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Nine sons of the dragon

The nine sons of the dragon are Chinese dragons who are the mythological sons of the Dragon King. There are many variations in the different descriptions of the nine sons, including in basic facts like their names, but all versions state that there are nine.

The oldest known attestation of the children of the dragon list is found in the Shuyuan Zaji (椒园杂记, Miscellaneous records from the bean garden) by Lu Rong (1436–1494); however, he noted that the list enumerates mere synonyms of various antiques, not children of a dragon.

Several Ming Dynasty texts list what were claimed as the Nine Offspring of the Dragon (Chinese: 龍生九子; pinyin: Lóng shēng jiǔzǐ), and subsequently these feature prominently in popular Chinese stories and writings. The scholar Xie Zhaozhe (, 1567–1624) in his work Wu Za Zu (, ca. 1592) gives the following listing in order of oldest to youngest, as translated by M.W. de Visser in 1913:

A well-known work of the end of the sixteenth century, the Wuzazu , informs us about the nine different young of the dragon, whose shapes are used as ornaments according to their nature.

Further, the same author enumerates nine other kinds of dragons, which used as ornamental decoration or as part of classical Chinese architecture. These examples can be found architecture throughout Asia used for adorning key-holes, on roofing, incense burners, door knockers, bridges, etc.

The Sheng'an waiji (升庵外集) collection by the poet Yang Shen (楊慎, 1488–1559) gives different 5th and 9th names for the dragon's nine children: the taotie (), which loves to eat and is found on food-related wares, and the jiaotu (), which looks like a conch or clam, does not like to be disturbed, and is used on the front door or the doorstep. Yang's list is bixi, chiwen or cháofēng, pulao, bi'an, taotie, qiuniu, yazi, suanni, and jiaotu.

The 9 sons of the dragon were recognized by the Chinese government's official Shanghai Mint in 2012's year of the Dragon by issuing 2 sets of coins, one in silver and one in brass. Each coin in the 9 coin sets depicts one of the 9 sons. A 10th additional coin was issued depicting the father dragon in silver and brass, which has iconography of the 9 sons on the reverse, for a total of 20 coins in the series. The coins are certified by NGC with the following names:

  • The [qiuniu ], (Hybrid of cow and dragon) a creature that likes music, are used to adorn musical instruments.
  • The [yazi /睚眥], (Hybrid of wolf and dragon) a creature that likes to fight, is aggressive and is normally found on cross-guards on sword as ornaments.
  • The [chaofeng ], (Hybrid of goat and dragon) a creature that likes to climb and eat. They are typically placed on the four corners of roofs.
  • The [pulao ], (Hybrid of dog & dragon) a creature that likes to scream, and are represented on the tops of bells, used as handles.
  • The [suanni ], (Hybrid of lion and dragon) a creature that likes to sit down, are represented upon the bases of Buddhist idols (under the Buddhas' or Bodhisattvas' feet).
  • The [bixi ], (Hybrid of turtle and dragon) a creature with a large shell able to carry heavy objects, and are normally found on tombstones.
  • The [bi'an ], (Hybrid of tiger and dragon) a creature that likes litigation, are placed over prison gates (in order to keep guard).
  • The [baxia ], (Hybrid of snake and dragon) a creature that likes to drink water, and is typically used on bridge structures.
  • The [chiwen /鴟吻], (Hybrid of fish and dragon) a creature that likes swallowing, are placed on both ends of the ridgepoles of roofs (to swallow all evil influences).


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