Dragon Tattoo Ideas, History, and Meaning: Chinese and Japanese Designs

Updated on December 13, 2016
thelyricwriter profile image

Richard Hale is a tattoo enthusiast who studies and researches tattoo symbolism, meanings, and history.

Dragon Tattoo Ideas
Dragon Tattoo Ideas | Source

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 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.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Source
Source
Source
Source
Source
Source
Source
Source
Source
Source

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 to 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.

Source
Click thumbnail to view full-size
In this Chinese tattoo, the colors are extraordinary and brilliant. The sun can also be seen at top. As I mentioned before, the number nine is very important to the Chinese culture. A good example on how the dragon design can be mixed with the Celtic art style. This tattoo doesn't portray the entire dragon, just its eye.
Source
Source
Source
Source
Source
Source
Source
Source
In this Chinese tattoo, the colors are extraordinary and brilliant. The sun can also be seen at top. As I mentioned before, the number nine is very important to the Chinese culture.
In this Chinese tattoo, the colors are extraordinary and brilliant. The sun can also be seen at top. As I mentioned before, the number nine is very important to the Chinese culture. | Source
A good example on how the dragon design can be mixed with the Celtic art style. This tattoo doesn't portray the entire dragon, just its eye.
A good example on how the dragon design can be mixed with the Celtic art style. This tattoo doesn't portray the entire dragon, just its eye. | Source

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: 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 the 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.

Part ouroborus, part dragon.
Part ouroborus, part dragon. | Source
Click thumbnail to view full-size
Source
Source
Source
Source
Source
Source
Source
Click thumbnail to view full-size
Source
Source
Source
Source
Source
Source
Source
Source
Source
Source

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 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.

Questions & Answers

    Comments

      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment

      • jacoblee84 profile image

        jacoblee84 

        5 weeks ago

        Hi,

        i want to sharing some using human translation, to demonstrate the accuracy of Chinese Character translation. I have found 1 website for chinese translation service with a reasonable price‚Äč. Can master the Chinese Character tattoos, Chinese proverbs, translate from English to Chinese and bring out the meaning to be expressed. Cheer!

        chineseproverbs.net

      • profile image

        Duane 

        5 months ago

        what does the circle of 3 dragons mean, each head in different direction and there bodies and tails all meet in the middle and there all black with white eyes ?

      • profile image

        Che che 

        7 months ago

        I was born on the year of dragon and so i decided to tattoed it on my leg..it is beautiful but now that i know the meaning..in so glad to had that dragon on my leg.

      • profile image

        Justin 

        13 months ago

        I have both wolf and dragon tattoo on my left arm half sleeve

      • Katrina Ariel profile image

        Katrina Ariel 

        2 years ago from The Highlands of British Columbia, Canada

        I love dragons, and I have to say that some of the most interesting tattoos I've seen are of this mythical creature. Great hub.

      • profile image

        Rossy 

        3 years ago

        Very interesting. Thank you.I'm still thinking. But now I have the meanings.

      • profile image

        jakimaye 

        4 years ago

        I am getting a Chinese dragon tattoo on my forearm. I chased that china white dragon in the sixties, he caught me 40 years later. After 54 weeks of interferon and ribavirin, I slayed that same dragon. I need a reliable source for the Chinese symbol for dragon warrior. I have found my dragon, but am scared of getting a symbol that eventually turns out to mean Chinese take-out. I found your article helpful for coloring and hope you may have some direction for me.

      • Jennifer Stone profile image

        Jennifer Stone 

        6 years ago from the Riverbank, England

        I love these, and I'm really glad you have written how important it is to research the tattoo you want and the tattoo artist! I got my dragon 20 years ago and I still love it! I have also spent the last 20 years pondering on getting another, but have never found anything I really wanted... maybe your hubs could help me! :-) All the best, Jen

      • thelyricwriter profile imageAUTHOR

        Richard Ricky Hale 

        6 years ago from West Virginia

        Peter, thanks for taking the time to read this article. I am glad you found it useful and informative. The famous black dragon:) Thanks again and take care.

      • Peter Geekie profile image

        Peter Geekie 

        6 years ago from Sittingbourne

        Dear thelyricwriter,

        Thank you for a very well researched and informative article. I have a black dragon tattoo on my shoulder from my Royal Navy days and I never did know what it symbolised.

        Kind regards Peter

      • thelyricwriter profile imageAUTHOR

        Richard Ricky Hale 

        6 years ago from West Virginia

        Jeannie, it depends what you mean by reprint. If it is to print for personal use, I see no issue. That is using for teaching or tattoo ideas. Being published somewhere else or copied for personal gain, strickly prohibited. This article and all articles of "thelyricwriter" are the property of Hubpages.

      • profile image

        Jeannie in MD 

        6 years ago

        Is this article available for reprint?

      • thelyricwriter profile imageAUTHOR

        Richard Ricky Hale 

        6 years ago from West Virginia

        Angie, thanks for taking the time to read this article. Glad you liked it. Thanks for your time and comment. Take care.

      • angie ashbourne profile image

        angie ashbourne 

        6 years ago

        Hi! Interesting hub, awesome pics. Angie

      • thelyricwriter profile imageAUTHOR

        Richard Ricky Hale 

        6 years ago from West Virginia

        Kelley, thanks for coming by. It would be my pleasure. Your visit is always appreciated. Take care.

      • profile image

        kelleyward 

        6 years ago

        Very interesting hub. My son loves dragons I'm gonna shoe him all the amazIng pics you have here! Thanks for sharing.

      • thelyricwriter profile imageAUTHOR

        Richard Ricky Hale 

        6 years ago from West Virginia

        Beijing driver, thanks for stopping by to read the article. Feel free to comeback anytime. Take care.

      • beijing driver profile image

        Xin Ping 

        6 years ago from Beijing, China

        Extraordinary Chinese Dragon

        Dragon,the dragon is the symbol of the Chinese people

      • thelyricwriter profile imageAUTHOR

        Richard Ricky Hale 

        6 years ago from West Virginia

        Sueswan, thanks for coming by and for your time, comment, and votes. I am glad you were able to take something away from it. Enjoy your day as well:)

      • thelyricwriter profile imageAUTHOR

        Richard Ricky Hale 

        6 years ago from West Virginia

        Tina, thanks for taking the time to come by and read this article. I am glad you thought highly of it. I appreciate you noticing the hard work. Best wishes and take care. See you around.

      • thelyricwriter profile imageAUTHOR

        Richard Ricky Hale 

        6 years ago from West Virginia

        Homesteadbound, thanks for coming by and for your comment and vote as well. I also like these dragons tattoos. I never knew they had such symbolic meanings as they do. I hope all is well and your enjoying the holidays. Best wishes and take care.

      • profile image

        Sueswan 

        6 years ago

        Hi lyricwriter

        It was very interesting to learn about the various dragons and their significance.

        Voted up and awesome.

        Enjoy your day.

      • thougtforce profile image

        Christina Lornemark 

        6 years ago from Sweden

        I love the fantastic design in these tattoos, it is great art! The history and information about different dragons make this hub complete and so useful for everyone who want to get a dragon tattoo. Voted up,

        Tina

      • homesteadbound profile image

        Cindy Murdoch 

        6 years ago from Texas

        Some of these tattoos were totally outstanding. I really do like dragons. The colors were really nicely done also. But I did like the simplisticness of the Celtic tattoo also. Voting up!

      • thelyricwriter profile imageAUTHOR

        Richard Ricky Hale 

        6 years ago from West Virginia

        Mary, thanks for taking the time to comment and vote. I really appreciate it dear. Take care and see you soon.

      • thelyricwriter profile imageAUTHOR

        Richard Ricky Hale 

        6 years ago from West Virginia

        MM, thanks for coming by to check it out. I really like these designs and many people don't realize the meaning behind them. I find that interesting. Seems like most things in life have purpose. I appreciate your time, comment, and votes. See you soon.

      • thelyricwriter profile imageAUTHOR

        Richard Ricky Hale 

        6 years ago from West Virginia

        Blaise, thank you so much for taking the time to overlook and read this article. I appreciate your comment very much. Good point as well. I will have to add it.

      • mary615 profile image

        Mary Hyatt 

        6 years ago from Florida

        What beautiful designs. I voted this UP,etc.

      • Movie Master profile image

        Movie Master 

        6 years ago from United Kingdom

        Hi Ricky, you have written some fabulous hubs on tattoos, but these dragons have to be my favourite!

        I hope all is well with you, voting up my friend and take care MM

      • blaise25 profile image

        Fehl Dungo 

        6 years ago from close to you...

        Those are fierce tattoos. Might want to have henna.. :)

      • thelyricwriter profile imageAUTHOR

        Richard Ricky Hale 

        6 years ago from West Virginia

        Ladyhowto4u, thanks for dropping in to check it out and I am glad you find them interesting. Many people don't realize the meaning behind them and the artistic perspective they give. Once I began studying them, I found a whole new level of respect for them and tattoo artist that stay true to their symbolic roots. Glad you enjoyed them. Best wishes.

      • ladyhowto4u profile image

        Courtlney Davis 

        6 years ago

        Tatoos are an interesting topic. If they were easily removed, I think I may consider getting one -- but it would have to be a tiny one. Thanks for sharing this information on tatoos.

      • thelyricwriter profile imageAUTHOR

        Richard Ricky Hale 

        6 years ago from West Virginia

        AE, thank you for your comment and time my friend. Some of these tattoos are very colorful and cover much of the body. It is remarkable work done by the tattoo artists that perform these tattoos. I am glad you enjoyed the history part of it. Best wishes.

      • thelyricwriter profile imageAUTHOR

        Richard Ricky Hale 

        6 years ago from West Virginia

        Prasetio, thanks for coming by and for adding a comment. I am glad you enjoyed it my friend. Thanks for the votes as well. The dragon has many different meanings and I find it interesting how it is looked at by all these different cultures and in the tattoo world.

      • always exploring profile image

        Ruby Jean Richert 

        6 years ago from Southern Illinois

        I have no desire for a tattoo now, at one time i wanted a tiny rose on the ankle, just never had the courage to do it, but they are beautiful, such vivid colors. Thank you. Very interesting the history of tattooing..

      • prasetio30 profile image

        prasetio30 

        6 years ago from malang-indonesia

        Wow....this was beautiful art for me. Thank you very much for share with us. We need a tattoo expert to make beautiful dragon picture like this one. Rated up!

        Prasetio

      • thelyricwriter profile imageAUTHOR

        Richard Ricky Hale 

        6 years ago from West Virginia

        Eddy, thanks for coming by to read this article and good morning. I remember you saying that. I believe, if you really want it, go for it. Hopefully you will find that motivation to get one. I know life can keep a person busy year round. Once again thanks and best wishes.

      • Eiddwen profile image

        Eiddwen 

        6 years ago from Wales

        Hi thelyricwriter,

        Thank you so much for sharing this one, I love it.

        For the past two years or so I have been meaning to get a tattoo but just haven't got round to it.

        Maybe this great hub will motivate me.

        Thank you so much for sharing.

        Take care and I wish you a wonderful day.

        Eddy.

      • thelyricwriter profile imageAUTHOR

        Richard Ricky Hale 

        6 years ago from West Virginia

        Gypsy, thanks for coming by to check it out. I surely do appreciate your time and comment:) Have a good one.

      • Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

        Gypsy Rose Lee 

        6 years ago from Riga, Latvia

        Love those crazy tattoos. Especially the various colors and those dragons are great. Super interesting hub.

      working

      This website uses cookies

      As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, tatring.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

      For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://tatring.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

      Show Details
      Necessary
      HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
      LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
      Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
      AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
      Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
      CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
      Features
      Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
      Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
      Marketing
      Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
      Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
      Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
      Statistics
      Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
      ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)