The Cryptid Zoo: Classic Dragons (Non-Western Cultures) in Cryptozoology

A classic Korean dragon with a snake-like body, from the film 'Dragon Wars'. This screenshot is copyrighted by those who own the copyright to the film.
Before we examine Non-Western dragons through the lens of cryptozoology, we must first get an idea of how these creatures are described in legends and sightings. Classic Asian dragons are similar to the English dragons known as "worms" or "wyrms." Asian dragons are more sinuous and serpentine than typical European dragons. The standard kind of Asian dragon could best be described as having the body of a snake attached to a horse-shaped or camel-shaped head, usually with horns, and having feet like a lizard or bird. The entire body is generally covered in scales, but some dragons have bits of hair, especially whiskers around the mouth or a mane like a horse's mane.

The number of claws per paw is thought to be of special symbolic importance, and has ranged from three to eight. Asian dragons seldom have wings, but can often fly just fine without them, like sky serpents. They may breathe fire or fog, and they are often represented as being similar to lake monsters, preferring to dwell in the water or having power over the water. They may control rain, storms, fires or other disasters. Asian dragons are generally considered lucky, auspicious and benevolent even though they can be dangerous. Often, they are considered to have powers of shapeshifting, such as the ability to change into humans, or at least to create a convincing magical illusion that they are human.

Just like the classic dragons of western cultures, Asian dragons are seldom investigated as dragons by scientists working in the field of cryptozoology. When cryptozoologists do study Asian dragons, they tend to concentrate on the varieties that have strong links to water, and then they just call them lake monsters or sea serpents, whatever the case may be. When reports of the land-bound varieties of Asian dragon are studied by cryptozoologists, these creatures are generally thought to be either giant lizards or living dinosaurs. When accounts of the flying types of Asian dragons are examined by cryptozoologists, these tales are divided into two groups. The wingless flying dragons are usually either ignored or presumed to have wings despite the descriptions of eyewitnesses. Winged Asian dragons are generally thought to be pterosaurs or giant bats.
Manda, a sea serpent from the Japanese film Atragon, looks much like the classic Asian idea of a dragon. This screenshot is copyrighted by those who own the copyright to the film.

Also belonging to the eastern hemisphere, African dragons are quite numerous, and they are the subjects of a surprisingly large number of modern sightings. Many of them look much like giant snakes. One typical African dragon is the das-adder, a dragon reported from the Dragon Mountains (Drakensberg Range) of South Africa. The das-adder looks similar to a colorful red-and-yellow striped snake, but the head is shaped much differently than a snake's head: it has external ears, and it has a frilled neck. Many African dragons are sky serpents who fly without wings and create tremendous lightning storms. Another African dragon tradition describes creatures that look just like sea serpents but live in the forest instead of the water, often twining their long bodies around the trunks of trees. In the field of cryptozoology, African dragons have hardly been investigated at all. However, there is a rich body of both folklore and sightings that could be mined for clues to possible undiscovered species.

You can find out more about Classic Dragons in Non-Western Cultures from the following sources:

Allen, Judy. Book of the Dragon.

Bates, Roy. Chinese Dragons.

Blake, Polenth. The Dragon Stone - Dragons of Mythology and Fantasy

Daeseok, Seo, ed. & Lee, Peter H., ed. Oral Literature of Korea. Pages 13-14, 69, 85-96, 114, 125-127, 184-188, 204, 212, 215

De Visser, M. W. Dragon in China and Japan.

Dragon's World: A Fantasy Made Real

Freeman, Richard. Dragons: More than a Myth.

Jameson, R.D. Three Lectures on Chinese Folklore. North China Union Language School, 1932. Page 13

Keel, John A. The Complete Guide to Mysterious Beings. New York: Doubleday, 1994. Pages 46, 229-231

Newton, Michael. Encyclopedia of Cryptozoology: A Global Guide to Hidden Animals and Their Pursuers. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, 2005. Pages 32, 81, 111-112, 127-128, 136-138, 153, 163, 188, 255-256, 321, 326, 327, 335-337, 382, 406, 434-435, 450-451, 465, 471
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Quinn, Donna & Quinn, Amanda. African and Middle Eastern Dragons

Rose, Carol. Giants, Monsters and Dragons: An Encyclopedia of Folklore, Legend and Myth. Santa Barbara, California: ABC-CLIO, 2000. Pages 230, 279-280

Seraphim Studios. Dragons!

The Serene Dragon

Storm, Rachel. Myths of the East: Dragons, Demons and Dybbuks: An Illustrated Encyclopedia of Eastern Mythology from Egypt to Asia.

Sundberg, Jan. Dragons Crashed in China

Sundberg, Jan. Scientists from Bangladesh Claim that Giant Prehistoric Lizards have been Found in their Country

Wang, Cong-ren. Auspicious Animals - Dragon.

Wikipedia, The. Dragon

Wikipedia, The. Chinese Dragon

Wikipedia, The. Japanese Dragon

Wikipedia, The. Korean Dragon

Wikipedia, The. List of Dragons

Wikipedia, The. Naga

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