“Year of the Dragon” or “Year of the Loong”

As we enter the year 2024, let’s celebrate the “Year of the Dragon”, or “Year of the Loong”? In western culture, the dragon has seeped into our minds through epic stories like Smaug in “The Lord of the Rings”. But hold up, are these western dragons the same as the ones in east asian culture? What sets the dragon apart from the loong? How do they symbolize diverse cultures? Let’s explore these distinctions and the significance they hold in their respective cultures.

Western Dragon

Western dragon is a mysterious and often fearsome creature in western legends and myths. Typically portrayed as a scaly, fire-breathing creature with large wings, fearsome and malevolent in nature, the dragon embodies concepts of power, magic, and sometimes peril. Told in tales of knights and folklore, it represents a force to be feared and conquered, serving as a symbol of chaos and destruction.

For example, Smaug is one of the most recognized dragon symbols in western literature. In “The Hobbit,” Smaug is portrayed as a dragon of immense power and cunning, renowned for his vast hoard of treasure and his role in the downfall of the dwarf kingdom of Erebor. Throughout the story, Smaug becomes a potent symbol of greed, destruction, and the corrupting influence of power. His insatiable desire for gold and treasures mirrors the darker aspects of human nature, highlighting the dangers of unchecked avarice and the consequences of unbridled ambition.

Chinese Loong

In Chinese folklore, loong is described visually as a composite of parts from nine animals. With its slender body, adorned with four to five claws, it bears a resemblance to a variation of a snake and possesses the remarkable ability to fly without the aid of wings. The allure of the loong is further heightened by its auspicious connotations, being revered as the harbinger of wealth, power, and good fortune. The myth of the loong traces back to ancient times, with beliefs that it ascended to the heavens, symbolizing blessings from the divine. This celestial ascent, combined with its benevolent attributes, has woven the loong into the very fabric of Chinese culture.

Loong king of the east sea

Loong king of the east sea, also known as Ao Guang, is an important figure in Chinese traditional mythology, featuring a unique artistic depiction and story in Chinese folklore. Typically portrayed in the form of a majestic loong adorned with scales, loong horns, and a loong beard, wielding the loong king’s divine scepter, and enveloped in clouds, exuding a solemn and awe-inspiring presence. Ao symbolizes ancient Chinese reverence for maritime mythology and fishermen’s awe of the sea. Regarded as the guardian deity of the ocean, he governs the ever-changing winds and waves, representing the lively and positive aspects of Chinese culture.


In comparing the two, it is quite clear that the loong and the dragon are two different creatures, with distinct appearances, behaviors, and symbolism in their respective cultures. The dragon typically has a robust body with bat-like wings, resembling a lizard, whereas the loong has a slender body with four to five claws, resembling a variation of a snake, and notably, it can fly without wings. Additionally, the dragon is predominantly depicted in black, while the loong is mainly golden yellow with white as the primary color. Importantly, the dragon emphasizes power and ambition, whereas the loong focuses more on auspiciousness.

Fun fact, the “descendants of the loong” is a term used by the Chinese people to refer to themselves, with a sense of pride and nobility associated with it. Thus , the year of the loong is considered a more accurate translation compared to the year of the dragon.

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