It has been often said that the finding of dinosaur bones by ancient
Chinese was the original basis for their "dragon" stories and myths. In reality there is no definitive proof that this is
so. It does seem to make sense as large bones from an unknown large creature (i.e. dinosaurs) would cause a superstitious
people to believe in large mythical beast such as dragons.
But this story actually appears to belong to the category
of “folklore”, rather than anthropology. The Chinese were a highly civilized peoples and had definite ideas on
Dragons which were studied, written about, and philosophized on as if they were rather common creatures to these peoples.
This is an attribute that often pervades dragons stories worldwide; offhanded casual acceptance of their presence but debate
on what it meant.
The reality in ancient China actually appears to be that Dragons were believed in for far longer
than peasants were finding large petrified bones. Some of the earliest writings from the Far East mention Dragons, long before
it was reported that bones from this creature were found.
In many early mythologies from Asia we find Dragons as either
God's or messengers to the God's. Again like in earlier Mideast stories the Dragons are most often associated with water and
wisdom. But unlike the Mideast and later European stories we find little to no fighting and killing of or between Dragons
& Gods or normal people and Dragons.
Instead of fear and loathing or even outright worship, here we find Dragons
as being desirable to an area and good luck rather than ill falls to those areas where dragons abide. They are often prayed
to for deliverance from bad fortune, bad weather, and even bad men. In fact, very early in China's history the emperors are
said to be communing with the Dragons to get the advice of the Gods on how to govern their peoples. But somewhere along the
way things changed.
One very widespread story is of the Dragon Kings. They were known as the Four Brothers when they
traveled together. All were water dragons and served the August Personage Jade who commanded them when, where and how much
rain to deliver to the earth.
Each lived in a Crystal palace and ruled one of the Four Seas via an army of crabs and
fish, watchman, and ministers. Their names were Ao Ch’in, Ao Jun, Ao Kuang, and Ao Shun. There is no indication that
these kings directly communicated with mundane humans. But their ministers, who are presumably all dragons, apparently did.
Chinese society individualism was strongly discouraged for most of their history. Instead, one was to subjugate ones will
to the gods or their representatives including the authorities in power. And that power usually started with the emperor.
The emperor himself was to have received his authority and blessings from the heavens and used it for the betterment of all
the peoples. But how often in our human histories was this arraignment going to last?
Originally it was believed that
the dragons were the ones who talked directly to the Gods. The Emperor was given the God's will for his people and he in turned
passed on this message to the people through his growing bureaucracy. In this way the Emperor was seen to be sitting on the
throne by the will of the Gods and thus divine himself as long as he passed on the god's will as spoken to him.
time went on the Emperors apparently decided to cut the Imperial Dragons out of the deal and claimed to be able to communicate
directly with the God's. Of course to protect this monopoly no one but the Emperor was allowed to try and communicate with
This is a subtle but definite indication of the strength of the belief that dragons did exist and needed
to be communicated with. Otherwise there would have been no reason to give the “no communication” decree and the
harsh follow up with strict enforcement.
At this point the Imperial Dragons were said to have 5 claws and other lessor
Dragon's 4 or even 3 claws. It was now death to try and "communicate with an imperial Dragon." But there were still those
who did not believe that the emperor was the only one who should be allowed to gain wisdom by talking to the wisest of the
God's messengers, the Dragons.
There are more than a few stories from the Far East about various men who sought out
this draconic source of wisdom. But to try and discredit them the Imperial court called them "four-men" or those who talked
to less than Imperial Dragons. The implication was that only the Emperor could talk to a real messenger from the God's.
on these same individuals who learned and used dragon wisdom became derided as Foemen. But all of these outlawed individuals
seeking out Dragons were supposed to prove their worth to talk to these wise creatures by helping out villagers against bandits
or oppressive bureaucrats and such.
The tales told of these dragon inspired warriors were very much like the quests
and deeds done by the much later heros and the Knights of the Round Table.