Sunday, October 5, 2008


Qiulong or qiu was a Chinese dragon that is contradictorily defined as "horned dragon" and "hornless dragon".


This dragon name can be pronounced ''qiu'' or ''jiu'' and written 虯 or 虬.


The variant Chinese characters for the ''qiu'' or ''jiu'' dragon are and , which combine the "insect " with phonetics of ''jiu'' "connect" and ''yin'' ] "hidden". This 虫 radical is typically used in Chinese characters for insects, worms, reptiles, and dragons . Compare the word ''jiu'' or "twist; entangle; unite" that is written with the "silk radical" and the same alternate phonetics as ''qiu'' 虯 or 虬.

''Qiu'' 虬 or 虯 is also an uncommon Chinese surname. For example, Qiuranke Zhuan 虯髯客傳 "The Legend of the Curly-whiskered Guest" is a story by the Tang Dynasty writer Du Guangting 杜光庭 , and Qiu Zhong 虬仲 was the Chinese style name of the Qing Dynasty painter Li Fangying.

In , the kanji "Chinese characters" 虬 or 虯 are sometimes used for the ''mizuchi'' 蛟 "river dragon".


Sinological linguists have proposed several etymologies for the ''qiu'' or ''jiu'' 虯 dragon.

Bernhard Karlgren reconstructed Old Chinese pronunciations of ''qiu'' < *''g'y?g'' or ''jiu'' < *''ky?g'' for 虯 "horned dragon" and "horn-shaped; long and curved". This latter word combines the "horn radical" and 虯's ''jiu'' 丩 phonetic.

Carr follows Karlgren's reconstructions and suggests ''qiu'' < *''g'y?g'' or ''jiu'' < *''ky?g'' 虯 is "part of a 'twist; coil; wrap' word family" that includes:
*''qiu'' < *''g'y?g'' "long and curved; curled up horn"
*''jiu'' < *''kly?g'' "curving branch; twist"
*''miu'' < *''mly?g'' or ''jiu'' < *''kly?g'' "bind; wind around; wrap; twist"
*''liu'' < *''gly?g'' or ''lu'' < *''gly?k'' "join forces; unite"
*''jiao'' < *''kl?g'' "glue; unite"
*''liao'' < *''gly?g'' "tie around; strangle"

This "twisting; coiling" etymology can explain both the meanings "horned dragon; twisted horns" and "curling; wriggling" below.

Schuessler reconstructs Old Chinese ''qiu'' < *''giu'' or ''jiu'' < *''kiu'' for 觓 or 觩 "horn-shaped; long and curved" and 虯 "horned dragon", and cites Coblin's comparison of "horned dragon" with Written ''klu'' "Naga, serpent spirit". Schuessler compares ''jiu'' < *''kiu?'' 糾 "to twist, plait" and concludes the "most likely etymology is 'twisting, wriggling'".


Chinese dictionaries give three ''qiu'' 虯 or 虬 meanings: "dragon without horns ", "dragon with horns", and "curling; coiling".

Hornless dragon

Several Chinese classic texts and commentaries from the Han Dynasty identified ''qiu'' 虯 as a "hornless dragon; dragon without horns", which is interpreted as "young dragon; immature dragon".

The ''Chuci'' uses ''qiu'' 虬 seven times, which is more frequently than any other classical text. The standard Sibu Beiyao 四部備要 edition gives the character as 虬 instead of 虯. ''Qiu'' is a dragon name in four contexts. The first uses ''yuqiu'' 玉虬 "jade hornless-dragon"; "I yoked a team of jade dragons to a phoenix-figured car, And waited for the wind to come, to soar up on my journey." The second uses ''qiulong'' 虬龍 "hornless dragon"; "Where are the hornless dragons which carry bears on their backs for sport?" In both contexts, commentary of Wang Yi 王逸 says ''qiu'' means "hornless dragon" and ''long'' means "horned dragon". The third uses ''qingqiu'' 青虬 "green dragon" referring to the legendary as Chong Hua 重華; "With a team of azure dragons, white serpents in the traces, I rode with Chong Hua in the Garden of Jasper." Wang notes ''qiu'' and ''chi'' are types of ''long'' "dragons". The fourth uses ''qiu'' 虬 alone; "With team of dragons I mount the heavens, In ivory chariot borne aloft."

The ''Shuowen Jiezi'' dictionary gives inconsistent definitions of ''qiu'' 虯. Some early editions define 龍無角者 "a dragon without horns", while later editions define 龍子有角者 "a young dragon with horns". Carr notes the discrepancy of three ''Shuowen'' definitions for "hornless dragon": ''qiu'' 虯, ''jiao'' 蛟, and ''chi'' . The ''Shuowen Jiezi'' scholar Zhu Junsheng 朱駿聲 explains that male ''long'' 龍 "dragons" have horns and female ones do not, and among young dragons, ''jiao'' 蛟 has one horn, ''qiu'' 虯 has two, and ''chi'' 螭 is hornless.

A few later sources, such as the ''Guangyun'' rime dictionary, concur with early ''Shuowen Jiezi'' editions and define ''qiu'' 虯 as "hornless dragon", but most dictionaries define a contrast set between ''qiu'' 虯 "horned dragon" and ''chi'' 螭 "hornless dragon".

Horned dragon

The ''Huainanzi'' "Peering into the Obscure" chapter mentions ''qingqiu'' 青虯 "green horned-dragon" twice. First, "The Fable of the Dragons and the Mud-Eels" uses it with ''chichi'' 赤螭 "red hornless-dragon"; "When the red hornless dragon and the green horned dragon roamed the land of Chi 冀, the sky was limpid and the earth undisturbed." The commentary of Gao Yu 高淯 notes ''qingqiu'' and ''chichi'' are types of ''long'' 龍 "dragons", but without mentioning horns. Second, a description of Fu Xi and Nüwa, who are represented as having dragon tails, uses ''qingqiu'' with ''yinglong'' 應龍 "winged dragon"; "They rode the thunder chariot, using winged dragons as the inner pair and green dragons as the outer pair."

The ''Shiji'' "Records of the Grand Historian" biography of Sima Xiangru quotes his '''' 賦 poem entitled ''Zixu'' 子虛 "Sir Fantasy". Like the ''Huaiananzi'', it contrasts ''qingqiu'' 青虯 "green horned-dragon" with ''chichi'' 赤螭 "red hornless-dragon", which Watson translates "horned dragon" and "hornless dragon".

Ge Hong's ''Baopuzi'' 抱朴子 has four references. It mentions: ''jiu'' 虬 "As to the flying to the sky of the ''k'iu'' of the pools, this is his union with the clouds", ''shenjiu'' 神虬 "divine horned-dragon" "If a pond inhabited by fishes and gavials is drained off, the divine ''k'iu'' go away", and ''qingjiu'' 青虬 "green horned-dragon" "The ts'ui k'iu has no wings and yet flies upwards to the sky", "Place the shape in a tray, and the kingfisher-''k'iu'' descend in a dark vapoury haze".

The ''Guangya'' dictionary defines ''qiu'' 虯 as "horned dragon" and ''chi'' 螭 as "hornless dragon". This semantic contrast is repeated in later dictionaries such as the ''Longkan Shoujian'' and the ''Piya'', which says differentiates: "If a dragon has scales, he is called ''kiao-lung'' ; if wings, ''ying-lung'' ; if a horn, ''k'iu-lung'' ; and if he has no horn, he is called ''ch'i-lung'' ."

In traditional Chinese art, dragons are commonly represented with two horns. According to the ''Qian fu lun'' , the dragon's "horns resemble those of a stag". The ''Bencao Gangmu'' materia medica prescribes ''longjue'' 龍角 "dragon horn" , "For convulsions, fevers, diarrhea with fever and hardened belly. Taken continuously it lightens the body, enlightens the soul and prolongs life."


''Qiu'' can mean "curling; twisting; coiling; wriggling; writhing" in Chinese . For instance:
*''qiupan'' 虬蟠 "curled up like a dragon; curling and twisting "
*''jiaoqiu'' 蛟虬 "coil like a dragon"
*''qiuxu'' 虬鬚 "curly beard; curly mustache"
*''qiuran'' 虯髯 "curly whiskers"

Besides the four "hornless dragon" examples above, three ''Chuci'' contexts use ''qiu'' in words describing dragons "coiling; wriggling; writhing". Two use ''youqiu'' 蚴虬 to describe the ''canglong'' 蒼龍 Azure Dragon constellation; "I rode in the ivory chariot of the Great Unity: The coiling Green Dragon ran in the left-hand traces; The White Tiger made the right hand of my team", "To hang at my girdle the coiling Green Dragon, To wear at my belt the sinuous rainbow serpent." One uses ''liuqiu'' 蟉虬 with ''chi'' 螭 "hornless dragon"; "They lined water monsters up to join them in the dance: How their bodies coiled and writhed in undulating motion!"

Mythic parallels

The ancient Chinese ''jiu'' 虯 "horned dragon" is analogous with the Mountain Horned Dragon lizard and several legendary creatures in Comparative mythology.

Assuming trans-cultural diffusion, MacKenzie suggests that the Chinese "horned-dragon, or horned-serpent" derives from the Egyptian Osiris "water-serpent". The Chinese Hui people have a myth about a silver-horned dragon that controls rainfall.

In Babylonian mythology, the deity Marduk supposedly rode a horned dragon when he defeated Tiamat, and it became his emblem. In Persian mythology, the hero Garshasp killed an ''A?i Sruvara'' "horned dragon". In Greek mythology, the two-headed Amphisbaena dragon was represented with horns.

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