Dinosaur Discovery Reveals Chinese Dragon Mythology


Typically at Dragon Zoo we’re writing weekly articles that cover the latest , dragon book or dragon TV show, but every now and again, we hit on something great in the news headlines which – if we’re honest – is our favourite type of story to write about, real dragons.

On the 29th January 2015 the UK news website Dailymail.co.uk released a news story which featured the headline ‘A real Chinese dragon!’ However, once you get past the click baiting headline, there’s actually some nice theories on the origins of the real Chinese dragons mythology.

Here at Dragon Zoo we’re often asked to cover the mythology and history of dragons, and we frequently get asked the following questions:

- Is there proof of real dragons ever existing?

- Is there really dragons in the bible? (you betcha, click here

- How can so many cultures reference dragons if they never really existed?

You get the idea. But the one thing that this new story does do is offer an insight into the origins of these myths. We recently covered a news article about Azhdarchidan pterosaurs an article that provides a theory on the origins of the traditional western dragons.



But how on earth could the Chinese dragon ever be conceived as a real dragon? What fossils are out there that resemble the long snake like, serpentine appearance of the Chinese dragons’s distinctive appearance?

Whilst it’s easy to see how the discovery of pterosaur fossils in ancient times could lead to the conclusion of giant winged, real life fire breathing dragons, it’s a bit more of a stretch to understand just why, where and what the ancient Serpentine features of the Chinese dragon derived from. Well, that certainly used to be the case, but then the discovery of the Qijianglong dinosaur happened and the theories of the scientist, Tetsuto Miyashita from the University of Alberta, naturally turned to the origins of dragons.

Essentially, the Qijianglong dinosaur looks like your typical Brachiosaurus, a quadruped that’s 49 feet long with a neck that’s nearly 50% of the total length of the dinosaur’s body. The Qijianglong originates from the late Jurassic period (160 million years ago) and its name has been chosen specifically with reference to the old Chinese dragons, Qijianglong meaning “dragon of Qijiang”. When the fossils were discovered by construction workers in southern China in Qijiang city, it was the long neck that was seen first, the bones of the vertebrae stretched out in the ground in the construction site, and this is where the comparison with dragons comes from. It was the nature of how these fossils were first discovered which instantly led to the comparison with Chinese Dragons.

Tetsuto stated “I wonder if the ancient Chinese stumbled upon a skeleton of a long-necked dinosaur like Qijianglong and pictured that mythical creature.”

And it’s easy to see why from this image below:

Dinosaur Discovery Reveals Chinese Dragon Mythology - Image courtesy of http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2015/01/29/252BD98000000578-2931344-image-a-8_1422556472023.jpg

The discovery of a long serpentine style neck of a Qijianglong could easily be the origins of the eastern dragon myth, with only the neck and head of a dinosaur discovered you can see how it resembles the dragon from the flag of the Qing Dynasty:

Dinosaur Discovery Reveals Chinese Dragon Mythology - Image courtesy of http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/b/b3/Flag_of_the_Qing_dynasty_%281862-1889%29.png/100px-Flag_of_the_Qing_dynasty_%281862-1889%29.png

Whilst the fully assembled dinosaur looks like the familiar long necked herbivore we’ve seen in the movies:

Dinosaur Discovery Reveals Chinese Dragon Mythology - Image courtesy of http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2015/01/29/252A023400000578-0-A_reconstructed_skeleton_of_Qijianglong_seen_above_is_now_on_dis-a-6_1422533159335.jpg

The neck and head alone is certainly reminiscent of the famous eastern dragon and quite possibly, the source of the creature’s “existence” and utilisation in Chinese culture.

Read more on this news story from the original article posted for the UK newspaper Daily Mail.

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