European Dragon vs. Chinese Dragon: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Suzanne Rose

Suzanne has taught all levels PK-graduate school and has a PhD in Instructional Systems Design. She currently teachers literacy courses to preservice and inservice teachers.

Did you know that there are several different types of dragons, including European and Chinese dragons? Which type would you like to meet? Read on to find out!

Origins of Dragons

Dragons are mythical animals that are similar to reptiles, often looking like a combination of a snake and a crocodile. The English word ''dragon'' comes from a Greek word that means ''serpent of huge size'' or ''water snake.''

Researchers think that ideas about dragons developed independently of each other in different parts of the world, rather than in just one place or with just one person. Scientists believe that people's ideas and stories about dragons were inspired by real animals, such as dinosaurs, crocodiles, whales, or large lizards, and the dragon was born!

Let's look at two of the most common dragons: the European dragon and the Chinese dragon.

European Dragons

Have you ever read a fairy tale in which a knight rescues a princess held captive by a dragon? Then you've read a story about a European dragon, a mean and violent creature that harms humans and eats cattle. These dragons are greedy; many of them hoard gold and jewels in their lairs. European dragons live in isolated places in caves or underground and hatch their babies from eggs.

European dragon

European dragons have bodies like snakes with crocodile-type legs. Most are covered with scales or feathers. They often have wings and sharp horns or spikes on their backs. Some have horns on their noses and several spikes on their tails, which they use for weapons. They all breathe fire.

In medieval Europe, the tale of the knight slaying the dragon was a popular theme for stories. This quote from the Old English epic Beowulf describes a European dragon: ''The dragon began to belch out flames and burn bright homesteads; there was a hot glow that scared everyone, for the vile sky-winger would leave nothing alive in his wake.''

Chinese Dragons

In contrast to the European dragon, the noble Chinese dragon is a symbol of good fortune, strength, and wisdom. The Chinese dragon is a mythical creature with magical powers, but unlike the European dragon, doesn't harm humans.

Chinese dragons live in heaven with the gods, or so some people believe. The Chinese people call themselves ''descendants of the dragon.'' According to Chinese folklore, an early emperor was a descendant of a dragon. His mother fell asleep near a stream and dreamed of a dragon, who became the Emperor's father. Since then, everything related to the Emperor is marked with a dragon. The Emperor's dragon has five claws; other Chinese dragons have only four.

The Chinese dragon is sometimes called the ''creature of the nine resemblances,'' because it has body parts from nine different animals:

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