Lung is the general term for class of dragon in the legends of China, and each class of dragon has its designated responsibility in its name (i.e. 'Pai Lung'). [14] Lung is also a species of dragon from Chinese mythology

The lung is the benevolent bringer of wealth, good fortune, [3] and the rain. [2] The Lung embody the moist, yang principle, [10] and they dwell in the clouds or the water. [10]

The element of the dragon is water, [13] as the Lung are the guardians of the earth's waters. [14]

Physical Description

Lung have the body of a gigantic carp with the legs of a tiger, talons of an eagle, and horns of a stag. [14] Other sources claim they have the head of a camel, ears of a cow, belly of a frog, paws of a tiger, horns of a deer, long whiskers of a cat, scales of a carp, eyes of a demon, long neck of a snake, and the talons of an eagle. [2] Alternatively, they are depicted with a scaly serpentine body, four legs, four paws, four huge claws to each paw, a sinuous tail, and the head of a gigantic lizard. [14]

The earliest images of the Chinese lung were depicted on shells. [5] The divergence of descriptions for the Chinese lung stems from the fact that the dragon's shape transformed over time. Around the third century B.C.E., the Chinese settled on the dragon image in the state it is today. [5]

Lung carry the pearl of wisdom in their mouths. [9] The scales on the lung's body signify universal harmony. They have one hundred seventeen scales total, with eighty-one scales being of yang influence and thirty-six scales being of yin influence. [2]

The lung can transform itself or make itself invisible. [8] They can be as tiny as a silkworm or expand so as to blot out the entire sun. [9] In their dragon form, lung don't have horns [12] and are commonly red, white, and green. [12] Smoke or fire billow from their nostrils as they fly between rain clouds. [14]

Habitat and Life Cycle

Lung lay their eggs on the banks of rivers or lakes. Their eggs appear to be beautiful stones, and they take a thousand years to hatch. [1]

Lung inhabit bodies of water; the larger the body of water, the more powerful the dragon. [2] Powerful lung control the rain and drought, [6] and in some cases they dispense the rain themselves. [2] Every sea, river, and lake has its own guardian lung, [13] and each town also had its own dragon. [2]

The lung that do not live on earth are known as the heavenly lung; they live in the Palace of the Green Dragon in the sky. [2]

After a lung has lived for five hundred years, it transforms into a k'iu-lung. [11]

Lung as a Deity

The lung are creatures of both active and reactive, yin and yang, power. They preserve and eliminate elements in nature. [2] Usually, they are beneficial, but the lung are also complex in nature, embodying the raw, primordial forces of the earth. [6]

Other Chinese dragons may also bring rain, but the lung in particular were known for replenishing the waters of the earth. [9] Lung is also the chief of all scaly animals. Lung is also one of the one of the four benevolent spiritual animals. The others are the unicorn, the phoenix, and the tortoise. [7]

As guardians, the lung belong to a race of immortals that mixed freely with the gods. [13]

Dragons in Imperial Culture

The Emperors of China and the Imperial Court have strong links to the symbolism of the dragon, especially the lung. The Emperor occupies the Dragon Throne, wears Dragon Robes, and sleeps in the Dragon Bed. [3] Chinese emperors even lived in dragon-themed palaces. [4]

The lung is the symbol of absolute power. Early emperors considered themselves the reincarnations of dragons. [4] Symbolically, the lung became so powerful and prestigious that ordinary people were forbidden from using their image, especially five-toed lung. [4]

Lung Symbolism

The lung is a symbol of transformation, linked to both the serpent and the water. [6] It symbolizes power, royalty, sovereignty, floods, rain, and clouds. [8]

The lung dragon is the dominant animal symbol in China. It represents goodness, fertility, and strength. [3]

As an important and powerful symbol, [13] and the embodiment of the raw power within the earth, [6] the lung is the spirit of change. [8]


  1. Passes 41
  2. Katz 94
  3. Littleton 435
  4. Zhang 7
  5. Zhang 47
  6. Lin 30
  7. Cavendish 631
  8. Goldsmith 153-154
  9. Cotterell 217
  10. Christie 111
  11. De Visser 72
  12. De Visser 73
  13. Sanders 48
  14. Rose [Dragons] 230

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