In Chinese mythology, the four Dragon Kings (龍王; pinyin: Lóng Wáng) are the divine rulers of the four seas.
Although Dragon Kings appear in their true forms as dragons, they have the ability to shapeshift into human form. The Dragon Kings live in crystal palaces, guarded by shrimp soldiers and crab generals.
Besides ruling over the aquatic life, the Dragon Kings also manipulate clouds and rain. When enraged, they can flood cities. According to The Short Stories on the Tang People (唐人傳奇 Tangren Chuanqi), the Qian Tang Dragon King did just that when he found out his niece had been abused by her husband. Qian Tang also ate the abusive husband.
Dragon Kings appeared commonly in literature. Detailed descriptions were given of the finery of their crystal palaces. In the Chinese classical novel Journey to the West, a Dragon King is one of the main characters in the tenth chapter.
- Dragon of the East: Ao Guang (敖廣)
- Dragon of the South: Ao Qin (敖欽)
- Dragon of the West: Ao Run (敖閏)
- Dragon of the North: Ao Shun (敖順)
The four Dragon Kings also appeared in Fengshen Yanyi. But their names are different from those in Journey to the West. The Dragon King of the Eastern Sea (Donghai) is said to have the largest territory.
There are numerous temples dedicated to Dragon Kings in China. One temple in Beijing was built during the Yuan Dynasty and renovated in the early 21st century. Chao-Tian Palace (朝天宮) of Beigang Township (北港鎮), Yunlin, devoted to the Goddess Mazu, also has human-shaped statues for the four Dragon Kings, each riding on a dragon. In contrast to the Dragon Kings, Mazu, although also a deity of sea, is a motherly figure who never wreaks havoc.