Japanese Tattoos – History and Meaning of Japanese Dragon

Choosing Japanese tattoos can be difficult thanks to the many beautiful, colorful and rich in meaning imagery the culture provides. Between koi fish, the Hanya mask, Japanese warriors and of course Japanese dragons you maybe a little overwhelmed. The Japanese dragon tattoos are popular, if you land on this as your design make sure you read about the history and significance first.

The historical trace of the Japanese dragons stretches back to as early as 680 CE and 720 CE when they were adopted in the Japanese folk language. From that period up to the modern age, the dragon was largely embraced within the Japanese mythical lore and exalted to legendary dimensions because of the attributes of fierceness, invincibility, valor, stealth, and other attributes that were associated with the creature. In alternative interpretations, the dragon was also associated with a host of Japanese deities particularly those associated with water. In the course of time, the conceptualization of the Japanese Dragon picked up certain cultural meanings from the Chinese and Indian culture.

Japanese Dragon – A Unifying Totem

Historians contend that the dragon, as understood within the Asian culture, represents a unifying totem that connects with morals and ethics that extol bravery and conquest. Among the pantheon of gods within the Japanese spiritual world, the dragon represented various gods some of which included Watatsumi, Mizuchi, and Yamata. These gods were imagined differently but all had nearly the same kind of features that are conventionally or culturally associated with the dragons. These multiple representations are evident in the diverse creative efforts that have been rendered in the form of the dragon tattoo, dragon tattoo design, and other creative images that have been associated with the legendary creature.

Japanese Dragon – Changing Representations

Since the adoption of the dragon within the Japanese cultural universe, generations of artists and impressionists have attempted to represent the mythical creature in multiple but related dimensions and features. In all these, the most distinguishable aspects of the dragon is the tongue that spits, which the popular Japanese imagination ties to the dragon’s famed capacity to vanquish its foes by spitting flames of fierce fire. The other features commonly captured by the artists are the serpentine body and the vicious claws that add to the indomitable image of the animal. Variations in the dimensions and orientation of these features have only expressed the Japanese desire to magnify the fierceness of the creature. Individual creativity has allowed for the gradual modification of the Japanese dragon’s image.

Japanese Dragon – Cultural Significance

As the image of the dragon continued to gain significance in the shared consciousness of the Japanese, myths emerged alleging the descent of Japanese rulers from a tribe of dragons. This line of thinking mirrored the Chinese mythology, which also held that some of the most famous Chinese rulers belonged to the lineage of dragons. With the passage of time, the imagination and representation of the dragon stretched beyond folklore to the realm of individual traits when people in various stations and occupations of life associated any form of heroic exploits to the mental influence of the dragon. It was at this point that the Japanese artists started applying their skills to the creation of some the remarkable dragon tattoos. The clear shift in the historical meaning of power meant that the dragon could no longer be idolized by men alone but also by women. The cultural conceptualizations of the dragon have changed as the Japanese come into contact with alternative interpretations and meanings. Make sure to choose a meaning that suits your Japanese  tattoos. However, the overarching meaning rotates around power, conquest, invincibility, and similar associations. Japanese dragon is a great design for body art.

Want to know more about dragons and dragon folklore, check out this helpful dragon site.

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Japanese Tattoos - History and Meaning of Japanese Dragon
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