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Difference Between Japanese & Chinese Dragons

Updated February 21, 2017

In both China and Japan, the dragon is one of the most significant symbols in culture and religion. Studying how each culture views this ancient mythological creature is critical for understanding Japanese and Chinese political history, science and more.

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Dragon Mythology

Chinese dragons were used to symbolise power and wisdom, and were also a royal emblem. In folklore, they were thought to drive away evil spirits and bring good luck. In addition, dragons were also thought to control the weather, and were often depicted in watery areas or as water spirits. Japanese dragon mythology comes primarily from Chinese lore, making most of the mythology very similar.

Mythological Personalities

One of the most notable differences between the two countries is the way dragons treated humans. Chinese dragons were known as caring benefactors, while Japanese dragons were thought to be sneaky and dangerous.


Unlike Western dragons, both Chinese and Japanese dragons usually appear as serpent-like creatures. Japanese dragons are slimmer-bodied, with large heads, while Chinese dragons are heavier bodied, yet have smaller heads. Neither Japanese nor Chinese dragons have wings. Chinese dragons always have five toes, while the Japanese have only three.

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About the Author

Ann LaPan travels exuberantly in body and mind via planes, trains, automobiles and superb literature. A webmaster, website designer, graphic artist, accountant and musician (Jill of all trades, master of a few), she writes Today’s Horoscope for Shooting Star Astrology.com.

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