Crouching tiger, hidden dinosaur?
The entry in A Chinese-English Dictionary (published in China in 1979) for dragon gives the meanings as:
- imperial (as in imperial robe)
- a huge extinct reptile: dinosaur
- a surname.
Clearly, the dictionary recognizes that dragons were real animals and the language also connects dinosaurs to them. Indeed, the characters rendering ‘dinosaur' in a paleontology context, (‘konglong'), literally mean ‘fearsome dragon'—remember that the English word ‘dinosaur' was not invented until 1841.
Image from <www.geocities.com/ bernardburn>
The traditional (complex) way of writing ‘dragon’. Chinese people see the right part as reflecting the spiny back and tail of the dragon.
Also, there are many sayings in Chinese that connect dragons with still-living animals, such as tigers. For example:
- ‘like a coiling dragon and crouching tiger’—meaning a forbidding strategic point. A variation on this saying inspired the title of the recent award-winning Chinese movie, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, meaning a benign looking place with powerful hidden forces.
- ‘dragon’s pool and tiger’s den’—meaning a dangerous place.
- ‘dragons rising and tigers leaping’—meaning a scene of bustling activity.
Furthermore, of the twelve symbols used in the Chinese lunar calendar cycle, eleven are real animals (pig, rat, rabbit, tiger, etc.), suggesting that the remaining one, the dragon, is equally real.
The above evidence is consistent with identifying dinosaurs with the dragons of Chinese history as real animals that have lived not too long ago. This contradicts the whole idea of an ‘age of dinosaurs’ millions of years before people existed, and further supports the Biblical account of the real history of the world.
(Also available in Vietnamese)