Dragons exist in nearly every culture around the world. While some believe that humans created the concept to explain the unknown or to represent fears or desires, there may be a simpler connection. Anthropologist and linguist Robert Blust argues that dragons may have a common origin in nature’s rainbow. Indeed, Australian Aboriginal mythology reveres the ancestor of all dragons, the Rainbow Serpent, and a northern version describes them as lizard-like and associated with water, the rainbow, lightning and thunder.

And what of the Chinese dragons? Appearing in oracle bone characters from over three thousand years ago, the character for rainbow seems to show dragons at both ends. Early Chinese poets wrote of the ‘curving rainbow’, a term that would come to stand directly for the dragon. In addition to its majesty and connection to both past imperial rulers and the contemporary population, the Chinese dragon brings much drama to any scene it enters and we can expect much of that this year.

Assuming that dragons are descendants of the Rainbow Serpent, evolutionary pressures may have pushed them into different ecological and cultural niches. Here is a family snapshot of the extraordinary variation among cousins:

Common characteristics: good-natured, often hidden in rain clouds, scaly skin, horns like a deer.
  Source: Pixabay

Common characteristics: a dragon that swallows its own tail, associated with renewal and the cycle of life.
  Source: Pixabay

Common characteristics: lives in the ocean and is large enough to circle the world, fights several times with its uncle, Thor.
  Source: Jörmungandr in the sea during Ragnarök, drawn by the Norwegian illustrator Louis Moe in 1898.

Common characteristics: has a tail, wings, body scales and four legs, controls the rain.
  Source: Drawn by Faucher-Gudin from the bas-relief from Nimrûd. History Of Egypt, Chaldæa, Syria, Babylonia, and Assyria, Volume 3 by G. Maspero

Common characteristics: a large snake with horns like those on a stag, often with scales and found living underwater.

Common characteristics: lives deep in the river, is a huge serpent with a beak, has scales, protects water-based life.

Common characteristics: a serpent king, with horns of some sort.
  Source: Public domain

Common characteristics: inhabits the depths of rivers and lakes, ate local people until they moved. When they moved away, it followed, but was seen and killed by a thunderbolt.
  Source: Public domain

Common characteristics: colours of the skin shine like a rainbow, in form, it resembles a python, present in pools of standing water, associated with storms and floods.

Common characteristics: said to live with or always be present with a snake, and to reside in waterholes or pools, when it touched the earth it was drinking from the pool, and humans should not drink from that water.

Feng Shui Index 2024 report

Year of the Wood Dragon

Sorcerer: Dr James Greenbaum
Sorcerer's apprentice: Stella Liu
Wand bearer: Justin SL Chan
Director/Editor: Sandy Chen Dowling; Yukti Vidyarthi
Translation editor: Sandra Tsui
Design/Art: Cecilia Wong; Elva Lau; Lizzie Lau; Patrina Leung; Jon Berkeley
Web development: Paul Ngan; Timothy Wang
Video production: Alexandra Lee; Joy Zhou
Thanks to: Christina Qianna; Ellen Lo; Melanie Ng; Priscilla Man
Producer: Liz Patterson

Launched in 1992 as a Chinese New Year card, the CLSA Feng Shui Index is a light-hearted outlook for the Hong Kong market and a well-loved firm tradition. Please note that this guide is not a research report.