Dragon Tattoo Ideas, History, and Meaning: Chinese and Japanese Designs
The Dragon Tattoo
The dragon is a popular and powerful design worn by both women and men, and although it can be designed in various sizes, the detailing and shading involved in most depictions often make this tattoo a larger-sized project. Some of the attributes and traits associated with the dragon are strength, courage, and independence.
In this article, we will discuss designs and review the meanings of the dragon tattoo, and you will have the opportunity to view a wide variety of photographs. We hope that you are able to find ideas and inspiration for your next tattoo.
Dragon Tattoos in History
Dragons are one of the most legendary creatures in the history of mythology and folklore. Dragons are a part of the historic culture of China, Japan, Vietnam, and many other countries. According to most Eastern civilizations, dragons were noble creatures with distinct honors and powers, while in the mythologies of European civilizations, they were usually considered evil and dark.
The symbolism of dragon tattoos cover a wide range of meanings. One civilization may consider dragons a symbol of strength and wisdom, while another may consider them to be greedy and a bad omen. The Chinese (representing wisdom, good luck, and goodwill), Japanese (representing balance), and Celtic dragon styles (often shown with crowns and thrones depicting power and strength) are among the most popular.
The Eastern dragon is seen as a noble beast which offers wisdom and protection while in ancient Western culture, it represents a much darker and more threatening creature. However, both are usually depicted as a very intelligent creature free to roam wherever it wishes. Thus, the dragon tattoo can also depict the freedom of your soul or life.
The dragon symbolizes protection, power, and wisdom. Its fearsome and warlike qualities make it a wonderful ally or a fierce enemy. Most people have heard stories about the knight slaying the dragon and winning the love of the princess. Among many ancient cultures, slaying the dragon is one of the highest honors a person can achieve. Think of the stories of St. George or Beowulf, although in both, the dragon might also represent pre-Christian thought.
One of the great features about the dragon is that it can be done in a variety of different styles, realistic or abstract, cartoonish or dramatic. Many are done in solid ink and follow the tribal style of tattooing. Even so, we are seeing more and more colored tribal tattoos today. Whether you choose solid black ink or color, the dragon tattoo gives a wide range of options to consider when designing your dragon tattoo.
The dragon's shape can be manipulated to fit in a wide variety of different locations on the body, although its most popular placement is on or near the shoulder. Among the Chinese, it is not unusual to see full body tattoos which incorporate other symbols. At one time in history, members of the Chinese mafia wore these full body tattoos which became synonymous with criminal conduct and were looked down upon as well as illegal. Nowadays, this criminal association is no longer common.
The number nine is a very special number for the Chinese. It is the largest single digit and associated with the dragon. A "nine dragon wall" is a barrier that is often found around imperial Chinese palaces and gardens. Only the most senior officials are allowed to wear the nine dragons on their robes, while other lower-ranking officers wear eight or fewer.
Chinese and Japanese Dragon Types and Meanings
The Asian dragon is one of the most popular mythological creatures picked for tattoo designs. They are a variety of different styles to chose from such as, winged and wingless, with snake-like features such as scales or cartoonish versions, with or without whiskers or horns. The dragon is believed to have the ability to multiply anything that it touches. They can be associated with the heavens or the sea. Japanese dragons are usually slender and wingless and have just three claws, while the Chinese or "celestial kingdom" types have five claws and beards of flames.
The Asian dragon represents balance. For the Chinese, the dragon represents one half of the yin and yang; the phoenix represents the other half. The Chinese believe in finding a perfect balance of yin and yang, and dragons might also symbolize the perfect mixture of good and evil. The colorful Japanese dragon, part of their cultural mythology for hundreds of years, represents balance, freedom, and good luck. It also is known to have supernatural powers and wisdom.
Many people choose a dragon to represent balance in their life. It is thought that balance is crucial for success.
- Chinese Dragons symbolize power, strength, and fear.
- Horned Dragons are known as the top dragons, strongest of all.
- Celestial Dragons are protectors of the Gods and heavens.
- Earth Dragons, also found in Chinese astrology, are the kind that rule the earth.
- Yellow Dragons are hornless and known for their knowledge.
- Treasure Dragons are the protectors of precious gems and other valuable earthly elements.
- Spiritual Dragons are in total control of the wind and rain.
- Coiling Dragons are the ones that live in the oceans.
There are six dragons in Japanese culture. Here are their names and meanings:
- Han-Riu, with stripes all over its body, is one of the biggest dragons with lengths up to forty feet.
- Kai-Riu, a beautiful red-colored dragon, is usually smaller than the others.
- Sue-Riu, the king of all dragons, is in control of rain.
- Ri-Riu is known to be a very rare breed and hard to find. Little is known about it, but it does have amazing eyesight.
- Hai-Riyo, known as a dragon bird, is one of the most advanced forms of dragons. It evolved out of Chinese mythology.
- Fuku Riu is the most favored dragon of all, known for good luck.
You may or may not have known, but the colors to the dragon also have meanings. Certain colors represent certain attributes.
- Black means that the parents are old and wise.
- Green is usually associated with smaller dragons. It also represents life and earth.
- Blue is associated with those from the West and represents laziness, compassion, and forgiveness.
- Yellow is associated with those from the East and those who are self-centered and helpful.
- Gold has great attributes, such as wisdom, kindness, and helpfulness.
Although certain colors and dragons have certain symbolic meanings, many are chosen just for their design. Either way, the Asian dragon makes a great tattoo for anyone and can be mixed with other styles, such as Celtic art and tribal designs.
Before You Tattoo
- Make sure you take the time to decide carefully on a tattoo and style. Remember that you will likely have this tattoo for the rest of your life. Many tattoos cannot be erased with a laser or other means, so you want to make sure you're completely sure before you get a tattoo. Never get a tattoo on an impulse!
- You also want to research your tattoo artist as well. If they are legit, they will have no problem showing you their past work and current designs. Ask other customers about their work and do online research if possible.
- Remember, you'll have this tattoo for the rest of your life. The location of your tattoo is also important. If you work with people, you may want to choose an area that can be covered if need be.
- The most important thing is to get one that you really, really want. Be sure to check out the other articles in the links below.
© 2011 Richard Ricky Hale