research on Japanese dragons on our Earth and their legends
|Research of Dragons; Japanese Dragons:
We begin with this, for the Japanese believe much as the Chinese do when it comes to Dragons….
“HAVE You seen the dragon?” asks Mr. Okakura in The Awakening of Japan. “Approach him cautiously, for no mortal can survive the sight of his entire body. The eastern dragon is not the gruesome monster of mediaeval imagination, but the genius of strength and goodness. He is the spirit of change, therefore of life itself. . . . Hidden in the caverns of inaccessible mountains, or coiled in the unfathomed depths of the sea, he awaits the time when he slowly arouses himself into activity. He unfolds himself in the storm-clouds; he washes his mane in the blackness of the seething whirlpools. His claws are in the fork of the lightning, his scales begin to glisten in the bark of rain-swept pine-trees. His voice is heard in the hurricane, which, scattering the withered leaves of the forest, quickens a new spring. The dragon reveals himself only to vanish.”
“The dragon is full of remarkable powers, and seeing its body in its entirety means instant death; the monster never strikes without provocation, as, for instance, when its throat is touched. The Chinese emperor Yao was said to be the son of a dragon, and several of the other Chinese rulers were metamorphically called ‘dragonfaced.’ The emperor of Japan was described in the same way, and as such [in old times was] hidden by means of bamboo curtains from the gaze of persons to whom he granted audiences to save them from a terrible fate.
Let me insert here two remarkable paragraphs from Dr. William E. Griffis’s standard work on old Japan, say previous to fifty years ago:
Chief among ideal creatures in Japan is the dragon. The word ‘dragon’ stands for a genus of which there are several species and varieties. To describe them in full, and to recount minutely the ideas held by the Japanese rustics concerning them would be to compile an octavo work on dragonology. . . . In the carvings on tombs, temples, dwellings and shops–on the government documents–printed on the old and the new paper money, and stamped on the new coins–in pictures and books, on musical instruments, in high relief on bronzes, and cut in stone, metal and wood,–the dragon (tasu) everywhere “swinges the scaly horror of his folded tail,” whisks his long moustaches, or glares with his terrible eyes. The dragon is the only animal in modern Japan that wears hairy ornaments on the upper lip. . . .
There are many kinds of dragons, such as
1. violet, When the violet dragon spits, the spittle becomes balls of pure crystal, of which gems and caskets are made.
5. white, When the white dragon breathes the breath of its lungs goes into the earth and turns to gold
8. dragon has nine colours, on its body,
9. dragon which can see everything within a hundred ri;
10. dragon with immense treasures, of every sort;
11. dragon which delights to kill, human beings.
12. water-dragon, causes floods of rain; when it is sick the rain has a fishy smell.
13. fire-dragon, only seven feet long, but its body is of flame.
14. hai riu, also called tobi tatsu and sachi hoko. (rare in decorations) is shown with feathered wings, a bird’s claws and tail, and a dragon’s head; it is the also known as the Chinese winged dragon ying lung
15. maket-sugo dragon with a fish’s body clothed in large scales may be a nursery version of the Chinese carp-and-dragon story.
16. fuku riu dragon, is the dragon of good luck, contrasted with which is one of bad luck.
The dragons are all very lustful, and approach beasts of every sort.
1. the kirin, The fruit of a union of one of these monsters with a cow; with a swine, an elephant; and with a mare a steed of the finest breed. The female dragon produces at every parturition nine young.
a. first young dragon, sings and likes all harmonious sounds, hence the tops of Japanese bells are cast in the form of this dragon;
b. second young dragon, delights in the sound of musical instruments, hence the koto or horizontal harp, and suzumi, a girl’s drum, struck by the fingers, are ornamented with the figure of this dragon;
c. third young dragon, is fond of drinking, and likes all stimulating liquors, therefore goblets, and drinking-cups are adorned with representations of this creature;
d. fourth young dragon, likes steep and dangerous places, hence gables, towers, and projecting beams of temples and pagodas have carved images of this dragon upon them;
e. fifth young dragon, is a great destroyer of living things, fond of killing and bloodshed, therefore swords are decorated with golden figures of this dragon;
f. sixth young dragon, loves learning, and delights in literature, hence on the covers and titles of books and literary works are pictures of this creature;
g. seventh young dragon, is renowned for its power of hearing;
h. eighth young dragon, enjoys sitting, hence the easy chairs are carved in its images;
i. ninth young dragon, loves to bear weight, therefore the feet of tables and hibachi are shaped like this creature’s feet
The dragon differs markedly from the Chinese convention: A composite monster with scowling head, long straight homs, a scaly, serpentine body, a bristling row of dorsal spines, four limbs armed with claws, and curious flamelike appendages on its shoulders and hips. The claws are usually three on each foot, but are sometimes four or even five. A famous print by Ichiyusai Hiroshige shows a dragon in a cloud about Fuji, which has three bird-like toes and claws on every foot.
The four ‘dragon kings’ recognized in Japan as follows:
1. Sui Riu–a rain-dragon, which when in pain causes reddish rain, coloured by its blood.The dragon queen is occasionally shown in art dressed in shells, corals, and other marine attrihutes.
2. Han-Riu–striped with nine different colours; forty feet long; can never reach heaven,
3. Ka Riu-scarlet; fiery; only seven feet long.
4. Ri Riu-has wonderful sight; can see more than 100 miles.
It is popularly believed that dragons may breed by intercourse with earthly animals as a cow or mare, and in folklore a special name is given to each kind of hybrid so resulting.
Foremost, however, among Japanese dragon-legends is that of Riujin and his submarine palace Ryugo-Jo. His messenger is Riuja (or Hakuja), a small white serpent with the face of an ancient man. To the anger of this dragon-king of the sea we owe the boisterous waves. Joly instructs us that he is usually represented by artists as a very old, long-bearded man with a dragon coiled on his head or back. Some say that a man named Hoori once visited the sea-god’s palace and got a wife whom he brought ashore and married in earthly fashion; but as soon as the first baby came the wife became a dragon again and sank under the surface of the sea. Other tales are told of visits of this submarine ruler of storms, some of which deal with marvellous gems romantically recovered.
In the tenth century the monk Anchin, having repulsed the amorous advances of an infatuated girl Kiyohime, fled from her wrath and hid in the shadows beneath the great bell that hung in the grounds of the temple at Dojoji, in the Province of Kii, near Kyoto. She, having procured the aid of evil spirits, pursued him; and transforming herself into a dragon she touched the enormous bell, which at once fell to the ground covering the unfortunate priest. Thereupon the revenged dragon-woman curled her fiery length about the bell and, lashing it into a white heat with her flaming body, she consumed her reverent lover and perished herself as the bell collapsed in a molten flood.
Yamata no Orochi:
Mentioned in the Kojiki, Japan's oldest book, Yamata no Orochi was a very big Japanese dragon with eight heads. In Japanese, "eight" sometimes means "many," so Yamata no Orochi may have had "many" heads. Its eyes were as red as cherries, and its belly was always covered in blood. Pine and cypress trees grew on its back, and it was so immense that it covered many hills and valleys.
The warrior Susanoo slayed the dragon by getting it drunk on sake and then cutting off all its heads. In doing so, he saved the princess Kushi'inada, who otherwise would have been sacrificed. She was the last of eight daughters, all the rest of which had already been eaten by Yamata no Orochi.
Susanoo (alternately spelled Susano'o, Susa-no-O, or Susanowo) took a sword which was found in one of the dragon's tails, called Kusanagi-no-Tsurugi, which eventually was passed down from generation to generation, becoming one of the three Imperial Regalia of Japan.
Along with Yofune-Noshi, Yamata no Orochi is one of the few eastern dragons seen as an evil monster.
The Legend of Yofune-Nushi:
A Japanese folk tale of danger, love, sacrifice, and adventure in the Oki Islands
Once upon a time, about 1320 A.D., a samurai named Oribe Shima was banished by a chieftan named Hojo Takatoki. He was sent to a small island called Kamishima, of the Oki islands. Oribe had a beautiful, eighteen-year-old daughter, whom he loved very much, and who loved him. Her name was Tokoyo.
Alone in her old home in Shima Province, Tokoyo wept night and day over the banishment of her father. Finally, when she could no longer stand the loss, she resolved to reach her father or die trying. Tokoyo was a very brave girl, and was experienced in matters of the sea. As a child, she would dive with the women of her village to collect awabi and pearl-oyster shells.
Tokoyo sold what she could and journeyed out to a place called Akasaki, from which the Islands of Oki could be dimly seen on a clear day. She tried to persuade the fishermen to take her to the Islands, but her money was nearly all spent, and they refused. Tokoyo, bold and valiant, found a small boat and sailed off to the islands by herself.
Once she landed, Tokoyo looked for her father, but could not find him. After several days, she came to a little cape of rocks, and she lay down to pass the night there.
She had only slept an hour before she woke up and heard a girl sobbing. She looked up and saw a beautiful girl of fifteen weeping, and a priest clapping his hands and mumbling “Namu Amida Butsu’s.” They were both dressed in white. The priest finished his prayer and led the girl to the edge of the rocks, and was about to push her over into the sea, but Tokoyo rushed to the girl’s rescue.
The man was not angry, but responded patiently to Tokoyo’s intervention. He explained to her that there was a mysterious dragon named Yofune-Nushi who lived in a cave deep beneath the Oki Islands. For decades, he had terrorized Oki’s small, coastal fishing village. Every year, on June 13th, he forced the people of the nearby village to sacrifice a virgin to him. He threatened to conjure up a terrific storm and destroy their fishing fleet if they did not comply. Fishing was the only source of income to these humble people, so they had no choice but to submit. It was this priest’s sad duty to superintend this ceremony, which Tokoyo interrupted.
Tokoyo, having a broken heart because she could not find her father, volunteered herself as a sacrifice to appease the serpent’s wrath, so that the girl could go free. The priest accepted her offer. Tokoyo took off the girl’s white robe and put it on herself. She placed a small dagger in her teeth and jumped into the water. The priest looked on with astonishment, the girl with thankfulness.
She swam downward in the clear water, which was illuminated by moonlight. She passed many silvery fish which swam around her. She discovered a cave which glittered with awabi shells and pearls. Within this cave was a wooden statue of Hojo Takatoki, the man who had exiled her father. She felt angry and tempted to destroy the statue, but then she thought it would be better to take the statue up to the surface.
As she readied herself for an ascent to the surface, she caught a glimpse of a horrible monster. It was in the shape of a snake, but with legs and phosphorescent scales. It was twenty-six feet long and had fiery eyes. It was Yofune-Nushi, the dragon which lived in the sea.
The unsuspecting dragon must have assumed Tokoyo was the virgin sacrifice. Bracing herself for combat, Tokoyo determined to kill the monster and save the village from this barbaric tradition once and for all. When Yofune-Nushi was within six feet of her, she moved sideways and struck out his right eye. Reeling away in pain, the stunned creature tried to move back to his cavern, but Tokoyo blocked his way. She struck him in the vulnerable underside of his neck, and he perished.
She carried the body of the dragon and the wooden statue to the surface. The priest and the little girl were surprised when they saw their brave hero return, for they had thought she had been eaten by the dragon.
The priest dashed down the rocks and pulled Tokoyo’s half-insensible form ashore. The virgin ran to the village and sought help, which arrived shortly. After Tokoyo had recovered, she was celebrated of the heroine of the hour. The priest reported the whole event to Tameyoshi, the lord of the island, who in turn reported it to Hojo Taktatoki.
Tatatoki had been sick with an unknown disease for some time. The recovery of the wooden statue made it clear that his sickness was caused by a curse. Now that the statue had been brought to the surface, the curse was over, and Tatatoki got better. To show his gratitude, he ordered the immediate release of Oribe Shima, who was confined in prison. He was reunited with Tokoyo and they lived happily ever after.
Yorimasa the Dragon-Slayer:
A Japanese legend of bravery and valor
Once upon a time, a certain emperor became seriously ill. He was unable to sleep at night because of a terrible noise. As soon as the sun set, a dark, black cloud came in from the East, and it settled on the roof of the palace. It was discovered that this was no cloud, but a monster with huge claws.
Night after night, this terrible dragon came, and night after night, the emperor's health grew worse. It became apparent that unless something could be done to destroy this monster, the emperor would certainly die.
The only knight brave enough to face this monster was named Yorimasa. He donned his armor, over which he wore a hunting-dress, and a ceremonial cap instead of his usual helmet. He took up his best bow and steel-tipped arrows to fight the creature.
Yorimasa killed the dragon, which was the size of a horse, with an ape's head, a tiger's body and claws, a serpent's tail, a bird's wings, and a dragon's scales.
From the very moment the creature died, the emperor's health rapidly improved. The emperor kept the scales of the dragon in his treasure house, and gave Yorimasa a sword called "the King of Lions," or Shishiwo. Later, Yorimasa married Lady Ayame, the most beautiful lady-in-waiting at the imperial court.