The Legend of the Dragon’s Nine Sons


According to traditional Chinese culture, the dragon has nine sons. Unfortunately the nine sons of the dragon don’t look like the dragon. Instead, they have their own unique appearances. Some look beautiful, some appear cute, and others are ugly. Their names are: Bixi (赑屃), Chiwen/Chiwei (螭吻/鸱尾), Pulao (蒲牢), Bi'an (狴犴), Taotie (饕餮), 蚣蝮, Yazi (睚眦), Suanni (狻猊) and Jiaotu (椒图).

Bixi (赑屃): Bixi Looks like a turtle, fond of carrying heavy loads. He carries a stele all year round. The image of the uncomplaining animal with unusual strength can be easily found in temples and ancestral halls.

Chiwen/Chiwei (螭吻/鸱尾): Chiwen looks somewhat like a lizard without a tail. He likes gazing around in precarious areas. He swallows fire and sprays waves to cause rainfalls. His image is often found at the corners and ridges of a hall as well as on the roof.

Pulao (蒲牢): Pulao looks like a dragon, but is smaller in size, and likes to roar. It is said that Pulao lives by the sea and fears whales most. Whenever he's attacked by a whale, he keeps roaring. Thus, people put his image on bells and make the wooden striker into the shape of a whale. This is to get the loudest possible bell sound.

Bi'an (狴犴): Bi'an looks like a tiger. He's very powerful and interested in prisons and judicial cases. Therefore, people engrave his image on the doors of prisons. The tiger is a brave and fierce animal and the image of Bi'an, a tiger-like beast, is used to enhance the majesty of prisons and to intimidate criminals.

Taotie (饕餮): Taotie looks like a wolf and loves eating very much. As it is an imaginary evil beast greedy of eating, people who indulge in eating and those avaricious of wealth are referred to as "people of taotie". The head of Taotie is often engraved on ritual vessels like bells and tripods as a decorative motif.

Baxia (蚣蝮): Baxia looks like a fish but is not a fish, and loves water. He is often engraved on top of a stone bridge’s railing. He is the guardian of the ancient bridges.

Yazi (睚眦): Yazi looks like a jackal, and stares at things with angry eyes and is fond of bloody killings. His image is often engraved on knife handles and sword sheaths.

Suanni (狻猊): Suanni was originally the alias of the lion, so he looks like a lion. He likes smoke and fire and often sits down. The lion was introduced into China with Buddhism. Sakyamuni was nicknamed "Fearless Lion", so his image can be found on Buddha altars and incense burners.

Jiaotu (椒图): Jiaotu is like a mussel or a snail that's tight-lipped by nature. His image is often engraved on doors or door boards. Mussels and snails tend to close their shells tightly when attacked. Putting Jiaotu's image on doors may serve as a wish for closing the door as tightly as possible for safety.