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Posts Tagged ‘Asian dragons’

Whoa, really? I’ve been blogging for five years? Who’da thought I could find things to say about dragons for five whole years? But I did. So… I guess I’ll just keep it up.

Since this is my anniversary time, I’ve been looking over the stats that WordPress so kindly offers. In 2016 I was able to be pretty consistent with my twice-weekly schedule. Most every Wednesday and Saturday saw a post. I’m not always able to get posts up by 10:00 am, as I want to, but you can’t win them all.

At the start of 2016, I had 157 followers. Now I have 207. That’s 50 more new friends. Hi, everyone! *waving madly* I hope you all enjoy the blog. If you’re curious about something dragonish, I’ll be happy to take questions in the comments.

Speaking of comments, my top commenters in 2016 have been  Craig Boyack and David Lee Summers. They both are fellow writers with some fine blogs of their own. I hope you’ll check them out. Now, what about the other 205 of you? Not that I’m hinting or anything, but I always love getting comments!

My subject matter this year has remained a mix of folklore and myths, book and movie reviews, weird science and funny stuff, all featuring dragons. By far the most popular posts are the ones around Asian dragon lore, such as The Four Dragons and The Dragon’s Pearl. These are perpetual favorites. However, I had the most fun when I blogged about hoaxes such as the alleged “pickled dragon fetus” that turned out to be a publicity stunt.

See you Saturday, when I’ll talk about resolutions for 2017.

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It’s been a good while since I covered this topic, but here’s an awe-inspiring statue of a dragon located at Wat Sampran Temple in Thailand. What I love is how it doesn’t just stand or sit majestically, but dynamically climbs and wraps itself around the tower.

wsp5

Wat Sampran is a striking symbol for modern Thailand. It’s huge and splashy, visible for miles around, a sure draw for tourists. Yet it is also a working temple where Buddhist monks study and worship. Every part of it is based on Buddhist traditions. To quote the tourism website Life SE Asian Magazine:

“…80 meters high as the age of the Buddha, There are 16 storey … as heaven 16 heavens. … About the red color. The Chinese believe that red Color of bringing fortune.  Thai people believe The color of sacrifice and unity. …

“Dragons is meaning represent the strong, ascendancy high very halo are resolute, courage. Antique Chinese person used as a symbol of the Emperor. Dragon is entwined a the building the Buddhist monk from 1 story to 16 storey is meaning to The circulation of the low perspective to high perspective bores by take 108 with preaching by 108 monks to the nirvana in the heaven. Green dragon scales, gold bars is a peacefulness as a shade of the trees. Fins and tail of the dragon is the compulsion,  poised to go the right direction and is a weapon for protect dangerous. Legs, fingers and nails dragon is moving towards the direction of greatness and captured, the braced, firmly without falling.”

Despite the struggle with English language, there’s a poetic grandeur to this description. Wat Sampran is definitely on my “I want to go there someday” list.

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A young girl and her dragon friend embark on a fantastic quest in this Asian-styled adventure for middle readers. Author Lin draws upon her own Chinese heritage to create this sweet story with a mythic flair.

Fruitless Mountain gets its name from a harsh reality: the rocky land bears little fruit, so that the villagers must struggle for survival. Minli works hard along side her parents every day. Hungry nights are softened by her father’s thrilling tales from legend and myth. Meanwhile, her mother regards it all as a useless fancy, and scolds her husband for filling their daughter’s head with dreams.

On impulse, Minli brings home a pretty goldfish as a pet, but Mother sighs bitterly over one more mouth to feed. Realizing her mistake, Minli goes to release her pet in a nearby river. But this is no ordinary goldfish. With her pure faith and trust in the tales her father told her, Minli sets off to bring happiness to her family.

The text in some ways is deceptively simple, and many of the characters have little dimension beyond their roles. And yet, the threads of several stories are woven together so cleverly, it’s hard the grudge anything. Where the Mountain Meets the Moon won a number of awards, including a Newberry Honor. It’s easy to see why.

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I’m preparing for an appearance tonight, but I’ve been recounting the legend of a nagini, Zathi, so here’s a reblog from April 2013 about the mythical race of nagas.

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The Indian Naga, Part 1
If you are like me, the first you knew of Indian myth was an exotic creature in the D&D monster manual, called a naga. It had a serpent’s body and the head of a human. (I know, nagas aren’t dragons! But they’re pretty cool, and I’m going to cover them anyway. So there.)

Nagas are a kind of creature like elves and dwarves, that have a long history in folklore. They appear in lots of stories, where they sometimes behave in contradictory ways. Also like elves and dwarves, nagas are not individual monsters but an entire race, separate from humans but intellectually equal.

Nagas, generally, are snakes that can take human form. They seem able to choose what parts are human and what are serpent, so sometimes they are entirely snake, sometimes they are snakes with multiple heads, and sometimes they are humans with serpent coils from the waist down. Naga are immortal, demi-gods in Western terms, and many are skilled sorcerers.

A naga man is called naga, and a woman is nagini. (If you were wondering, yes, this is where J. K. Rowling got the name for Voldemort’s serpent companion.) They dwell in a nether realm called Patala, and have been ruled by various kings and princes. Nagas practice multiple marriage, with powerful naga men having several wives. There aren’t any stories that I’ve found where nagini act as leaders.*

In part, nagas are nature spirits associated with rivers or underground caverns. As such, they are vulnerable when humans alter or damage the environment. In most tales, nagas are only malevolent when reacting to such depredations. Some also are treasure guardians, so perhaps they strike back to defend what is theirs.

*Update: Technically, the nagini Zathi does not hold a position of power. Yet she is a spiritual leader whose philosophy is highly influential in the world around her.

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In part 2 of this Burmese folk tale, a snow-white crow took word to the Sun God that his wife, a naga princess, was about to give birth. The Sun God sent a precious ruby to celebrate, but the foolish crow left the parcel unattended…

When the crow had stuffed himself on rice from the cart, he returned to his hiding place. Not knowing that the parcel had been tampered with, he continued on his way. Zathi was in her underground palace, curled around her three golden eggs. The princess was sad to hear that her husband could not return to her, but she cheered up when the crow presented her with a silk-wrapped gift. Imagine her shock to find a piece of dried dung inside!

“Is this what my husband thinks of me?” she cried. “I thought we were happy together. How could he despise me and our children?”

Zathi sent the crow away and shut herself up with her eggs. She brooded for days, unable to bear the Sun God’s cruel scorn. Before the eggs could hatch, she had died of a broken heart.

When the Sun God heard this news, his shining face went dark. He mourned his lost love and demanded news of anyone he could find. Eventually he learned that Zathi had received a piece of dung instead of the ruby he had sent. Immediately, he summoned the snow-white crow.

“You selfish, irresponsible creature!” bellowed the Sun God. His flames blazed with searing heat, and he blew a blast at the crow.

“Forgive me,” wept the crow. “I am but a humble creature of the world.”

The Sun God knew his beloved Zathi wouldn’t have wanted the crow to die, so he caught back his fiery breath. The white crow’s feathers were blackened and scorched, and every crow in the world has been black from that time on.

The three eggs lay in Zathi’s chamber, with no one to care for them. When the rainy season came, a flood washed them out into the Irrawaddy River. The tide tumbled one egg into the rocks near a town called Mogok. It shattered, scattering millions of blood-red rubies over the shore. Since then, Mogok has been famous for the beautiful gems that are found there.

The current bore the other two eggs down to Central Burma, before another one broke against a half-submerged log. Out burst a fierce tiger, roaring with all the pride of Zathi’s great heritage. It climbed up the log and slunk into the forest. That is how the jungles of Burma came to be the home of mighty tigers.

The last log tumbled on until it was caught between two rocks in Southern Burma. That egg, too, cracked open. A huge crocodile swam away, its heart cold with all of Zathi’s despair. Whenever people travel by boat on the Irrawaddy River, they have to watch out for crocodiles lurking in the water.

You see, this is why the crocodile and the tiger share the same nature, even though they look different. They are the lost sons of Zathi and the Sun God. Because of the merchant who stole their heritage and broke their mother’s heart, they will never miss a chance to get revenge on any humans they encounter.

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In my previous post, I began a traditional Burmese folk tale that related the love and marriage of the Sun God with a Naga princess, Zathi. After the Sun God was called back to the Heavens, Zathi sent a snow-white crow to tell him their children were about to emerge from their eggs.

The crow, who had a vain nature, held his head high and preened his feathers to their finest. “Just think, I have been chosen to carry a message to the Heavens!” Up he flew, boasting to everyone he met about his important job.

When he reached the Sun God’s palace, the deity beamed with joy at his news. “Alas,” he said, “I cannot come down just now. It gets too hot when I am on Earth, and that is dangerous for all living things. I know my dear wife will understand.”

However, he searched among his treasures for token to show Zathi his love. He chose a huge, blood-red ruby and wrapped it in silken cloth. “Give this precious stone to my beloved Naga princess. Ask her to buy a kingdom with it. Our children will grow up to rule over that kingdom, and I will always be able to smile upon my family.”

“I will guard it with my life!” cawed the crow. “You have chosen your messenger wisely. No other could be a more trustworthy servant.”

Down he flew, with the parcel in his beak. But as he flew over the Burmese countryside, he spotted a merchant’s caravan bumping along the mountain roads. The cart was loaded with sacks of rice, and bits dribbled out as it jolted over the ruts. Noisy birds swooped in, chattering as they grabbed bits of grain. Despite his best intentions, the crow’s nature took hold of him.

“I am tired and hungry,” he said to himself. “I deserve a reward for my hard work.” So the crow landed in some bushes and hid his precious bundle there before darting off. Soon he was thick among the birds, cawing and snatching up the rice.

While the crow was gone, one of the merchants passed those bushes. He spied a gleam of silken fabric and went to see what it was. Under the bushes, he gasped to see the magnificent ruby folded into the cloth.

“What luck!” the merchant cried. Looking around to see that no one was watching, he tucked the gem into his belt. Then he took a piece of dried dung from the ground, wrapped it in the cloth, and returned it to its hiding place. The merchant strolled off as if nothing had happened.

Uh-oh! Check back on Tuesday for the final chapter.

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Long ago, in the beautiful land of Burma, there was a Naga princess named Zathi. She came from a fierce and proud Naga kingdom below the hills. However, her heart was gentle and full of love. She often traveled the world to spread wisdom among humankind. Even small animals, which normally fled from the terrifying Nagas, would gather in her presence.

One day the Sun God was passing over Burma. He saw a glow from beyond the hills, and went to investigate. There he saw Zathi, stretched out to bask in the sun. Light reflected from her iridescent scales, making her seem as a river of fire with eyes like blazing coals.

“What a glorious creature!” cried the Sun God. He lingered to admire her, and the longer he looked, the greater his admiration. For several days, the love-struck Sun God could not stop watching her, nor could he sleep at night. Eventually he descended to Earth to ask for her hand in marriage.

Zathi agreed, and they were married. They lived together quite happily, until one day the Sun God was called back to the Heavens. No matter how he wished to stay with his Naga princess, the Sun God could not shirk his appointed duties. Zathi watched with sorrow as her beloved husband rose higher and higher into the sky.

A short time later, Zathi discovered that she was soon to be a mother. She returned to her underground home to rest and prepare. Soon she produced three golden eggs. She tended them with her loving warmth. After many days, she sensed that they were about to hatch. Making her way to the surface, she searched for a messenger. She found a handsome, snow-white crow — for in those days, all crows had white feathers. At first the crow was terrified, but she spoke softly and he calmed down enough to listen.

“Please, friend, fly to the Heavens and tell the Sun God his children are soon to be born. I beg him to come and welcome them.”

“That would be my honor!” cawed the crow, and he flew off with the message.

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Do you really think it will be that easy? Check back on Saturday for more of the story.

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Since dragons are widely known for their ferocity and power, it shouldn’t be a surprise that many organizations have chosen dragons as their team mascots and symbols. Here in the US, there are:

The Dayton Dragons, a minor league basball team.
The Chesapeake Dragons and San Antonio Dragons play minor league hockey.
The Los Angeles Dragons, New York Dragons, and Wisconsin Dragons are minor league American-football teams. (Wisconsin is a women’s team.) Fantasy football, indeed!

Dragons are equally poplar with institutes for higher learning. The Drexel University, Lane College, Tiffin University, and Minnesota State University mascots are all Dragons. High schools like St. George’s School, in my home town, call the Dragons their own.

Internationally, there are at least three Dragon teams in China (ice hockey, baseball and basketball), two in South Korea (football), and one each in Japan (baseball) and the Philippines (basketball). Another three Dragon teams in Africa all play soccer. Teams in Europe play rugby, soccer and American football. No fewer than four Dragon teams play rugby in Australia and the Pacific Islands.

And this doesn’t even cover the sports league for dragon boat racing!

Check this Disambiguation Page for a total list of nearly fifty international Dragon sports teams. Whatever sports you follow, you can find some Dragons to cheer on!

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Those dragons, they are everywhere!

photo by Deby Fredericks

photo by Deby Fredericks

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I wrote last year about the Chinese Lantern Festival hosted in my home town of Spokane, Washington. It was a beautiful sight, and so well received that they’ve decided to do it again.

Unfortunately, they aren’t doing the dining portion this time. However, the lanterns and sculptures are all-new. The big piece last year was a red dragon, which will return along with a number of smaller dragons and other beasts. However, the highlight for 2016 will be a model temple, in the style of Angkor Wat, which is built of porcelain plates and teacups.

The Lantern Festival is a little earlier this year than last. In fact, it just opened last night and runs until October 30th. This will likely increase attendance, as the bitterly cold weather will not have arrived yet. So will a slight reduction in the ticket price. They have also been a little less jealous about guarding the lanterns from public view. Allowing glimpses of the pieces ought to build interest.

It’s certainly worked, at least for our family.

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