The Chinese dragon, known as lóng in China and sometimes referred to as a “sky serpent”, is actually not related to the true dragons. Its closest living relative is in fact the elusive sea serpent, meaning that its ancestry traces back to the plesiosaurs, though it bears little resemblance to such ancestors.
A Chinese dragon gives off the general impression of a massive, shining-scaled serpent. However, a closer look reveals several decidedly non-serpentine features. Its mouth is filled with teeth, it sports two long horns on its head resembling those of a gazelle, and all four of its limbs are wings. The dragon’s neck comprises approximately one-third of its length, with the tail filling out a further one-quarter; the torso is slim and elongated, promoting the comparisons to a serpent. The wings are tipped by sharp claws, and are capable of supporting its body on land as well as in the air.
From nose to tail, a full-grown Chinese dragon measures about three and a half metres on average; from wing tip to wing tip, they are around two and a half metres. However, dragons as long as five metres have been recorded, with wingspans up to four metres.
A dragon mother lays large, leathery eggs in clutches of around ten to thirty. Each egg is about the size of a watermelon. She stays with her clutch until they hatch, keeping them warm. This takes about four months. During this time, most eggs swell to nearly twice their original size.
Upon hatching, the baby dragon is about the size of a dog. It grows slowly, surpassing Great Dane size only after nine months. By this time, a baby dragon will have learned to fly, and will be accompanying its mother on hunting trips.
Young dragons typically leave the protection of their mother around the age of seven, though some stay as long as ten years. They spend ten to twenty years either on their own or in small groups, after which they will seek out a mate. Of a typical clutch, usually five to fifteen will survive this far.
The average lifespan of a Chinese dragon is around ninety years, though some have been known to live for close to two hundred years. Since raising their young is so demanding, an average female will only spawn once every ten years.
The Chinese dragon’s primary diet is small animals such as rats, rabbits, monkeys, and birds. They supplement this with fruits and foliage from a wide variety of sources.
Chinese dragons are capable of expelling a thick vapour from glands in their mouth, which hangs in the air like a mist. Dragon mist, as its called, has a faintly sweet scent which dulls the nose, giving the dragons cover in which to catch their prey.
One in eighty-eight Chinese dragons is born with an innate talent for weather magic. This allows them to call down rain, snow, or lightning at will, among other things.
Society and Culture
Outside of a mother raising her young, Chinese dragons typically live alone or in small groups of up to five individuals. Contact between groups is not rare, however, and in times of famine it is not unusual for several groups to band together in order to find food.
It is widely believed that dragons have a language of their own, but while there have been a few historic attempts to decipher it, with various levels of success, no record of the language exists, and no living human of the twentieth century can understand it. Dragon vocalizations primarily consist of long, wail-like tones interspersed with sharp barks or growls.
When the Chinese Empire was at its height, there were actually several species of Chinese dragon which differed in their sizes, colour, and horn type. One of these species was domesticated by the empire to use as beasts of burden, mascots, and even warbeasts. They were so valued in the empire that they quickly became extinct in the wild, and when the empire fell, the last of them perished in captivity. Other species slowly died out as the Chinese unknowingly destroyed their habitats, leaving only the one remaining modern species.