 23).
The Classic of Mountains and Seas is considered one of the most important classic Chinese literary works, and it is referred to as “the locus classicus for many myths” (Anonymous (trans. Birrell) 1999, xix). In Book One, “the deities of these mountains all have the appearance of a bird’s body and a dragon’s head” (Anonymous (trans. Birrell) 1999, 5). The dragon permeates the cosmology of ancient China and is still deeply rooted in the spiritual imagination of the Chinese social fabric today.
In Tang poetry, “some ‘dragon kings’ daughters visualized in this genre resemble the court belles of Europe imagined in polished literature as Greek nymphs and naiads” (Schafer 1973, 90). The dragon is associated with the female shaman, called shamanka, or the Wu Shan goddess (Schafer 1973). Although she was mostly ignored by Tang poets, Nü Kua was the most important dragon in ancient China and referred to as the “old rain dragon goddess” (Schafer 1973, 61; 92).
“Nü Kua’s gauzy skirt, a hundred feet long, Suspended over the Hsiang and Kiang, gives its color to the hills.”
The universe is composed of opposing forces. Yin and Yang in Chinese spiritual cosmology symbolize the universe. “Yin and Yang represent linked opposites, or antagonistic factors. Such dualities as male/female, water/fire, and night/day are antagonistic pairs, but the parts of the pairs cannot exist without their opposites” (Ede 2006, 21). The symbolic union of the dragon and phoenix, symbolize the elemental opposite forces of water and fire, as well as a mythic-cultural representation of the marriage of the emperor and empress (Ede, 2006). Mythology is a tool for social cohesion (Rees, 2002) and shapes the spiritual patterns for cultural identity and daily life.
Asia Pacific Dispute Resolution Project Working Paper No. 18-3
"Policy-oriented Macro-analysis: China ́s Freshwater & Health Crisis an Essay on the Techno-industrial Puppetry of Oligarchic Dictatorship" has been successfully published on the APDR website, UBC's Institutional Repository (cIRcle), and the Social Sciences Research Network (SSRN).
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