By Corey Tsang

The history of China is filled with Dragons, as is its legends and traditions. In fact, the Dragon had helped shape the entire nation, even before the unification of northern China under Qin Shih Huang Ti – literally “First Exalted Emperor of the Qin” – in 221 B.C.

Dragons in China were influential due to the fact that they were considered divine rulers of lakes, rivers, seas, and other bodies of water, and were worshipped as such. Every well, no matter how small, is said to have a Dragon guarding it, and a Dragon’s displeasure was reflected in droughts and dryness. Only by appeasing the Dragon could there be any hope of seeing rain again. Offerings were made, and rituals held, to convince the Dragon to rise to the clouds to dance and frolic there, and cause rain to fall. Hence, Dragons were considered the true deities of good luck, fortune, and prosperity. There will always be at least a small shrine by wells and rivers and lakes, no matter how lacking the residents of the area were.

The Chinese Dragon is beneficent and gracious, unlike those in the West that are at times pictured as destructive beasts. Being emissaries of the Dragon Emperor in Heaven, they carried with them great authority, values, and magnificence. They have a reputation for conferring aid or wealth to those who had pleased them. Hence, Dragons were held in high regard, and their images kept and worn, to win their approval.

Quite possibly, no one sought the favor of the Dragons more than the Emperor. With millions of people looking to him for guidance, the Dragons, were more important to the Son of Heaven than to anyone else. It was said that at the coronation of the Emperor, if a Dragon was seen, then his reign would be a long and prosperous one.

The Emperor was surrounded by images of Dragons, not only to improve his leadership, but also because the Dragon was a token of the Emperor’s authority. It meant that he had received the Mandate of Heaven, thus fit to rule and serve as the intermediary between Heaven and Earth.

Not all Dragons were created equal, however. The lesser ones had four claws or less. The Imperial Dragon, had five.

The five-toed Imperial Dragon was the personal emblem of the Emperor, and he wore it on his yellow Imperial robes. Only he had the right to use its image and likeness. Anyone caught using a five-toed Dragon without permission would be given a swift beheading.

This aristocratic mythical beast, the five-toed Dragon, also served as the Imperial insignia. Court officials wore clothes that prominently displayed this Dragon, which declared to the world that the person served the Son of Heaven. Attired as such, one could go anywhere in China unhindered, and expect to have one’s every wish catered to by the local mandarins.

Often, officials walk the vast lands of China carrying an Imperial edict, a scroll bearing the seal of the Emperor, which shows a Dragon (or a pair of them, playing with a pearl). These edicts were considered the very words of the Emperor himself. The official reading aloud the edict could expect his audience to fall down on all fours, forehead to the ground, while they listened with rapt attention. It was like the Emperor himself was there.

Needless to say, the edicts were carried out to the letter, and non-compliance meant swift and dire retribution.

Things may seem to have changed since then, but the Dragon remains influential. It is still the prime symbol for leadership and success, and is kept by many aspiring and established executives, entrepreneurs, and officials. In that sense, the Dragon still paves the way for its owner nowadays, like it did the court officials. The Dragon may be ancient, but it remains as influential today as it did four thousand years ago.

Corey Tsang is the resident Feng Shui expert of, and is well-known for his bi-monthly newsletters on Feng Shui Tips and Feng Shui Alerts of the Month. For more information, please contact Mr Tsang at or visit our website at

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