Basic Information

Alternative spellings: Tao-tieh, T'ao-tieh, T'ao T'ieh, Tao Tie
Translation: Glutton [4]
Type/Species: Long
Origin: Taoist Mythology, Chinese Mythology

About Taotie

Taotie was one of the nine sons of the dragon. He spent all his time in the kitchen, crafting savory soups. [5] Thus, his father ordered that his image be used to protect any place where food was prepared and served. [6]

In another version, Taotie was a legendary dragon, sometimes a human, who became a famous glutton during the reign of Yao in China's Golden Age (around 2500 BC). When Shun took the throne, he banished Taotie for his excess. [1]

Taotie's visage became a common design on ritual bronze implements of the Shang (c. 1700 - 1027 BC) [1] and the Western Zhou (c. 1027 - 771 BC) dynasties. These motifs represented the face of the individual Taotie. [2]

In another legend, Taotie once had a body, but the dragon was wicked enough to consume human flesh, [2] for his gluttony was without boundary or restriction. As punishment, the gods took Taotie's body away so it would no longer be able to digest anything. [3]

Historians of the Song dynasty concluded that Taotie's image warned against overindulgence. [2] The gaping mouth suggested an ever-devouring creature, which likely led to the name Taotie for this dragon. [2]

Taotie symbolized greed and sensuality, [4] and in the later myths about the Taotie being punished by the gods, his image was inscribed on food vessels specifically to remind people to avoid overindulgence. [3]

Physical Description

The ancient version of the stylistic motif characteristically looked like a zoomorphic face. Taotie's image was found on many ritual bronze implements of the Shang dynasty. [1] The mask may be divided through the middle of the nose ridge and represent the profile of two one-legged beasts (sometimes called kui dragons) that face each other. [2]

Other common design elements of Taotie include large, protuberant eyes accompanied by horns, nose crest, and fangs. Sometimes peripheral legs were included. Usually Taotie isn't depicted with a lower jaw as to appear to have a wide-open mouth with an infinite capacity for eating. [2]

Taotie was described as a hideous monster with a cavernous mouth. Its foreparts were all of the same animal, which was either a dragon, human, or tiger. The hind part of this monster was actually two hind bodies with enormous stomachs. [4]

Quick Facts

  • Taotie was one of the nine sons of the dragon. [5]
  • He spent all his time in the kitchen, crafting artisan foods. [6]
  • He was a famous glutton, banished from China for his excess. [1]
  • Later legends said that Taotie had his body taken away by the gods as punishment, [3] for his gluttony drove him to consume even human flesh. [2]
  • He symbolizes greed and sensuality. [4]
  • His motif adorns plates and other food vessels to warn humans from overindulgence. [3]

Related Articles


  1. Bates 49
  2. Bates 50
  3. Bates 51
  4. Rose [Dragons] 353
  5. Young 11
  6. Young 12

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