Sunday, October 5, 2008


Jiaolong or jiao is an aquatic in Chinese mythology, variously translated as a "hornless dragon", "scaly dragon", "flood dragon", "alligator", and "crocodile".


蛟 Character

In traditional Chinese character classification, ''jiao'' is a "radical-phonetic" or "phono-semantic character", combining the "insect " with a ''jiao'' "cross; mix; mingle; mate with; exchange" phonetic. This 虫 radical is frequently used in characters for insects, worms, and reptiles, and occasionally for dragons . This phonetic ''jiao'' 交 is also used with the "fish radical" in ''jiao'' "shark" and the "horse radical" in ''bo'' , which is a variant Chinese character for ''bo'' "mixed colors; piebald; confused".

In the Japanese writing system, the kanji 蛟 can be read ''mizuchi'' "a " in native ''kun'yomi'' or ''kō'' in Sino-Japanese ''on'yomi'' .


''Jiao'' 蛟's etymology is obscure. Carr, using Bernhard Karlgren's reconstruction of Old Chinese *kǒg 蛟, explains.
Most etymologies for ''jiao'' < *''kǒg'' 蛟 are unsupported speculations upon meanings of its phonetic *''kǒg'' 交 'cross; mix with; contact', e.g., the *''kǒg'' 蛟 dragon can *''kǒg'' 交 'join' its head and tail in order to capture prey, or moves in a *''kǒg'' 交 'twisting' manner, or has *''kǒg'' 交 'continuous' eyebrows. The only corroborated hypothesis takes *''kǒg'' 交 'breed with' to mean *''kǒg'' 蛟 indicates a dragon 'crossbreed; mixture'. Eberhard notes from an early time, 蛟 was considered an embodiment of the fish, snake, rhinoceros; or the tiger.
Compare the "tiger ''jiao''" below. In addition, Carr cites Wen Yiduo that ''jiaolong'' 交龍 "crossed dragons"' or ''jiaolong'' 蛟龍 were emblems of the mythological creators Fuxi and Nüwa, who are represented as having a human's upper body and a dragon's tail.

Schuessler reconstructs modern ''jiāo'' 蛟 "scaly dragon", "alligator", or "mermaid" as Middle Chinese ''kau'' and Old Chinese *''kr?u''. He suggests possible etymological connections with ''khruB'' or ''khyuB'' "mermaid; serpent" and ''klu'' "nāga; water spirits".


Chinese ''jiao'' is more frequently used in the ''jiaolong'' with the -''long'' "dragon" suffix than by itself. Take, for example, familiar ''chengyu'' "set phrases; 4-character idioms". ''Jiaolong'' occurs in several such as ''jiaolongdeshui'' 蛟龍得水 "in the most congenial surroundings; bold person getting a good opportunity" and ''jiaolongzhizhi'' 蛟龍之志 "a person with great ambitions". ''Jiao'' occurs abbreviating ''jiaolong'' with ''feng'' abbreviating ''fenghuang'' 鳳凰 "Chinese phoenix" in ''tengjiaoqifeng'' 騰蛟起鳳 "a rapidly rising literary/artistic talent; a genius".

Jiaolong occurs in Chinese toponyms. For example, the highest waterfall in Taiwan is Jiaolong Dapu 蛟龍大瀑 "Flood Dragon Great Waterfall" in the Alishan National Scenic Area.


"''Jiao'' < *''kǒg'' 蛟 is defined with more meanings than any other Chinese draconym", writes Carr , " 'aquatic dragon', 'crocodile; alligator', 'hornless dragon', 'dragoness', 'scaled dragon', 'shark' , and 'mermaid'."

In some textual usages, differentiating these ''jiao'' meanings is problematic. For instance, ''jiaolong'' 蛟龍 can be parsed as two kinds of dragons or one. Some contrastive contexts clearly use the former meaning "''jiao'' and ''long'' dragons"; the ''Zhuangzi'' parallels "the sea serpent or the dragon" with "the rhinoceros or the tiger." The latter meaning of "''jiao'' dragon" is evident from usages such as the ''Guanzi'' , "The ''kiao-lung'' is the god of the water animals. If he rides on the water, his soul is in full vigour, but when he loses water , his soul declines. Therefore I say: 'If a ''kiao-lung'' gets water, his soul can be in full vigour'."

Aquatic dragon

''Jiao'' and ''jiaolong'' were names for a legendary river dragon.

The mythological ''Shanhaijing'' "Classic of Mountains and Seas" mentions ''jiao'' and ''hujiao'' 虎蛟 "tiger ''jiao''", but notably not ''jiaolong''. The "Classic of Southern Mountains" records ''hujiao'' in the Yin River 泿水.
The River Bank rises here and flows south to empty into the sea. There are tiger-crocodiles in it. Their bodies look like a fish's, but they have a snake's tail and they make a noise like mandarin ducks. If you eat some, you won't suffer from a swollen abscess, and it can be used to treat piles.
The commentary of Guo Pu glosses ''hujiao'' as "a type of dragon that resembles a four-legged snake." The "Classic of Central Mountains" records ''jiao'' in the Kuang River 貺水 and Lun River 淪水: "There are numerous alligators in the River Grant" and "The River Ripple contains numbers of alligators". Guo adds that the ''jiao'' "has a small head, narrow neck, white scales, is oviparous, can grow up to ten meters long, and eats people."

Wolfram Eberhard quotes the ''Moke huixi'' 墨客揮犀 for the "best definition" of a ''jiao'', "looks like a snake with a tiger head, is several fathoms long, lives in brooks and rivers, and bellows like a bull; when it sees a human being it traps him with its stinking saliva, then pulls him into the water and sucks his blood from his armpits." He concludes that the ''jiao'', which "occur in the whole of Central and South China", "is a special form of the snake as river god. The snake as river god or god of the ocean is typical for the coastal culture, particularly the sub-group of the Tan peoples."

''Jiao'' 蛟 is sometimes translated as "flood dragon". The ''Yuhu qinghua'' 玉壺清話 says people in the southern state of called it ''fahong'' 發洪 "swell into a flood" because they believed flooding resulted when ''jiao'' hatched. The ''Chuci'' uses the term ''shuijiao'' 水蛟 "water ''jiao''": "Henceforth the water-serpents must be my companions, And dragon-spirits lie with me when I would rest."

Crocodile or Alligator

Besides a legendary dragon, ''jiao'' and ''jiaolong'' anciently named a four-legged water creature, identified as both "alligator" and "crocodile". The "Dragons and Snakes" section of the ''Bencao Gangmu'', which is a comprehensive Chinese materia medica, differentiates between ''jiaolong'' 蛟龍 "Saltwater Crocodile, ''Crocodylus porosus''" and ''tolong'' 鼉龍 "Chinese Alligator, ''Alligator sinensis''". Most early references describe the ''jiaolong'' as living in rivers, which fits not only this freshwater "Chinese alligator" but also the "Saltwater crocodile" that spends the tropical wet season in freshwater rivers and swamps. Comparing maximum lengths of 6 and 1.5 meters for this crocodile and alligator respectively, "Saltwater crocodile" seems more consistent with descriptions of ''jiao'' reaching lengths of several ''zhang'' "approximately 3.3 meters".

Three classical texts repeat a sentence about capturing water creatures at the end of summer; 伐蛟取鼉登龜取黿 "attack the ''jiao'' 蛟, take the ''to'' 鼉 "alligator", present the ''gui'' 龜 "tortoise", and take the ''yuan'' 黿 "soft-shell turtle"."

Early texts frequently mention capturing ''jiao''. The ''Hanshu'' records catching a ''jiao'' 蛟in 106 BCE. The ''Shiyiji'' 拾遺記 has a ''jiao'' story about Emperor Zhao of Han . While fishing in the Wei River, he
caught a white ''kiao'', three chang long, which resembled a big snake, but had no scaly armour The Emperor said: 'This is not a lucky omen', and ordered the Ta kwan to make a condiment of it. Its flesh was purple, its bones were blue, and its taste was very savoury and pleasant.
The historicity of such accounts can be dubious. The ''Shiji'' biography of Emperor Gaozu of Han recounts a legend that his mother dreamed of a ''jiaolong'' before his birth.

Hornless dragon

The ''Shuowen Jiezi'' dictionary defines ''jiao'' 蛟 as "A kind of dragon, a hornless dragon is called ''jiao''. It explains that "if the number of fish in a pond reaches 3600, a ''jiao'' will come as their leader, and enable them to follow him and fly away." However, "if you place a fish trap in the water, the ''jiao'' will leave." According to the ''Chuci'' commentary of Wang Yi 王逸 , the ''jiao'' is a "hornless dragon" or a "small dragon", perhaps implying a young or immature dragon.

Note the pronunciation similarity between ''jiao'' 蛟 and ''jiao'' "horn". ''Jiaolong'' 角龍 "horned dragon", which is the Chinese name for the Ceratops dinosaur, occurs in Ge Hong's '' Baopuzi'' "the horned dragon can no longer find a place to swim."

Female dragon

''Jiao'' meaning "female dragon; dragon mother" is first recorded in the Buddhist dictionary ''Yiqie jingyinyi'' 一切經音義 . It defines ''jiaolong'' as "a fish with a snake's tail," notes the Sanskrit name ''guanpiluo'' 官毘羅 "''kumbhīra''; crocodile; alligator", and quotes Ge Hong's ''Baopuzi'' 抱朴子 that ''jiao'' 蛟 means "dragon mother, dragoness" and '''' "horned dragon" means "dragon child, dragonet". However, the received edition of the ''Baopuzi'' does not include this statement. The ''Piya'' dictionary repeats this "female dragon" definition.

Scaly dragon

The ''Guangya'' defines ''jiaolong'' as "scaly dragon; scaled dragon", using the word ''lin'' [[Wikt:鱗|�"scales ". Many later dictionaries copied this meaning, but it lacks textual corroboration.


''Jiao'' 蛟 was an interchangeable graphic loan character for ''jiao'' 鮫 "shark", usually called the ''jiaoyu'' 鮫魚 or ''shayu'' 鯊魚. ''Jiaoge'' 鮫革 means "sharkskin". Several texts record that soldiers from the southern state of made strong armor with skin from ''jiao'' sharks and hides from rhinoceros.


''Jiaoren'' 蛟人 "dragon person" or 鮫人 "shark person" "mermaid" is a later meaning of ''jiao''. The ''Shuyiji'' 遹異記 "Records of Strange Things" first mentions a mythical southern mermaid who spins silk underwater and sheds pearls for tears. The raw silk supposedly spun by mermaids was called ''jiaoxiao'' 蛟綃 "mermaid silk" or ''jiaonujuan'' 蛟女絹 "mermaid woman's silk".

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