Dragons are fantastic creatures of our imaginations, so they do not follow many of the rigid laws of natural science. They breathe unlimited amounts of fire, can endure extreme heat and they can fly despite their massive size. But perhaps the most unrealistic feature of dragons is the fact that they have an unnatural number of limbs.
All vertebrate animals on Earth follow a simple rule: they are four-legged creatures, also called tetrapods. The limbs may have devolved away such as in whales and snakes, but they remain as vestigial structures or still encoded for in the genes. Birds and bats have adapted their upper limbs into wings to fly, but the total number of limbs is still four.
How many limbs does a dragon have? They have four legs that they stand on, but also two large membranous wings like a bat. This means that they have a total of six limbs. The only other animals that share this trait are insects and other mythical creatures such as the centaur and pegasus.
To be a vertebrate with six limbs, a dragon must have evolved from an ancestor separate to Tetrapodomorpha, an ancient fish-like creature with four limbs that is the common ancestor to all four-legged beasts. Alternatively, the wings may not be true “limbs” and be similar to flying lizards that evolved to have a rib jut out with a membrane attached to act as a glider.
The Ouroboros is a symbol that depicts a serpent or a dragon biting its own tail, forming a ring. It is the symbol of cyclicality – something that is in a constant cycle of rebirth through the three steps of creation, maintenance and destruction.
The concept of a serpent devouring itself likely stems from the ancient belief that a snake shedding its skin is the act of leaving an old, inferior body to be reborn into a better, new body. The ancient Greeks explained that the Ouroboros connects its beginning (mouth) and end (tail) to form a metaphor for the link between life and death. By forming a circle, the Ouroboros has no beginning and no end; it is an infinite, linear path that cycles endlessly. Because of this, the Ouroboros is also the symbol of infinity, immortality and the cycle of time. An alternate ancient explanation for the Ouroboros is that because it eats itself, it will ultimately end up as nothing.
The Ouroboros was an important symbol in medieval alchemy. Alchemists used the symbol “O” to represent the Ouroboros. To the alchemists, the Ouroboros was an entity that did not place importance in the two natural processes of creation and destruction, but the often-neglected third force – maintenance. This neutral process is the connection between the start and end of anything. Alchemists knew that in any chemical reaction, the process is just as important as the starting ingredients and the final product. The Ouroboros also represented “everything” and “perfection” to alchemists as it connected its own beginning and end. Because of this, the Ouroboros came to represent the Philosopher’s stone.
Perhaps the most relevant application of the Ouroboros to us is the concept of rebirth and cycling. Nothing in nature is permanent. Matter changes states, chemicals react and species evolve. We too are never permanent. There is always room for change – to destroy what you do not like about yourself, create something better and then maintain that state until the next cycle comes. As much as it is important to know to love who you are, it is vital that you continuously recycle, refine and develop yourself to become the person that you are truly happy to call “me”.
According to the ancient writings of Chinese author Han Feizi, a dragon is a gentle creature that a man can tame and even ride on the back of. However, one must be extremely cautious of the inverted scale on the neck of the dragon. Touching this scale will cause the dragon to become enraged, immediately killing the person.
Any person has strengths and weaknesses. Some people love to draw out another person’s weakness and are deluded that finding a person’s greatest weakness is a victory. But in human relationships, touching another person’s “inverted scale” can be a critical mistake. Who would want to deal with a person that prods at their weakness? Even during a heated debate, attacking the opponent serves no purpose and is only a destructive act. This kind of dirty move may bring you short-term “victory”, but in the long-term it can cause you to be forever alone. No matter how gentle the person may be, picking on something they are sensitive about may cause them to strike down with great vengeance and furious anger upon you.
The wisdom of the anecdote of the dragon’s scale can also be applied to how people should treat those below them. Whatever your position may be, making fun of your staff’s weaknesses will lead to the loss of trust and respect from them. Sun Tzu’s The Art of War teaches that a general must never attack a soldier’s faults but rather show wisdom in helping the soldier fix the problem on their own.
Lastly, when persuading another person, instead of speaking of their weaknesses, bring up their strengths. Avoiding the “inverted scale” is one of the most important skills in the art of persuasion.
The most important aspect of relationships is following the philosophy of 1 + 1 = 3 by co-operating and having a constructive meeting. A destructive person that attacks others can never progress.
화룡점정 (Hwa Ryong Jum Jung) – 畵 그림 화 (painting). 龍 용 룡 (dragon). 點 점 찍을 점 (spot). 睛 눈동자 정 (pupil).
During the Liang Dynasty (modern day China), there lived a famous painter called Zhang Sengyao. It is said that he was such a skilled artist that his paintings were lifelike and almost like a photograph.
One day, a monk asked him to paint a mural of dragons on the wall of his temple. Zhang accepted and proceeded to draw four dragons rising through black clouds. The fluid motion of the body, armour-like scales, the ferocious and vivacious look of the dragons… the sheer scale and detail of the painting astounded everyone who gazed upon the painting. However, people noted that none of the dragons had eyes drawn in.
When asked why, Zhang simply replied: “If I draw in the eyes, the dragon will immediately burst out of the wall and fly off.” No one believed him and laughed at such an insane comment. After constant pressure from the people to do it, Zhang reluctantly lifted his brush and plotted a single black dot where the eye was to be.
Suddenly, lightning flashed and thunderclaps boomed out of the painting, from where a dragon emerged and proceeded to flash off into the sky. The people were speechless. The painting (minus the one dragon) still exists to this day.
To seek perfection is arrogance. This is a common mistake found in modern society, where people are too obsessed with becoming perfect and not see the beauty of imperfection.
Dragons are mythical animals that appear in many myths and legends. They are usually portrayed as gigantic reptiles, similar to snakes or lizards, and appear in stories from cultures around the world. Due to this, they can be split into two large groups: Eastern and Western Dragons, which have quite a few differences between them.
Western dragons look like dinosaurs or giant lizards, with a large body with bat-like wings and usually able to breathe fire. Eastern dragons are sleek like large serpents, with four legs and antlers and the ability to control weather (water-element based).
Eastern dragons are wise and benevolent creatures that help people, with omnipotent powers contained in yeouiju (dragon orb). Western dragons are violent and evil creatures that harm people, loot gold and jewellery and destroy villages.
Western dragons are the greatest enemy the hero has to kill, and is feared by the people. Eastern dragons are often teachers to heroes, giving them advice and help, while being worshipped by the people.
Like this the two kinds of dragons are mirror images regarding many characteristics, but the idea of a large reptile being conceived by so many cultures so far apart is quite strange. This leads many to believe that dragons are based on actual animals, and is likely the result of explorers finding dinosaur fossils, wondering what those animals would look like if they were alive.