The Dragon Tattoo
The Japanese dragon is the most popular of the mythical creatures whose images are used in tattoos. The explanation of its popularity can be found in dragon's shape - as since it may be flexible and long, it may be suitable to almost every part of the body. The dragon tattoo can cover all the back or twist around leg, arm or neck.
The classic Japanese dragon looks like a long wingless creature, the shape of its body may remind a snake, but the Japanese dragon has short legs with claws and oblong head with horns. This creature has a beard and whiskers and it is deaf. It is considered that these dragons live in the sea or heavens. We used to think that dragon is kind of horrifying monster, but in the Japanese culture it is connected with freedom, fortune, good luck, wealth, wisdom and force.
Japanese dragon symbolizes good luck because of its habitation - it is considered that it lives in the clouds and climbs down with the rain or in lakes and rivers. So it is strongly connected with water. People believed that the dragon can manage bringing down the rain which is very important for Japanese and Chinese rice cultures. Because of it dragons were esteemed and respected in the East cultures. But in the West people used to associate dragons with evil (because of its snake-like shape) and in the tales they often are fought and killed.
The dragons should always be pleased because an annoyed dragon can cause a storm or seaquake.
There are a lot of tales and legends about dragons that people are depicting in their tattoos. The most famous of them are the Buddhist gods Rai-jin and Fu-jin riding the dragons and the Tamatori Hime. According to the last legend, dragons can feign humans. And it is aven considered that they can mate with humans. Dragons have the implacable enemies - the phoenix and Karura (bird-man creation).
During five hundred years after their birth the Japanese dragons are called 'water snake'. It takes them a lot of time to become the full-fledged dragons. At the age of from five hundred to one thousand years they will become Chiao, or large creatures. Legends tell that they begin their lives as a fish to turn at the old age into a scaled dragon.
The next stage after the dragon becomes Chiao is to turn into a Lung dragon. It takes about five hundred years after the age of thousand. During this time the dragon grows quickly. The Lung dragons have no horns and symbolize the scholar. It takes them another five hundred year period to gain horns.
At the age of between one thousand five hundred and two thousand the Lung dragon gains horns and becomes the Horned dragon. When the dragon reaches the age of two thousand he or she becomes a Ying-Lung. They are not too large winged dragons.
There is a difference between the Japanese, Korean and Chinese dragons. The Japanese one (also called Ryugu in Japanese legends) has three toes. The Korean has four toes and the Chinese dragon has five toes. Japanese mythology says that all the dragons originated from Japan and as they left their home they gained toes. On the contrary, Chinese mythology says that it was the Chinese dragons who left their home and lost their toes. And as they went farther from home, they lost more toes. The Koreans consider that dragons' homeland is Korea and the dragons gained or lost toes in dependence of their direction - if dragon went towards China, it gained toes and if dragon went towards Japan it lost toes.
There is another differences between the Japanese and the Chinese dragons. The Chinese ones fly more frequently and tend to be less slender than Japanese. In China people believe that dragons can gain or lose weight depending on their homeland. In China and Japan both images of dragons cover the temple walls. It can be carvings or paintings. Most of such temples where dragon image is used typically belong to the Zen Buddhism religion. Traditionally the Asian dragons are associated with the spring season.
Originally the Japanese dragon was a guardian creature that had been protecting the four cosmic regions.
The Dragon King is actually four dragons who are watching over the four main seas. People believe that they live underwater around the Ryuku islands in Okinawa.
There are some different types of the Japanese dragons. The Ri-Ryu dragons are the most popular for their extraordinary eye-sight. The Sui-Ryu dragons bring the rains to the Japan islands. Tatsu dragons symbolize imperial power and spirituality and live in springs or lakes. The Fuku-Ryu dragon brings good fortune to people. The Ka-Ryu dragons are the smallest ones and they are colored into scary red color. The Han-Ryu dragons can measure up to forty feet in length as they are the tallest ones and can reach the skies. The Hai-riyo dragons are similar to birds in their shape and are the most evolved in their kind.
There are other interesting differences in the ways of depicting the dragons. Male ones usually have clubs in their tails and females hold fans. The horns of a male dragon are thin near the base and stronger and wider towards the outside. The female dragons usually have thicker tails and straighter noses. They are thinner than the males. Their manes are rounder and look more balanced then male dragons' unbending mane. These dragons on the images can descend from the skies or be found inside the cloud.
Nowadays tattoo artists have transformed the classical images of dragons into the lots of new various forms. There are incredible designs of dragon tattoos for every part of the body. The artists' galleries are filled with colored or black and white dragon images. The Japanese dragon may be depicted appearing in the sea waves, pearls or clouds. The pearl can be depicted in the claw of dragon. In this case the massive magical pearl symbolizes wisdom. Strength, freedom and wisdom that the Japanese dragons symbolize, their shape and designs are the cause why a lot of people choose the dragon tattoo. Actually the dragon personifies the streaks that we want to see in ourselves.
The Japanese dragon may be depicted flattering the body or wrapping around it. In Japan are popular the full-back and full-body dragon tattoos. But the most common are the half sleeve location. The dragon's body is wrapping around the top of the arm and head of the dragon is placed on the chest above the heart. Dragon tattoos are also appropriated for legs and arms because of creature's long and flexible shape. Actually, this shape allows the dragon tattoo to suit well to the each part of the human body. And this is another reason why so many people decide to ink such a tattoo.