Teach Yourself Japanese
Subject: the origin of the dragon
From: TAKASUGI Shinji (tssf.airnet.ne.jp)
Date: Tue, 12 Jun 2001 11:36:29 GMT
References: 1, 2
Recently I read Wani to Ryû (The Crocodile and the Dragon), a book written by AOKI Ryôsuke, and I found the reason why the dragon is the only imaginary animal among the twelve animals of the Chinese zodiac. According to the book, there were machikane crocodiles (Toyotamaphimeia machikanensis), extinct huge crocodiles, in ancient China when climate was warmer than today. They were temperate-zone freshwater crocodiles, and he thinks their northern limit was the river Hàn. They went extinct 3000 years ago in northern China because of sudden cold climate. Chinese people began to mystify the powerful and dangerous animal, and finally the image of the crocodile became the dragon. China's last report on a crocodile was 600 years ago at a place near modern Hong Kong.
It's not only Aoki who says the origin of the dragon was crocodiles. But former researchers insisted that ancient Chinese crocodiles were estuarine crocodiles (Crocodylus porosus), which live in the tropical zone, and he thinks that is wrong.
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