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Imperial Dragon Flag

The dragon was the symbol of Imperial power. When not disturbed for a trivial reason, the dragon was beneficent. As the master of life-giving rain, it was the symbol of fecundity.

There were three kinds of dragons:

1) The celestial dragon was the most powerful dragon. It transmitted to the emperor the cosmic power required to reign and to promote the harmonious development of life. When the Emperor did not respect the cosmic order, the celestial dragon withdrew his cosmic power. The concept of celestial or cosmic order was introduced by the Zhu dynasty (c. 1025-256 BP) in order to justify its overthrowing of the Shang (18th century-c. 1025 BP) dynasty.

There were several variations in the representation of the celestial dragon. The model dragon has a reptilian body covered with 81 (9x9) fish scales. It has a camel's head and bears antlers. Its four tiger's legs end with falcon's claws. When the dragon was Imperial, it had five claws; it had four or three claws for lower social ranks. The vassal countries of China, Korea and Japan, were represented by a four-clawed and three-clawed dragon, respectively.

The celestial dragon is often represented with a pearl ("zhu") it holds either in its jaws or claws. The pearl symbolized power and glory.

A yellow dragon symbolized the Emperor.

2) The water dragons watched engulfed treasures. There were four such king-dragons, each reigning over one of the four seas of the four orients. A fisher throwing a fish back into the water was often rewarded by the water dragon. Several tales relate the adventures of heroes exploring engulfed palaces full of treasures.

3) The cave dragons.

Source: (in French)
Ivan Sache, 3 September 2005

The Dragon Flag (1872)

[Flag of China, 1872]
Mario Fabretto

This flag was the 1863 jack which became, in 1872 the State flag and naval ensign (partially modified in 1873).
Mario Fabretto, 14 June 1997

According to C. P. Fitzgerald, 'China, a short cultural history', London, 1988 (reprint), p. 112:

'The dragon was the rain spirit of the ancient Chinese. Unlike the western monster, the Chinese 'lung' was not an evil creature malevolent to mankind, but the rain giver who gathered the clouds, brought the welcome moisture and presided over the water courses.'
Jarig Bakker, 7 December 1998

The Dragon flag (1890's)

China Dragon Flag
Mario Fabretto

This flag was the State flag and naval ensign from ~1890 until 1911.
Mario Fabretto, 14 June 1997