Dragons of Asia: Japanese Dragon–Counting Toes!

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There are a few differences between Chinese Dragons and Japanese ones. Chinese mythology almost always portrays dragons as benevolent, whereas Japanese legends sometimes feature them as evil monsters similar to European dragons.

Also, in ancient China, the addition of one extra toe or claw to a painting or sculpture of a dragon could be a fatal lapse in judgement. Reason being: a dragon with five toes(or claws) was a symbol of the imperial family. Punishment was dealt on anyone of lower status who dared to decorate his clothing or household with a five-toed dragon. Therefore, dragons with four toes are more common in China, and artwork depicting a five-clawed dragon usually indicates the piece is for imperial use only.
Even though the Japanese dragon was also a symbol of imperial power,the Japan’s artists often portrayed dragons with three toes;a Japanese dragon’s number of toes does not indicate its status.

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