The tradition of the dragon is often associated with the number nine in Chinese art. The legend of the Nine Sons of the Dragon explains the reasons behind the different dragons utilized as ornaments for specific objects. [6]

Another example can be found in the jiu long bi (nine dragon screens). They were positioned to ward off evil spirits and were specially created to protect temples and imperial residences. [1] They include the following:

  • Datong, Shanxi in 1368 [1]
  • Beihai Park, Beijing in 1417 [1]
  • Forbidden City, Beijing in 1771 [1]

Before these marvelous works existed, however, a Toaist Painter named Chen Rong / Chhen Jung created the Nine Dragon Scroll in 1244. [5]

Nine Dragon Scroll by Chen Rong

Chen Rong, an official and artist in China during the mid-thirteenth century, painted a long hand scroll now dubbed The Nine Dragon Scroll, or simply Nine Dragons. [11] The scroll is approximately 50 ft. (15.3 m) [11] long by 18 in. (46.3 cm) tall, although some places list the length as approximately 36 ft. (11 m). [10]

The hand scroll also contains a poem and inscription by Chen Rong. These indicate that this work was inspired by the eighth century painter Can Ba's painting Nine Horses as well as Haichong's art Nine Deer. [11]

The medium is monochrome ink on paper with a small amount of red, [11] and it remains one of the most striking Taoist paintings. [10] While the long represented imperial power and were symbols of the emperor, [5] they also have a specific meaning in Taoism as manifestations of the Dao, or the Way of Nature, [10] the central truth of Taoist philosophy. [5] They are truths that appear for a moment then vanish in mystery. [5]

The Dragon Scroll depicts nine long, or dragons, around ocean waves, clouds, [5] mist, whirlpools, fire, [10] winds, and cliffs. [11] They represent the creative forces of Nature manifesting in life and disappearing. The nine transformations mirror the workings of the supernatural world in the creative process. [10]

The Nine Sons of the Dragon

According to legend, the dragon had nine sons, each of whom inherited at least one great talent from their father. To each of their abilities they were given specific positions and used as ornamental designs. [2] Several ancient publications outline the names and nature of the nine dragon sons, but the do not agree. [2] A grand total of nineteen different sons of the dragon exist, but nine, being an auspicious number, remains the popular element in the legend. [4]

The following are all referenced as the sons of the dragon:

  1. Ba-Sha [4]
  2. Ba Xia [3]
  3. Baxia [3]
  4. Bei-She [4]
  5. Beixi [3]
  6. Bi-An [2]
  7. Bixi [2]
  8. Chao Feng [2]
  9. Chiwen [2]
  10. Haoxian [4]
  11. Jiaotu [3]
  12. Pu-Lao [2]
  13. Qiuniu [2]
  14. Sua Ni [2]
  15. Taotie [3]
  16. Tiao Tu [9]
  17. Tao-Tieh [9]
  18. Yazi [2]
  19. Zhayu [2]

In terms of legend, one story claims that the dragon's divergent progeny relates directly to his nature, which is lewd and causes him to copulate with many animals, thus producing many offspring. [7] However, the multiplicity of dragons in some cases comes down to translation and language (the same dragon with a slightly different name). Variations in the list of dragons also came about through different traditions contributing.

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  1. Bates 40
  2. Bates 43
  3. Bates 44
  4. Bates 45
  5. Christie 44
  6. De Visser 101
  7. De Visser 102
  8. National Geographic [Essential] 342
  9. Young 1
  10. The Dragon Painter: Chen Rong
  11. Nine Dragons

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