Here Be Dragons – Global Sightings

Dragon head, Forbidden city

Dragons have been a part of various cultures and civilizations throughout history. They have been depicted as fearsome beasts, powerful symbols, and even as divine creatures. Blank spaces on medieval maps would declare “Here Be Dragons”. Capture the imagination of people all over the world, thru fear, wonder and admiration.  And they remain a popular subject in art, literature, and popular culture.

Dragon tile screen wall in the Forbidden City, Beijing, China

I imagined this would be a quick post to create, aided partly by ChatGPT and illustrated by my travel images. But instead, it became a descent into the crypts of the secret dragon lore archives (aka Google). After I emerged, here’s the result…

Modern Dragon Sightings

Dragons of the European Continent

Buy Dragon prints, mugs, jigsaw puzzles & other products

Chinese dragons 

are a symbol of power, strength, and good luck in Chinese culture. They are divine and mythical creatures that bring good fortune and prosperity. They’re often depicted as long, wingless, serpentine creatures with four legs and a horn on their forehead. They are usually shown with a fiery breath.

Note that Chinese dragons tend to have 4 feet and no wings [though like Superman, they manage to fly without wings], unlike European dragons who tend to have 2 feet and wings

Deeply ingrained in Chinese folklore and mythology they’ve influenced Chinese culture for thousands of years. They originated from the Yellow Emperor, who was the first ruler of Chin They were often depicted with long bodies, four legs, and large, flowing whiskers. In imperial China, the dragon was a symbol of the emperor’s power and strength, and the dragon throne was the symbol of the emperor’s authority.

Chinese dragons are also associated with water, as they are said to be able to control the elements and bring rain to the crops. This is why they are often depicted as being surrounded by water or clouds. Dragons rule the  sky and the waters, bringing rain and good luck. Chinese dragons are also considered to be guardians of the four cardinal points protecting the four corners of the earth.  

The Chinese dragon is also closely associated with the Chinese New Year and is a popular symbol during the celebrations. During the Chinese New Year, dragon dances are performed in the streets, with people dressed in dragon costumes and parading through the streets. The dragon dance is believed to bring good luck and prosperity for the coming year.

Chinese festival dragon in parade. Calgary Stampede Parade Calgary Alberta

Chinese dragons are also popular in art and literature. They are often depicted in Chinese paintings, sculptures, and embroidery. Chinese dragons are also a popular subject in Chinese literature and can be found in many Chinese folktales and legends.

Dragons are not seen as harmful or evil; rather as powerful but benevolent bringing good fortune and prosperity. They are also associated with courage, wisdom, and power, and even  as a symbol of the Chinese people.

The ancient astronomical observatory in Beijing, China, built in the early 1400s, is one of the oldest and most significant astronomical observatories in the world. It was used to observe the movements of celestial bodies and to predict astronomical events and is a testament to the advanced astronomical knowledge of the ancient Chinese civilization. Dragons protect and support the instruments.

Dragon protects astronomical instrument, Beijing

Southeast Asian dragons,

also known as naga, are a unique and important part of Southeast Asian culture and mythology. These dragons are typically depicted as serpentine creatures with the head of a dragon and the body of a serpent. Like the Chinese, they’re often associated with water and are said to reside in rivers, lakes, and oceans.

Yellow dragon head on prow of boat Halong Bay, Vietnam

WAT NOKOR, CAMBODIA – FEB 9, 2015 – Dragon head painting on column Wat Nokor, 8th century, Cambodia

In many Southeast Asian cultures, dragons are powerful and benevolent creatures. They bring good luck and prosperity to those who honor and respect them. In myths and legends, dragons are also said to have the ability to shape-shift into human form and interact with humans. Dragons are seen as powerful and wise creatures. They are often depicted in intricate carvings, sculptures, and paintings.

The naga, in from Hindu and Buddhist mythology are guardians of the underworld nagas protect treasures and sacred sites. They have healing powers and are often associated with medicine and health.

In Thai culture, dragons are also an important symbol of power and strength. They are often depicted in Thai art and architecture. In Thailand, dragons are also associated with the monarchy and a symbol of the king’s power and authority.

In Indonesia, dragons are also known as naga and once again control water and fire. In Bali, dragons are also powerful protectors of the island and its people. They appear Balinese dances and ceremonies, where they are invoked for protection and blessings.

Large wooden dragon sculpture from Indonesia

Dragons in Persian miniature art

and legends have a rich and varied history. In Persian art, dragons are often depicted as powerful and majestic creatures, with intricate detailing and vibrant colors. They are often shown in combat with heroes or other mythical creatures, such as griffins or lions.

In Persian legends, dragons are also portrayed as powerful and fearsome creatures. However, they are also seen as wise and benevolent beings, who possess great knowledge and magical powers. They are said to be able to breathe fire and control the elements, and are often associated with the elements of water and air.

One of the most famous dragons in Persian legend is the dragon Zahhak, who was defeated by the Persian hero Fereydun. According to the legend, Zahhak was a powerful dragon who terrorized the land, until Fereydun defeated him with the help of a magical sword and chained him beneath a mountain.

Another well-known dragon in Persian legend is the dragon of Khorasan, who was said to have lived in a cave near the city of Tus. The dragon was said to have been so large that it could swallow elephants whole, and was feared by all who lived nearby. However, it was eventually defeated by the Persian hero Afrasiyab, who slayed the dragon and freed the people from its terror.

In Persian culture, dragons are also believed to have healing powers and are often associated with medicine and health. They are also believed to bring good luck and prosperity. Many Persian stories and legends feature dragons as wise and powerful creatures who offer guidance and protection to the heroes and heroines.

Dragons in Latin America

are not a widespread cultural phenomenon, as they are typically associated with European mythology. However, there are a few references to dragon-like creatures in indigenous legends and folklore in the region.

In Aztec mythology, the earth goddess Tlalteuctli was often depicted as a massive dragon-like creature that represented the Earth and its powers. The Aztecs believed that Tlalteuctli was responsible for earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, and was capable of causing massive destruction.

In Mayan mythology, the feathered serpent deity Kukulkan was revered as a powerful god of creation, fertility, and the renewal of life. Kukulkan was often depicted as a serpent with feathers, and was said to have the power to control the elements and bring both good and bad fortune.

In some indigenous cultures of the Amazon rainforest, there are stories of giant serpents or dragons that inhabit the rivers and waterways of the region. These creatures were often feared and respected, and were thought to have the power to control the waters and bring both life and death.

Dragons are not a traditional part of African folklore

 or mythology. Instead, African cultures have unique pantheons of mythical creatures, spirits, and gods. Some African cultures, such as the Dogon people of Mali, have creation myths that feature large serpents, but these creatures are not typically referred to as dragons.

However, dragons have become a more recent part of African pop culture, particularly in the fantasy and science fiction genres. African writers and artists have started to incorporate dragons into their work, creating new myths and legends that reflect their own cultural experiences and perspectives.

In these new African dragon narratives, the creatures are often depicted as powerful and magnificent beings, with some even taking on more human-like characteristics. These African dragons can have wings, breathe fire, and possess incredible strength, but they are also sometimes depicted as wise and spiritual beings, associated with elemental forces like wind and water.

By Cascoly

I've been exploring and leading trips for over 40 years. climbing & trekkng in the Alps, Andes, North American mountain ranges and the Himalaya. I'm retired from mountaineering now but world travels in Europe, Africa & Asia continue to expand my portfolio. Besides private travel, I now focus on escorting trips to India & Turkey. Other interests include wide reading in history and vegetable gardening / cooking. You can download digital images here, or find images at We have many thousands of images we haven't displayed yet; so, if you have a special need or request please contact us