Athena's Web Weekly Column

Week of Apr 28th - May 4th, 2006

The Imperial Dragon

Columns Archive
divider

  As part of our hypothesis that the dragon is the celestial representative of the constellation Draco around the world,
Imperial Dragon

Imperial Dragon

it should be understood that there is nothing in the text or archaeological record which specifically states that the Dragon is Draco. Indeed, especially in China, the dragon was such a popular image that it took on many forms, among them the plebeian (common) dragon. While the Imperial Dragon had five toes, the plebeian dragon had four, and this is one way of distinguishing the two in art and artifacts. We know that the plebeian dragon was related to the stars of Libra, and in this case at least, this 'dragon' is simply not Draco.

  But if we draw from the many clues associated with the both the Imperial Dragon and the Chinese dragons of remote antiquity, we find some of the same themes emerging that can be found in cultures around the globe.
Jade Coiled Dragon

Jade Coiled Dragon

For instance, there is the jade coiled dragon from the Hongshan culture, dated to between 4700-2920 BC, an image reminiscent of the Ouroboros (Europe), Aido-Hwedo (Africa), and as part of one of the dominate 'spiral serpent' motifs of the Neolithic and Chalcolithic periods of Old Europe which reached its peak circa 5000 BC.

  Another clue is the linking of the serpent or dragon to the shaft, reminiscent of the axis of the Earth. Iranian archaeology yields a 'Ti'amat' style dragon with an indented hub in its belly, essential if the artifact were to have been mounted on a pole. Naturally, there is the caduceus, with one or two serpents wrapped around a shaft. Mayan gods and goddesses, such as Ix Chel, and Egypt's pharaoh, both wore the serpent as part of a headdress. Here, the royal personage themselves becomes symbolic of the 'shaft' of the Earth.

Ix Chel

Ix Chel

  Stories and myths about of serpent and shaft, as Moses put the bronze serpent on the shaft (Numbers) to avert the infestation of snake bites which were plaguing the exodus in the wilderness. Myths from India speak of forcing shafts into holes in the ground, attempting to chase fleeing serpents, etc.

  In China, the emperor was closely associated with the Dragon, with his exclusive right to wear the dragon robes, sit in the dragon chair, and decree who could, and who could not, depict the Imperial dragon. The emperor was associated with the north celestial pole, and was worshiped while he faced south (he therefore stood to the north in relation to his subjects who faced him). He was the intermediary between Heaven and Earth and exalted above all others.

  The Emperor's Golden (dragon) Throne was at the Heart of the Forbidden City, the only surviving capital to be designed along celestial lines. Here he held his public audiences and made official pronouncements. This was the world's symbolic center as far as the Ming (1368-1642 AD) and Qing (1644-1911 AD) Dynasties were concerned.

  "The place of the emperor was the center. He was the pivot of the world. Fixed like the pole of the sky, he steadied the world, and all its affairs revolved about him." His Imperial Palace was the Purple Forbidden City, and the realm around the north celestial pole was the Forbidden Purple Palace.

  Emperor = center = north celestial pole = dragon = Draco.

divider

to top of page