Dragons in Tibet: The True Elevation
For Tibetans, dragons are not only mythical curiosities, they are an integral part of everyday life and culture.
Like many other Asian countries, the Tibetan dragon (also called "draco montana", "druk", "drug" or "zhug") is a central element in the cultural and spiritual identity of the country. Tibet is even known as the "dragon in the land of snow".
The Tibetan dragon is a wise and solitary creature. It lives in the Himalayas and its scientific name (draco montana) means "mountain dragon".
1. Atypical Origins
The Tibetan plateau is relatively isolated geographically. This implies that it took a long time before the Chinese mythology of Zen and Feng Shui could "merge" with the local Tibetan dragon tradition.
Surprisingly, there is evidence that Indian elements (like the Naga) have infiltrated the ancestral culture of Tibet. This was long before the influence of China (through the Tang dynasty) was felt in Tibet.
This atypical cultural fusion, Indian and then Chinese, implies that Tibetans perceive dragons in a slightly different way than their Asian neighbors.
Explore our mythological creatures from Asia here:
2. Where do they live?
Dragons of Tibetan origin live in snowy regions, mainly in the mountains.
In summer, when the snow melts, they go to the top of the mountains. They are found in particular on Mount Kailash, which is the supposed home of the great Tsangpo, whom they protect from those who wish him harm, by devouring them.
They also feed on other prey, such as yetis or, more rarely, yaks.
3. Their Physical Appearance
Here are the physical characteristics of the Tibetan dragon:
- A long body (about 12 meters), but thinner (3 to 3.5 meters) than the Chinese dragon. This can be explained as an adaptation to the high altitude in which they live,
- A neck and a head smaller than the Chinese dragon,
- The same number of toes as the Chinese dragon, namely: five,
- They are iridescent red or orange, because they do not need to be camouflaged.
4. Their Eggs
At birth, their eggs are laid in the snow, are round, and yellow, orange or green in color. When they hatch, the chicks are aquatic, which means that they swim in the snow.
5. A Tibetan Dignity
In Tibet, there are four "dignities":
- the Tiger,
- the Snow Lion,
- the Garuda,
- and the Dragon.
6. Their Powers
According to Tibetan history, the Tibetan dragon has the ability to communicate and enlighten perfectly. Thus, it sees through slander and other forms of manipulation.
Dragons are imperceptible to the human eye. However, they announce their presence with a thunderclap, which wakes people up from the torpor in which they would be immersed. Thus, they would be rid of their false beliefs and perceptions by the Tibetan dragon.
They are also known to meditate with the monks, although it is forbidden to communicate verbally with them.
7. In Art
Tibetan dragons are found on the doors and roofs of Tibetan temples. And sometimes even on a mani jewel, which would embody the teachings of the Buddha.
Because of the importance of the dragon in Tibet, it is found on the Tibetan prayer flag and prayer wheels. Many can be seen on the roofs of traditional Tibetan houses.
On the Tibetan prayer flag, called Lung Ta, it is in a corner with other dignities. There is also a horse. These flags are hoisted to increase the Lung of a person, or his luck.
Moreover, the term Lung is the same as the Chinese word, which can be translated in many forms, one of them is "dragon".
These powerful creatures are everywhere, from the founding of Tibet to the present day.
While Western dragons are nowadays mostly present in dragon shows and movies, Asian dragons are omnipresent in the landscape of their countries. Tibet is no exception to this rule. Thus, they are on bags, clothes, cars, company logos, games...
While most Westerners perceive dragons as terrifying, bloodthirsty creatures, people in East Asia see them as a very high cultural and spiritual dimension. For them, dragons bring health, energy, wisdom and prosperity.
And finally, don't forget to check out the awesome dragon decorations we have here: