70 Chinese and Japanese Dragon Tattoo Designs and their Actual Meanings


Dragons have made their appearances in myths and legends from all across the globe. Starting with the Aztec god Quetzalcoatl, to those giant winged fire-breathing dragons from European medieval tales, a dragon can come in all different forms. A dragon is often shown as an evil creature or an antagonist in a fairytale. However, there are still a couple of stories out there that are meant to give these creatures a good side. Dragons are a common trope in fantasy novels, no matter if they’re good or evil, and they’re often seen as power beings.

The word ‘dragon’ is taken from the Greek term meaning ‘large serpent’. A dragon is a prominent feature of both European and Asian folklore. In the former, a dragon was often seen as an evil beast, defeated by princes, wizards, and knights. Meanwhile, in Asia, especially in China, a dragon was considered to be a sign of prosperity and good luck. Thanks to their varied history, dragon tattoos have also surged in popularity, and this is the reason why so many dragon tattoo ideas have come up.

A dragon represents the four basic elements of nature in Chinese and Japanese culture – Wind, fire, earth, and water. It’s also a representative of the four directions: South, East, North, and West. And at the same time, a dragon also symbolizes the water, the sky, the earth, and the underworld. Legends have often mentioned that a dragon rules these four natural elements. So this is the reason why each element’s dragon guardian possessed their very own characteristics. Ancient Chinese culture knew that these fire-breathing dragons often associated themselves with fertility, lightning and rain. Water dragons were thought to protect the rivers, streams, and lakes.

A Chinese dragon tattoo is a symbol of a person’s Chi, or cosmic energy. Among the dozens of Chinese symbols out there, the dragon is known the be the ultimate sign of good fortune. And because they’re one of the creatures that guard the earth’s four directions, A dragon could also mean a brand new beginning. Dragons have the ability to release water on dried lands, giving them plenty of relief and abundance. Some of the other traits that are associated with Chinese dragons are high achievement, success, good fortune, and prosperity, and this is the reason why it’s highly popular among East Asian symbols.

A dragon can also be a highly destructive force – However, they’re also known to be guardians as well. In Japanese and East Asian culture, people see dragons much differently compared to their European counterparts. Traditional Japanese tattoos have depicted dragons as a generous yet powerful creature which uses their wisdom and strength to do good things for the benefit of mankind. Their intelligence is another famous trait. The positive connotations associated with these legendary creatures are the reason why Japanese dragon tattoos are so popular amongst tattoo enthusiasts.

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Chinese And Japanese Dragon Tattoo Designs

No matter what the context may be, a dragon is always a popular and powerful type of tattoo design, meant to be enjoyed by both men and women. Even though you can create a dragon tattoo in various sizes, the shading and detailing involved in plenty of these depictions are the reason why people opt to go for big dragon tattoos instead of smaller ones. A couple of the traits that are connected to dragons are independence, courage, and strength.

  • Sleeping Dragon Tattoo: If you see a sleeping dragon, then it’s likely best that you leave them alone. A sleeping dragon tattoo tells the viewer that the person is not one that you mess around with. Sleeping dragons might be exhausted and need plenty of rest, but they still hold power and strength that’s just waiting to come out of them, especially when the moment presents itself.
  • Yin Yang Dragon Tattoo: In Chinese cultures, the dragon, along with the phoenix, represent yang and yin, respectively. The yang symbolizes passion and untamed masculine energy, much like the sun. Meanwhile, the yin is more feminine, rational, and calm, and is also a representative of the moon. Combining these two elements together, you will get a dragon phoenix tattoo.
  • Dragon And Snake Tattoo: Dragons and snakes are both highly represented in Eastern cultures. In fact, plenty of tales have depicted these two as mortal enemies, despite both of them sharing the same personality. These two creatures are linked in both origin and mythology, but despite that, there are still plenty of differences between the two of them: A snake is associated with medicine and healing (like Asclepius, the god of medicine). The dragon, meanwhile, represents the primal forces of nature, along with its natural elements. A conflict between the snake and the dragon can also represent the idea of science versus superstition, and the traditional values versus modern thinking.
  • Dragon And Tiger Tattoo: In Chinese mythology, dragons and tigers are also depicted as rivals, and are often seen engaging in a fight. Even though they also have common aspects like dragons and snakes – Like strength, power, nature, and passion, the tiger and dragon have vastly different ways of interacting with these primal forces. Tigers are very powerful so they rely on their strength, while a dragon is seen as highly smart and concentrates more on learning about the different aspects of the world.
  • Koi Dragon Tattoo: All of the aspects found in this type of dragon tattoo all contain a strong connection to Eastern and Oriental cultures, especially Japanese tradition. Koi fish, which is a common fish found in Japan, is known for their strength, bravery, and can face any type of obstacle without showing any signs of fear or backing out. And as mentioned by Chinese legends, if a Koi fish manages to swim upstream and hop onto the ragging falls of the Yangtze (Yellow river), it can transform itself into a powerful dragon. Koi dragon tattoos symbolize ambitiousness, and success through working hard. This is because the fish has turned powerful after it faced this rough obstacle.

Chinese And Japanese Dragon Tattoo Meaning

A dragon is known to be a popular creature in both folklore and mythology, in all parts of the world. Dragons have been included in both European and Asian fairytales, specifically in East Asian countries like Korea, Japan, and China among others. Plenty of Eastern civilizations have said that a dragon is a huge, noble creature with distinct powers and honors. Meanwhile, in European culture, a dragon is often considered to be a symbol of evil and dark magic.

There are plenty of meanings behind a dragon tattoo. One culture might consider the dragon as a symbol of wisdom and strength, while the others see them as a sign of bad luck and danger. In China, the dragon represents good luck, good will, and wisdom. And in Japan, dragons are a sign of balance and harmony.

The dragon in Eastern and Asian cultures is also revered as a noble creature which provides protection and wisdom. However, the same cannot be said for European cultures – Dragons have a darker image to them, and are seen as more threatening. But on both sides, the dragon is seen as an intelligent creature that is free to fly wherever it pleases. So a dragon tattoo could also mean that the person who owns it has a free soul, or lives a carefree, happy life.

Dragons also symbolize knowledge, protection, and power. Its warlike and scary image both make it a strong ally, as well as a scary rival. In most European folklores and fairytales, we have often heard the story of a heroic prince slaying the dragon to rescue his beloved princess. And in plenty of cultures, killing a dragon is one of the biggest honors that a knight can achieve – As seen in legends of Beowulf, and the story of St. George.

Another reason why people like getting dragon tattoos is because the design can be done in various ways – Abstract or realistic, dramatic, or slightly cartoonish. Plenty of them are completed in a highly solid ink and is meant to follow the traditional style of getting inked. Tribal dragon tattoos are also a thing, and nowadays, colored tattoos with the usual tribal designs are becoming more and more popular. No matter if you decide to get your dragon tattoo in full colored ink or only black, it’ll still look good either way.

Chinese And Japanese Dragon Tattoo Placement               

It’s not surprising that a dragon tattoo is usually big, since the creature itself is huge and majestic-looking. It’s also obvious that the size of a tattoo can influence its positioning on the wearer’s body. This means that the bigger the tattoo design might be, the more space is needed to accurately draw it on the wearer’s body. So a Chinese and Japanese dragon tattoo design is always best featured on the wearer’s chest, sides, back, thighs, and just about any part of the body that has a large surface area – Sometimes occupying the entire body part itself. And if you want a tinier version of a dragon tattoo, then you can get your artist to put it on your shoulder, the fingers, the ankles, the wrists, the neck, and the arms.

A dragon is often seen as a masculine symbol, but dragon tattoos are highly popular among both men and women. But if you really want a dragon tattoo, you need to consider it carefully before you can book an appointment, since dragon tattoos are normally large. This means that you’ll be spending twice the amount of cash and stay inside the shop for four hours. And what’s more, getting rid of a tattoo can be painful, expensive, and time consuming – Especially if it happens to be a big one.

The upper back is one of the best spots to put in a Japanese or Chinese dragon tattoo design. This will show the dragon’s head going right past the wearer’s shoulder, heading down towards their chest. A lot of men pick this design to show off their rebelliousness, dominance, and pure power. A menacing-looking fire-breathing dragon is perfect for men who are tough.

Women, meanwhile, see dragon tattoos as a sign of bravery and independence. One of the best areas for them to acquire a dragon tattoo is on the side of their body.


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