Archeologists Find Crocodile is Prototype of Dragon

Chinese archeologists say studies prove that the crocodile is the prototype of the dragon, a sacred, mythical animal which has long been a symbol of the Chinese nation.

Their conclusion was based on research of the earliest image of the Chinese dragon, which was formed out of clam shells about 6, 400 years ago. Archeologists unearthed the sculpture in 1987 in an ancient tomb in the Yangshao relics in Puyang city, Henan Province.

China is known as the "land of the dragon" and the Chinese people regard themselves as "children of the dragon." For thousands of years, the dragon was widely worshipped in China, and each emperor of ancient China deified the dragon, then proclaimed himself the "son of the dragon" to establish his supreme authority.

But for centuries, no one knew exactly how or where the legend started. Scholars speculated that the ancient Chinese modeled the dragon after the boa constrictor or lightning. In the 1930s, noted scholar Wei Juxian offered the theory that the crocodile was actually the creature honored by the ancients.

The boa constrictor snake was thought to be the dragon prototype about 4,500 years ago. Crocodiles had migrated to south China by then because of changed weather, and the ferocious boa became a common sight in the Yellow River, Zheng said.

He cited the snake-like images of dragons discovered in ancient cultural relics in central and northeast China areas as the basis for his theory about the change in the dragon's ancestry.

He Xingliang, a research fellow with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, echoed Zheng's views, saying, "The image of Chinese dragon has evolved through the centuries to finally become a sacred symbol for the whole Chinese nation."

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