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The dragon has been pervasive in all aspects of ancient Chinese culture, and it has become a strong spiritual symbol for the Chinese people. Do dragons really exist? China’s history books have recorded many eyewitness accounts about the appearance of dragons, which makes it enticing to re-examine whether dragons truly exist.
The Miscellaneous Section of the Recording for Ye County from the Qing dynasty states: “In A.D. 1503 [Ming dynasty, 16th year of Emperor Hongzhi’s rule], five dragons hovered in the air about 10 li [3 miles] north of the city gate of Ye County, Henan Province. After a long time aloft, they dropped to the ground and were unable to ascend again.
“The sky clouded over, and the sea began churning. A deity in green clothing descended from the sky and was immediately surrounded by the fallen dragons. A moment later, the clouds dispersed and the ocean was tranquil. The five dragons were still unable to fly away. At this time, another green deity descended, and the dragons crawled around him. Suddenly, the sky became dark. Thick clouds and heavy fog reappeared. When the sky finally cleared, the deities and the five dragons were gone.”
The Fortunate, Yet Strange Phenomena Section of the Recording for the Jiaxing Regional Government tells of a similar story: “In September A.D. 1588, a white dragon was spotted on Lake Ping in Pinghu County, Zhejiang Province. It was flying above the lake, illuminating half of the sky with red light.
“Eyewitness Shen Maoxiao, a history-recording officer for the royal court, saw a deity in purple clothes with a golden crown, standing over 30 meters [about 98 feet] tall, between the horns of the dragon. This deity held an object resembling a sword. There appeared a sphere of bright light as large as a dou [a ladder-shaped container for measurement in China] beneath the head of the dragon.”
The same document also records an eyewitness account that took place 20 years after the white dragon sighting in Pinghu County. In July 1608, a white dragon similar to the one on Lake Ping was sighted on the Huangpu River in Songjiang County, Shanghai. There was also a deity standing on the head of the dragon.
The Five Elements Section of the Recording for the Later Han Dynasty later cited by the Strange Phenomena Section of the Recording for Luoyang County, recorded a dragon sighting in the imperial palace. Liu Hong, the emperor of the Dong Han dynasty, had his capital city near today’s Luoyang City in Henan Province; Wenming Palace might be where he lived.
On July 1, A.D. 178, a huge black object fell from the sky into the east courtyard of Wenming Palace. The object was round and resembled the canopy over an ancient carriage. It was over 20 meters (65 feet) long and spun rapidly, giving out light of different colors. The object had a head but no feet and no tail. It looked like a dragon, but might not have been one.
The Five Elements Section of History of the Yuan Dynasty states the following: “In July of Emperor Zhiyuan’s 27th year of rule [August 1290 A.D.], there appeared a dragon near Mount Long in Linxong County, Shandong Province. The dragon was able to make a piece of rock weighing half a ton float in the air.”
In Emperor Jian’an’s 24th year of rule in the Dong Han Dynasty (A.D. 219), a yellow dragon appeared on the Chishui River in Wuyang City and remained there for nine days before it finally left. A temple was built and a stone tablet was erected inside the temple to honor the appearance of the dragon.
In April, Emperor Yonghe’s 1st year of rule, Dong Jin Dynasty (A.D. 345), two dragons, one black and the other white, appeared on Mount Long (which literally translates as Mount Dragon). Murong, the emperor of the Yan Kingdom, led officials of the court to the mountain and held a worship ceremony 200 yards away from the dragons.
Local history books from the Ming and Qing dynasties also contain sightings of dragons. According to the “Recording for the Lin’an Regional Government,” in Emperor Chongzhen’s 4th year of rule (1631 A.D.), a large dragon was sighted on Lake Yilong (which means Lake Strange Dragon), southeast of Shiping County, Yunan Province.
The record states, “The whiskers, feet, and scales of the dragon were above the water, and the dragon was several dozens of meters long.” The dragon might have appeared more than once around Mount Long and Lake Yilong, thus explaining the choice of names for these places.
The “Amended Recording of the Tang Dynasty” recorded that one day in the last year of Emperor Xiantong’s rule, a black dragon fell to the ground within the territory of Tongcheng County and died there from a wound in the throat. The full length of the dragon measured over 30 meters, half of which was its tail.
The tail was flat. Its scales were like those of a fish. The head had two horns. The whiskers by the side of the mouth were over 6 meters long. Its feet, which grew from under its belly, had a red film covering them.
The Seven Books and Scriptures by Long Ying recorded that one day in the last year of Chenghua, Ming Dynasty, a dragon fell down onto the beach in Xinhui County, Guangdong Province. It was beaten to death by the local fishermen. The dragon was as tall as an adult person, and tens of meters in length. It looked very much like the dragon in classical paintings except that its belly was red.
A dead dragon was found by Lake Taibai in Emperor Shaoxing’s 32nd year of rule in the Nan Song Dynasty (1162). It had long whiskers and large scales. The back was black and belly white. Fins grew from the dragon’s back, and two large horns protruded the head. It could be smelled from miles away.