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Posts Tagged ‘Korean folklore’

In the mythology of Korea, dragons occupy a place similar to that in Chinese and Japanese lore. They are powerful nature spirits, associated with bodies of water and rain storms. However, the Koreans have a unique hierarchy of their own.

Korean dragons start life as Imugi (ee-moo-gi), gigantic python-like serpents who dwell in deep, cold waters or in caves. They are benevolent creatures, and it’s good luck to spot one. Yet these “lesser dragons” aspire to become greater dragons, or Yong.

After it has lived for 1,000 years, an imugi begins to watch the skies. On certain occasions, a divine object called “yeouiju” may fall from the heavens. Yeouiju is similar to a falling star in that it’s believed to grant wishes. If the imugi catches the talisman, its wish will be granted, and it will become a yong.

Yong dragons are far greater, both in power and intellect. They can summon storms and fly among the clouds. They also begin to understand human emotions such as compassion, devotion, and gratitude. Yet, with humanlike pride, they cannot resist showing off their achievement, and will always carry their Yeouiju either in their mouths or gripped by one paw.

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A commenter recently asked if I could publish more information about dragon lore from Korea. And as I was in the midst of research, what should come through but a post from Princess of Dragons! Although her post covered Asian Dragons in general, she did have a portion on Korean dragons.

With her kind permission, I’m reblogging the relevant section. Click here if you’d like to read her entire post.

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Korean Lung (or Yong)

Less friendly than either the Chinese or the Japanese Lungs, Korean Lungs share the love of hot water of the Japanese, and will nest in hot springs or volcanic waters. They have also been known, if they find an appropriate pool, to heat it up themselves. This also helps with hatching their eggs, since a constant temperature of just boiling water is needed to incubate them properly.

They are very narrow, but longer than the Chinese Lung, reaching up to 50 feet in length at their largest. They have four claws on each foot, and a similar head shape to the Chinese, but no spines along their back and fewer tendrils on the face. Colours for these dragons are yellows and golds in a range of shades, with white manes.

Mainly their diet consists of small mammals, such as deer found in the country. They use their long bodies to strangle and constrict the prey, before swallowing it whole, much like a snake would. It is unknown whether they can disjoint their jaws. They also seem to have a strange dance-like pattern or coiling movement that they can use on prey, which has a hypnotic effects, making it easy for them then wrap their bodies around the prey.

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Of late I’ve been focusing on Chinese dragon lore, since Chinese New Year will be on the 19th. I’ve also spent time with Japanese folklore in the past. Now I’d like to take a break and acknowledge that the Chinese and Japanese, while amazing and beautiful, are not the sum of Asian culture. Most Asian cultures, from India to Korea and throughout the archipelagos, have dragon legends passed down from antiquity. Here are a few of them.

Vietnamese dragons are known are Rong, and are very similar to China’s Long or Lung dragons. They are symbols of life and growth.

In Korea, dragons begin as lesser water spirits known as Imugi. These benevolent serpents aspire to become true dragons, or Yong. Some legends state they must live for 1,000 years and do good works to reach this goal. Other tales claim they have been cursed and can never realize their dream. Still others say an Imugi must capture a yeouiju, the celestial pearl, in order to ascend.

The Naga of India are great serpents with human torso, arms and head whose mythic civilization played a vital role in Indian legend. I’ve written about them in the past, if you’d like to check it out. Hindu lore also includes Makara, a semi-draconic goddess of the Ganges River.

The Khmer people of Cambodia tell of the Neak, benevolent spirits that appear as giant cobras with multiple heads. Some can have as many as nine cobra heads! Male Neak have odd numbers of heads, while females have even numbers.

I know there are more. If you’ve heard of any other Asian dragons, please share!.

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