Do you know the difference between European dragons and Chinese dragons? Apparently many people don’t.
The obvious difference is that European dragons have wings. East Asian dragons are wingless.
There is also a huge difference between how dragons are treated in Asian cultures and how they are treated in the West. In China, Viet Nam, Japan and surrounding countries, the dragon is a symbol of the royalty and is considered highly auspicious.
Dragons are honored and respected in Asia. Dragon symbols of all sorts are highly desirable. And the traits ascribed to dragons in Chinese astrology are highly valued.
European culture traditionally treated dragons as evil creatures to be killed. Though modern popular culture is often friendly to dragons, there is still an undercurrent of fear and dislike in some areas, such as fundamentalist Christian religion.
Dragons are often associated with very ancient belief systems. While traditions are honored in Asian cultures, anything that predated Christianity was demonized by the European churches.
Lots of people, especially in America, never look beyond their own culture to understand the differences in beliefs and symbolism between their own and other cultures. Many assume that their own culture is the only correct one—or don’t even realize that others think differently.
Recently I bought a very interesting and fun time-management game called Building the Great Wall of China. The art is beautiful, and both storyline and the art indicate that the game publisher spent some time on research. And it’s fun to play.
There’s a giant flaw in the game, though, that really bothers me. The destructive opponents in the game are dragons. And they are winged European dragons, of course.
The concept of dragons as evil creatures that destroy progress is so foreign to Asian beliefs that it amounts to an insult to Asian cultures. After all, the dragon was the emblem of the Chinese emperor.
But then to make the dragons winged, European style dragons? That seems like an insult the intelligence of gamers as well. And it certainly is a disservice to children, who are bound to be confused by having European dragons (with European attitudes toward them) as a major feature of a deceptively authentic-looking Chinese-themed game.
Making money by disrespecting other cultures just seems wrong to me. If you don’t like other people’s cultures and beliefs, I say leave them alone. Don’t just steal what you think will make you money and disrespect or misrepresent the rest.