Dragons — East and West

The dragon is the only mythological monster in the Chinese zodiac. Some people may think that rats are real monsters — but they are not. They just scare a lot of us with all the scampering around building sites and subway tracks.

Dragons are fabulous monsters. They are huge, fierce and powerful. The Chinese actually have nine kinds of dragons — this year is the year of the Water Dragon. It’s supposed to be very lucky. I certainly hope that it’s a lucky year for MONSTERS.

The dragon is the symbol of the emperor or the imperial dynasties of China’s long history. They are a decorative motif in Asian art and architecture. My mom made me a needlepoint wall hanging of a phoenix years ago. It was based on a Chinese rug design. The phoenix is the symbol of the empress. When I moved into a large apartment I asked her to make a dragon to hang with the phoenix. Now that I live in a small place, they are hung facing one another — and look amazing. Mom did a really good job!

In the west, dragons don’t fair so well. They are fearsome creatures, but their power is interpreted as evil. One way a knight, shining armor or not, made his reputation was with tales of dragon slaying. Talk about spinning good publicity out of a faux victory…. The net result is some great art, especially when St. George is the hero in question. Here are three of my favorites in the Metropolitan Museum’s collection. The Lewis Carroll is not often on exhibit, but I’ve seen this image in books. The Dürer and Crivelli are world-class works of art — worthy of places in the Met’s stellar collection.


Carlo Crivelli


Lewis Carroll (photograph)


Albrecht Dürer

It’s the Year of the Dragon. Let’s celebrate monsters.


  1. Andrea Flory

    I love dragons! I was born in January 1952 so just managed to sneak into the year of the dragon by the skin of my…. ahem, whatever 🙂 Just wish I’d inherited a few more dragon traits though. RAWR. -cough-

    I’m glad that Anne McCaffrey and Robin Hobb are bringing dragons back into the pantheon where they belong. Any chance of a Korman dragon?

    • Candy

      I’ve been thinking about that…. but there are a few monsters in the pipeline before a dragon could make an appearance.
      I’ve got a January b’day too — snuck my way into the Year of the Monkey. oooo aaaaa oooooo (chip noises).

  2. Beth M.

    Under the Chinese Zodiac I am glad to be an Earth Rooster and have to admit that I live up to my signs reputations! It’s amazing how many people truly are, in every sense, their Chinese Zodiac sign. Many people want their children to be born under the sign of the dragon due to the various fortunes it bestows. The dragon is actually considered to be a powerful king and is made up of many different animals – making it an ultimate monster in my book with all the right powers and wisdom.

    It would be great if you could write a story and include a Chinese Dragon and Chinese Phoenix, the Fenghuang. Two very powerful monsters! Interestingly enough, together they are also known as a yin and yang metaphor of man and woman.