The Myth of Long Wang, the Chinese Dragon King
In Chinese mythology, the Dragon King is the lord of the waters and god of dragons. Also known as Long Wang (or Longwang), the Chinese dragon king is a powerful god that can control the dragons of sea and underworld, all the creatures in the oceans, the waves of the seas, and the weather.
The god of dragons lives an opulent lifestyle in a palace underneath the seas where he eats a diet of gems and commands an army of aquatic lifeforms. He can also shapeshift between dragon and human form. Considered ferocious, intimidating, and quick to anger, Long Wang is a fearsome deity that is the embodiment of yang.
The Dragon King is commonly worshipped in Chinese and Japanese coastal communities, as his favor is important to those living near the sea. The god of dragons, although fearsome, is seen as representative of benevolence and fortune, and is believed to represent chi (qi) energy. Long Wang is also seen as the curer of droughts and responsible for rainfall throughout the coast lands.
Among Chinese deities, beliefs in the dragon gods are some of the oldest, as dragons have been revered in China from the most ancient of days. As it was common for the ancient Chinese to believe that reptiles represented evolution from their ancestors, artifacts of dragons have been found dating over seven thousand years ago (Henan’s Yangshao Culture – 5th century BC). Other dragon artifacts, including bits of jade believed to signify rank, have been found dated to the Hongshan cultures of 4,000 BC.
Long Wang is typically depicted in two forms – as a human persona and as a zoomorphic dragon. As a human, the dragon god appears as a fierce warrior with intricate, flowing royal robes and long dark beard. His skin and eyes are deep red, representing his ferociousness. As a dragon, the Dragon King is typically depicted in the Chinese dragon style, with a long snake-like body with four legs, many horns, a beard, and sharp claws.
Depending on the artist, the color of his scales change, but are most often presented as red. In the oldest Chinese texts, the Dragon King is described as having a horse like face with wings along its side.
The name Long Wang literally means Dragon King (long = dragon; wang = king). The dragon god is also often called Longshen (dragon god) or Sihai Longwang (Dragon King of the Four Seas).
Who is Dragon King in Chinese Mythology
In Chinese mythology, the Dragon King is the god of the seas and of dragons and receives his orders directly from the Jade Emperor. Long Wang is also revered as a weather and water deity and is honored as the giver of rain. The Dragon King is also the patron guardian of a number of Chinese coastal towns and bodies of water.
The Dragon King can take human or dragon form at will. In his dragon form, the Dragon King is often referred to as Sihai Longwang who with his brother, the Yellow Dragon (Huang Long), represent the water and underworld entities that are ruled by the Wushen (also called the Five Forms of the Highest Diety). He is also called the Dragon King of Wells and Springs.
In Chinese myth, Long Wang has four younger brothers, also dragons who can shapeshift into human form – Ao Run oversees and guards the West Sea; Ao Qin the South, Ao Guang the Eastern, and Ao Shun over the North. As the Dragon King, Long Wang’s younger brothers answer to him. Long Wang lived in a great palace under the sea where he lived a decadent lifestyle eating gems and precious stones. His brothers each had their own smaller palaces, and when they visited one another, they would speak telepathically.
The Dragon King has many thousands of descendants, including a daughter named Sagara who becomes a Buddha in The Lotus Sutra. It was also common for early Chinese emperors to claim direct descent from the Dragon King to better establish themselves as fierce and powerful.
Most myths of the Dragon King present him as an aggressive and turbulent personality, quick to anger and reaction. As the yang persona, he was the opposite of the goddess Mazu’s (the female Chinese sea goddess known for her kindness and benevolence) yin.
– The Lotus Sutra
The most famous legend of the Dragon King reveals how Long Wang achieved godhood through the methods of the Buddha.
The Dragon King fathered thousands of children, but only one of them became famous as a student of Buddha. Long Wang’s eight year old daughter, Sagara, once saw a beggar and felt compassion for him. Seeing his suffering, she gave the beggar a rare jewel as a gift. Unbeknownst to her, the beggar was actually Buddha in disguise.
After revealing himself and seeing her potential as a student, the Buddha took Sagara under his tutelage and taught her the dharma. Even though it annoyed the Dragon King greatly (due to his impulsive and impetuous personality) that his daughter was now a disciple of Buddha, he honored Sagara’s wishes and did not prevent her learning under the Buddha’s wing.
Sagara, however, had a plan in mind. It was her desire to teach the ways of the Buddha to her father so that he would become more than immortal. She desired the Dragon King to become a god. After many attempts to teach her father the ways of the Buddha, Long Wang refused to listen. He enjoyed his fiery nature, and he loved eating gems and precious stones.
Seeing how much Sagara desired her father to know his teachings, ultimately the Buddha made a trip to the Dragon King’s ocean palace himself. The Dragon King was impressed with the Buddha and soon began to learn of dharma directly from the master. Finally seeing the merit of the Buddha’s teachings, Long Wang began to weave dharmic concepts into all of his kingdom business. And after adopting the Buddha’s concepts himself, the Dragon King soon attained godhood.
– The Ministry of Waters
Long Wang and his brothers, the Four Dragons, oversaw the larger lakes, seas, and oceans of Earth. Working with four freshwater dragons (rivers and streams), the nine dragons served as the Ministry of Waters, with Long Wang as the head. As they ruled over all of the waters of the planet, they ruled over the weather as well. It is still customary in times of drought to call out for the blessing of Long Wang to release the waters from heaven.
While Long Wang is often represented by many colors, his four brothers each have the color that represents the four cardinal directions:
- Ao Run, the dragon of the West Sea, is the color white and represents autumn
- Ao Qin, the dragon of the South China Sea, is the color red and represents the summer season
- Ao Guang, the dragon of the East China Sea is the color azure and is represents the rebirth of spring
- Ao Shun is the dragon of the north and represents Lake Baikal. He is known as the dark dragon and his season is winter
Although the Dragon King is considered the monarch over the Four Dragons, Long Wang does receive orders and decrees from the Jade Emperor.
In later Chinese myths, the name Long Wang came to represent the combination of the Four Dragons and the Yellow Dragon, Huang Long, with the latter representing earth. The Yellow Dragon also represented the Yellow Emperor, the first emperor of China and legendary Chinese sovereign.
Belief in the Dragon King today
The belief in Long Wang is still common today in China’s coastal villages and communities. His favor is especially sought after in times of drought. Like the goddess Mazu, temples to the Dragon King are commonly found along shoreline roads and are also found at the end destinations of seafaring travelers.
Sacrifices and processions are offered to the Dragon God during the fifth and sixth lunar months, and larger celebrations are made on the thirteenth day of the sixth month as this is revered as the Dragon King’s birthday. Dragon boats, which are paddled by up to 22 men and women, are traditionally raced during the Dragon King’s celebrations. The Dragon King’s long snake like body is also a favorite representation during Chinese New Year parades.
Long Wang, the mythological Dragon King
In Chinese mythology, the Dragon King (also known as Long Wang) is the lord of the waters and god of dragons. The Chinese Dragon King is revered as a god that can control the dragons of the underworld and seas, all the creatures in the oceans, and the weather.
- Long Wang was famous throughout China and Japan, but belief in him was strongest along the coast. He could control the creatures of the sea, and had a palace beneath the waves
- The Dragon King can take on human form at will, but is typically represented as a multi-colored long snake like dragon with four legs wings, and a horse’s head
- In human form, Long Wang is depicted with long robes, dark hair, and deep red skin
- Known for his fiery temper, the Dragon King is considered the embodiment of the yang and of chi energy
- Belief in the power of dragons has been traced back over 7,000 years in China, and myths of the Dragon King have been found in ancient texts. Chinese emperors claimed descendance from Long Wang to strengthen their own claims to the throne
- The Dragon King had four younger brothers, each representing different compass points and bodies of water – Ao Run, the dragon of the West Sea; Ao Qin, the dragon of the South China Sea; Ao Guang, the dragon of the East China Sea; and Ao Shun, the dragon of the north
- The most famous legend of the Dragon King is how he attained godhood through the teachings of the Buddha – The Lotus Sutra
- Belief in the Dragon King is still strong today, with many temples being found along coastal roads and villages
The Dragon King is an enduring Chinese mythological figure who is still greatly revered in China. With legends of dragons going back over 7,000 years, the Dragon King is in no danger of being easily forgotten.