The Four Dragons

“Water is fluid, soft, and yielding. But water will wear away rock, which is rigid and cannot yield. As a rule, whatever is fluid, soft, and yielding will overcome whatever is rigid and hard. This is another paradox: what is soft is strong.”

Lao Tzu


In Chinese mythology, dragons are linked with water, rain, lakes and rivers. Wise, beautiful, elegant and gracious, they are the guardians of water, beloved and worshipped. Bold and decisive, they embody energy, optimism, intelligence and perseverance.

China’s four great rivers were named after Dragons who risked the wrath of the Jade Emperor, the ruler of Heaven, to bring rain to the people.  Their punishment was to be imprisoned within four mountains forever.  Even so, determined to bring water to humanity, they turned themselves into four rivers.

In the North, the Black Dragon, Heilongjiang, is the world’s 10th longest river, marking the border between the Russian Far East and North-Eastern China. The Yellow Dragon is connected to the Huanghe or Yellow River in central China, the 6th longest river in the world. Considered the cradle of Chinese civilization, the Yellow River basin was the most prosperous region in early Chinese history. The Long Dragon refers to the Changjiang or Yangtze farther south. Third in terms of length, the Yangtze travels 6,418 kilometres from the glaciers on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau in Qinghai to the East China Sea at Shanghai.  Its river basin is home to one-third of the People’s Republic of China’s population. The Pearl Dragon is linked with the Pearl or Zhujiang River, an extensive river system in southern China.  It is named for all of the pearl coloured shells that lie in the bed of the river in the segment that flows through the city of Guangzhou.

In legends and mythologies, humanity recognized that the earth was a source of life, of hope, of renewal and of continuing.  Perhaps, it is time that we remembered these traditions…

“Time Flows away like the water in the river.”


Published by Rebecca Budd

Blogger, Visual Storyteller, Podcaster, Traveler and Life-long Learner

26 thoughts on “The Four Dragons

  1. Thank you, Rebecca, for another interesting post. For readers who may be interested in art and music, I have posted a few posts on the Yellow river: Mother sculpture, the Yellow river Piano Concerto and Yellow River Cantata. Please feel free to browse and listen to the music if you are interested.

    The Yellow River Civilization and the Yellow River Piano Concerto

    The Yellow River Cantata, the Yellow River Piano Concerto and the Waterfall Hukou of the Yellow River

    This is the concerto played by Lang Lang on ou-tube:

    Rebecca’s post has stimulated my interest to explore a little bit more about these four rivers and their influence on ancient cultures. Let me see if I can make it…


    1. The music is spectacular – and all of those pianos! Truly awe-inspiring. Thank you so much for your links. I was thinking all of your posts when I was reading about the Four Dragons. There is so much to learn about China! Looking forward to reading about your explorations into this remarkable, ancient culture…


  2. You’ve a beautiful mind, that from water you bring us the paradox of soft/strong to take us on another journey. The thoughtfulness and time you must be putting into these posts is greatly appreciated. I relish each and every one of them and look forward to yours appearing in my in-box.


    1. Thank you so much, dear friend, for your encouragement and support. We live in a beautiful world – we must embrace our responsibility to our environment. This is our “watch.”

      “We never know the worth of water till the well is dry.”
      Thomas Fuller, Gnomologia, 1732


    1. In western culture, we have always been afraid of our dragons, but the eastern culture understands their mystery and significance in a different way. We live in a world with many cultures – each of them add so much to the human experience. Thank you so much for your comments and visit! 🙂


  3. Fascinating Rebecca…. I feel soaked in Chinese mythology and history – have just finished reading the book on tea, about Robert Fortune in China that you recommended – and learned so much… and now am off to have a cup of tea !!!!


    1. Wasn’t that a remarkable book – every time I have a cup of tea, I think of all those hills covered in the most fragrant tea plants. My “landscape artist” friend, said that there were many species with the name “fortune” in them: Arundinaria fortunei, Cephalotaxus fortunei, Cyrtomium fortunei, just to name a few. Somehow, we cannot let go of “ego”, can we!!!? 😆


      1. Yes, I loved the book Rebecca, thank you… in defence of poor old Robert Fortune, didn’t Kew or somewhere name the plants… like Strelitzia in homage to a Duchess of Strelitz, and Bougainvillea recognising Capt Bougainville’s discovery?
        Reading the book has given me so many fresh layers of enjoyment with my cuppa!!!


      2. Oh, Valerie, I have spent the last few minutes trying to figure out how how we do name plants. This is a wonderful research project. I agree about Robert Fortune – I am certain that he received more accolades in the form of plant names than in $$$. I think that we name plants after humans, but why not dogs, cats, and other animals – just a thought! Welcome to another week and another adventure….


  4. The quotes you search out are always on the mark, and to the point. As Paulette suggests, the time and dedication you give to this life sustaining element of nature is most commendable, and I am honoured to have been allowed to contribute my two cents worth to this great an necessary cause of constantly reminding fellow world citizens. I too look forward to your posts on this magnificent subject. Thank you again Lady Budd.

    P.S. In as much as we have developed, at least to me, rather more than a passing friendship, one day if you will allow, I will get my mind around taking the liberty of addressing you by your beautiful name of Rebecca. JJ


    1. Oh do call me Rebecca!!! I am glad that you share my concern about out environment. Your comments and thoughts have been so very much appreciated. One voice becomes a choir….our numbers are growing!!!


  5. i love the quote by Lao Tzu. It is indeed a paradox that ‘soft’ equals strength. It reminds me of something I wrote in my journal “The Power of Love is in its Gentleness.” I think persistence is the key here, just as the water will take many years to erode a rock. An interesting post, Rebecca, and on a subject I’m not familiar with. I seem to learn something new every day. Thank you, dear friend. ♥


    1. How wonderful to have you back!!! We have missed you – so glad that WordPress has resolved the technology issues.

      As for learning something new everyday….ah, since I started blogging, my learning has increased exponentially. That is the power of sharing….


    1. I find that when I look at a map and see the placement of the rivers, I am able to grasp, more clearly, their significance to the people and the surrounding land. I especially appreciated the story of the Four Dragons, because it was an affirmation of our reliance on our earth.


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