Yinglong (simplified Chinese: 应龙; traditional Chinese: 應龍; pinyin: yìnglóng; Wade-Giles: ying-lung) is a winged dragon and rain deity in ancient Chinese mythology.
应龙 (ying-lung) in Chinese means responsive dragon.
The (early 6th century CE) Shuyiji 述異記 "Records of Strange Things" (tr. Visser 1913:72) lists yinglong as a 1000-year-old dragon. "A water snake (水虺 shui hui) after five hundred years changes into a kiao (蛟), a kiao after a thousand years changes into a lung (龍), a lung after five hundred years changes into a kioh-lung (蛟龍, "horned dragon") and after a thousand years into a ying-lung (應龍)".
Yinglong was a dragon believed to be a powerful servant of Huang di, the yellow emperor, who was later immortalized as a dragon. One legend states that Yinglong helped a man named Yu stop the Yellow River from flooding by digging long channels with his tail. "All traditions about Ying-lung are vague", writes Eberhard (1968:350-351). Although the legendary Yinglong dragon helped Yu to control floods, "Yü was frequently bothered by dragons", most notably the flood-deity Gong Gong's minister Xiang Liu 相柳, who "had a human face, but a snake body with nine heads." Eberhard cites Sun Jiayi's identification of Xiang Liu as an eel (manyu 鰻魚), which is important in flood myths of Taiwanese aborigines. According to early commentaries, Yinglong
who made the beds of rivers by waggling his tail in the muddy soil and thus helped Yü to regulate the flood, was a kind of eel, too. Hsiang-liu stopped the water with his body; Ying-lung with his tail made it run freely, just as Yü's father Kun stopped the water, while Yü made it run.
He cites legends describing Gun as "the naked one" and "dark fish"; both names that "fit quite well the eel." Eberhard concludes that Yinglong and the mythic elements about Yu "testify to the connection between Yü and the cultures of the south, which differ from Yü myths of the Ba culture". Carr (1990:106) cites Chen Mengjia's hypothesis, based on studies of Shang Dynasty oracle bones, that Yinglong was originally associated with the niqiu 泥鰍 "loach".
Yinglong representations were anciently used in rain-magic ceremonies, where Eberhard (1968:247-248) says, "the most important animal is always a dragon made of clay". Besides controlling rain and drought, the Yinglong Responsive Dragon did something else: "With his tail he drew lines in the earth and thus created the rivers … In other words, the dragon made the waterways – the most important thing for all cultivators of rice.
Porter (1996:44-45) interprets the tail of the terrestrial Yinglong, which "uses its tail to sketch on the land a map of channel-like formations whereby the floodwaters were allowed to drain", as the tail of the celestial dragon Scorpius, which is "situated precisely where the Milky Way splits into two branches". The (4th century CE) Shiyiji 拾遺記 (tr. Porter) retells the Yu flood-control myth in terms of the Four Symbols, namely, the Yellow Dragon or Azure Dragon and the Black Tortoise. "Yü exhausted his energy creating channels, diverting the waters and establishing mountains as the yellow dragon dragged its tail in front and the black turtle carried green-black mud (used to build the channels) in back."
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