Basic Information

Alternative names: Bai Long, Bailong
Title: Pai Lung Wang (The White Dragon King)
Translation: Bai Long means 'white thundercloud.' [6] Pai Lung means 'White Dragon.' [7,8]
Type/Species: Eastern Dragon, Lung
Origin: Chinese Mythology, Buddhist Mythology

About Pai Lung

Pai Lung was a dragon in the mythology and legends of China, [7] sometimes called Pai Lung Wang, the White Dragon King, or the White Dragon. [8] In Buddhist mythology, he was named Bai Long, meaning 'White Thundercloud.' [6]

In China, the color white represented death and the occult, and albino animals were believed to possess some element of the supernatural. [5] While the Lung Wang, or Dragon Kings, had considerable power over their realms of influence, Pai Lung was the only white Dragon King, [6] which connected him with supernatural forces as well as power over storms and drought.

The White Dragon Temple resides on Mount Yang Suchow, Kingsu, China. It houses a stone tablet that recounts the story of Pai Lung's birth. [8]

The Birth of Pai Lung

In the fourth century during the time of Emperor An (379-419 AD), a young woman answered the door of her family's home to discover an old man who begged shelter from a brewing storm. [6,8] She allowed him before the storm began in earnest. [7]

One legend version said that after the elderly man left the next morning, her parents discovered she was pregnant, [7,8] indicating that a supernatural power caused the pregnancy, which had become visible over night. Another legend maintained that the elderly stranger raped her, and her parents found out about it the next morning, after he had already left. [6]

In either case, her parents expelled her from their home and family, [6,8] and the young girl was forced to leave her hometown. [6] She wandered for nearly a year, begging for support form strangers, while her pregnancy came to term. [6,8]

When she gave birth, the child was no more than a lump of flesh, [8] or a ball of white flesh, [7] which appeared to have no life in it. [6] In sorrow, the young girl threw the lifeless being into the water, [7,8] and no sooner had it touched the surface than the flesh transformed into a magnificent white dragon. [7]

Pai Lung approached his mother, [8] but these events terrified her. [7] One version claimed that his mother was frightened to death by the sight of him, [6] while another stated that she fainted during a terrible storm that swelled during the dragon's transformation. [8] In one way or another, between her grief and her fear, the young woman collapsed and never woke again. [7,8]

A storm gathered as Pai Lung took flight for the first time, [8] and when his mother died, his grief unleashed another storm, this time a violent hurricane. [6] Then he flew away, disappearing over the summit of a nearby hill. [6,8]

The local people buried the young woman with honor [8] and revered her as the Mother of the White Dragon. [7]

The White Horse Legend

In Northern China, there was a temple erected in honor of the White Dragon with an associated mountain sanctuary named Pai-lung-tung, or White Dragon Grotto. One local recounted a legend that explained the founding of the temple, [3] and this legend was a later story of the White Dragon, as it occurred during the Ming dynasty, [4] which was in power between the fourteenth and seventeenth centuries AD.

Once a white horse roamed the countryside, and all the while the horse lived off the crops of the nearby villages. The governor at the time, a man named T'an, went in pursuit of the horse, whose eating habits had long plagued those who relied on their harvest for survival. He caught hold of the horse's tail near the grotto, but as soon as he did so, the horse transformed into a dragon and flew away. [4]

All those who had lost crops suddenly had a bountiful harvest; thus, a temple was erected to commemorate these events. [4] Locals define the White Dragon as a rain deity, and the white horse as one of his manifestations. [3]

Shrines and Temples Dedicated to Pai Lung

The Mother of the White Dragon was buried with honor [7] at the foot of the hill where she had given birth, which later became known as Dragon's Peak. [6] Her tomb became a popular shrine dedicated to the Mother of Pai Lung, [7,8] and it became a popular place for religious pilgrims. [6] Legend has it that Pai Lung visits his mother's tomb annually on his birthday, which falls on the eighteenth day of the third month. [6] Since the young woman lived and died in the fourth century, [6,8] the shrine was likely erected in the fourth century as well. However, since the original site contained a tomb or grave, the actual shrine may have been added later as the site gained popularity.

The legends also mention a place called the White Dragon Temple, though the location of this place varies. One account sets the White Dragon Temple on the summit in Huana, where a local Buddhist festival is held annually. [6] Another places the temple on Mount Yang Suchow in Kiangsu, [7,8] which houses a tablet that records Pai Lung's legendary birth. [7] No date for the original establishment of this temple is known.

In 1948, a team conducted a survey of rural temples found around the Hsuan-Hua region (Southern Chahar), which is now part of the Hebei province in Northern China. The team discovered several temples dedicated to different Dragon King. One of these was dedicated to the White Dragon King, Pai-lung-wang, [2] which was erected sometime during the Ming dynasty, [4] as per the White Horse Legend. [3,4]

Other sites, shrines, or temples may be dedicated to the White Dragon King. The following are variations of site names that are found on bells, stone slabs, and other records of note:

  • Lung-wang-miao ('Temple of the Dragon King') is the most common name used for the temples found in inscriptions and in spoken language. [1]
  • Lung-wang-tien ('Palace of the Dragon King') may refer to sanctuaries or temples dedicated to the Dragon King. [1]
  • Lung-wang-shen-ts'u ('Sanctuary of the Dragon King God') is another variation. [1]
  • Pai-lung-tung ('White Dragon Grotto') specifically refers to the sanctuary associated with the White Dragon Temple. [3]

The White Dragon Festival

Festivals held in honor of Pai Lung, and sometimes in honor of his mother, vary by tradition and region. The following dates are associated with festivals dedicated to the White Dragon:

  • Eighth day of the fourth moon (Pai-lung-tung) [3]
  • Eighteenth day of the third month (Buddhist festival) [6]
  • Thirteenth day of the sixth moon (Pai-lung-tung) [3]

According to popular legend, each year Pai Lung appeared ten days before the Buddhist festival in his honor in the form of a thunderstorm. [6]

Physical Description

Pai Lung was a brilliantly white, five-toed lung. [7] In Chinese symbolism, albino animals were associated with supernatural forces, including magic. [5]

Sometimes, Pai Lung appeared as a thunderstorm or a white thundercloud. [6] In one legend, he appeared as a white horse. [4]

Quick Facts

  • Pai Lung was the only white Dragon King, earning him the title Pai Lung Wang (the White Dragon King). [6,8]
  • A young woman gave birth to him as a lump of flesh, [8] which transformed into the beautiful white dragon, [7] Pai Lung.
  • In Buddhist legend, his name was Bailong, meaning 'White Thundercloud.' [6]
  • Pai Lung caused a terrible storm on the day he was born that became a hurricane. [6,8]
  • He once appeared as a white horse that decimated crops until he was caught and transformed back into a dragon. [4]
  • The tomb of Mother of the White Dragon is a shrine and popular pilgrimage site. [6,7]
  • The White Dragon Temple commemorates Pai Lung's legendary birth. [7]
  • The Pai-lung-tung, or White Dragon Grotto, commemorates the White Horse Legend. [3,4]

Related Articles


  1. Grootares 27
  2. Grootares 42
  3. Grootares 43
  4. Grootates 44
  5. Lin 33
  6. Roberts [Chinese] 31
  7. Rose [Dragons] 285
  8. Walters 111

For more information on footnotes and references, please see the bibliography.