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The Chinese dragon and its influence on Christianity in China

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  1. Introduction
  2. The Chinese dragon
  3. Christianity in China
  4. Influence
  5. Conclusion

Generally, dragons have held positive connotations in culture of the Chinese since the time of the Song dynasty, in AD 960-1279. The Chinese made prayers to the dragon for rain. In Chinese culture, the dragon has been used as a symbol of imperial power; in fact, the emperor wore a dragon robe, reigned from a dragon throne and was thought to be a dragon incarnation (Yang 28-29). After several centuries, the dragon was chosen by the then Chinese Emperor Qing, to represent the Chinese nation. The dragon is apparently, today the most favourable of zodiac animals in china; the dragons perform dances often clad in red, during the Chinese New Year (de Visser 83). This paper espouses on how the dragon has influenced Christianity in China and explores two contrasting representations of the dragon; the biblical representation of the dragon that considers the dragon as the devil-an ancient serpent meant to lead the world astray and the Chinese view of the dragon as a symbol of imperial power.

Since the time that Christianity made its way into China, most Christian believers have held the view that the Biblical and the Chinese dragons are very distinct creatures and have ultimately accepted them; however, there are other shunned Chinese dragons, arguing that they are demonic, just as the biblical one. This paper shows that the dragon-Chinese dragon has become an important but yet controversial symbol in China, greatly influencing the interpretations of Christianity by Chinese people. A closer look at the dragon throughout the history of Chinese Christianity shows greater influence and a process of both enculturation and indigenization with regards to how the dragon is conceived in both traditional Chinese and Christian Chinese (Yang and An 48).

[...] 2nd ed. Vol New York: Oxford University Press Print. Yang, C.K. Religion in Chinese Society. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press Print. Yang, Lihui, and Deming An. Handbook of Chinese Mythology. New York, NY: Oxford University Press Print. [...]

[...] There is very little in literature and studies regarding the Chinese Christianity in the 20th century. In fact, it is only clear that independent movements by Protestants were the responsible of disseminating teachings on dragons, which flourished most during this period. There are also indigenous religious groups that continued to disseminate information and teachings on the dragon as in exorcism context. During the early days of peoples republic of China, Christian attitudes and consideration of the dragon became highly politicized. [...]

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