The Chinese are an ancient culture and the art of tattooing extends back to at least the time of the ancient silk trades when routes from central Asia and the Pacific crossed through southern China bringing more than just material goods. From at least that time on, Chinese tattoos have developed into the intricate, beautiful and symbolic art which typifies them today.
Chinese tattoos, always very much in demand, are still extremely popular today. We can recall from so many movies and mystery novels how they were at one time the domain of the Mafia and criminals. Eventually, Hollywood stars were sporting these designs, especially the Chinese tattoo dragon. Most people realize that there are hidden meanings in these images, but the truth is that their beauty can be appreciated whether we know what subtleties there are, or not.
Of course the primary requirement any of us should have in choosing a tattoo is the aesthetic. We want to love looking at it and want other people to admire it as well. Chinese tattoos are excellent discussion objects because they traditionally are more than just “pictures;” they are symbols as well and reputedly contain hidden meanings. The stories behind these ancient images make for some great conversation.
But like most things in our lives, some are real and some are not. It is easy for us to be mislead when choosing an image, basing part of our decision on it’s “meaning,” when we may not get our information from a reliable source. Better to do your own due diligence and especially try talking to a native Chinese speaker to be sure. You don’t want to find out too late that what you thought meant “Health, Wealth and Power” really means “Kick my Butt” or even just something without any meaning at all.
The Chinese tattoo dragon is a very popular subject and is as varied in its execution as it is in its design and meaning. A symbol of mystery and inherent power, the Chinese tattoo dragon has been found in legends of the West as well as the East. It has long been an object of fear and a symbol of worship.
It’s interesting that in Medieval Europe the dragon was a terrifying figure, a fire-breathing destroyer of magnificent proportions, ferocious, striking terror in the hearts of all who would see him. But in Asia, it was just the opposite. The dragon there is a symbol of benevolence, intelligence and kindness. It may have been Lao Tzu who said “Kindness is the greatest wisdom” and in China the dragon embodied that ideal.
The image of the dragon is so tied to China that the Chinese are affectionately known as the “descendents of the dragon.”
Dragons come in several specific species and Chinese tattoo dragons are created as variations on all of them. There is the Yellow Dragon, a bookish fellow know for being scholarly, the Coiling Dragon who lives in the sea, a Treasure Dragon who is the keeper/ protector of precious materials (metals and jewels).and the Earth Dragon who is the ruler of our earthly domain.
Also present is the Horned Dragon who is also considered to be the mightiest of them all, the Celestial Dragon whose duty it is to protect the gods while supporting the heavens, the Spiritual Dragon, controller of the rain and the wind and finally the Winged Dragon which is the only one who has wings.
Do some more research on some of these if you are looking for one to use yourself, and remember to check carefully to verify that the symbolism you think you are getting is what you are getting! Aside from that, the natural beauty and exotic quality of these creatures make them wonderful art objects and choosing the perfect Chinese tattoo dragon for you can be a labor of love, the fruits of which you should be able to enjoy for many years to come.