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The people paint the dragon's shape with a horse's head and a snake's tail... his antlers resemble those of a stag, his head that of a camel, his eyes those of a demon, his neck that of a snake, his belly that of a clam, his scales those of a carp, his claws those of an eagle, his soles those of a tiger, his ears those of a cow."
- Scholar Wang Fu, circa 100 A.D.
Dragons are present in mythologies the world over. But the Chinese dragon is unique. Known as long or lung, it is snake-like, but with four legs. It is thought to have control over forces of nature such as rain and floods. It symbolizes strength and good luck.
In ancient China, the dragon was associated with the emperor. Carvings and paintings of dragons are common. The oldest is thought to date back about 7,000 years. A dragon appeared on the Chinese flag from the late 1800s to the early 1900s. Today, it is still a popular motif in artwork, fabrics, and animation.
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Did you know? Records show that dinosaur bones unearthed in China thousands of years ago were thought to be dragon bones. Such fossils are still used in traditional Chinese medicine.
You, too, can learn to draw a Chinese-style cartoon dragon. Simply follow the step-by-step instructions in this easy cartoon drawing tutorial. Sharpen your pencils, and grab an eraser.
Step-by-Step Instructions for Drawing a Chinese Dragon
1. Begin by drawing a small oval or circle. This will become the dragon’s head.
2. Draw another, slightly smaller, circle overlapping the first. This, too, will help you to shape the dragon’s face.
3. Draw a long, winding curved line, connected to the head at one end. This provides the basic shape of the dragon’s writhing, serpent-like body.
4. Draw another curved line parallel to the first, connected to the head on one end and the tip of the line on the other.
5. Draw another curved line parallel to the first, meeting at the tip of the tail and widening the body.
6. Erase the central guide line from the body.
7. Draw two more curved lines coursing through the body, disappearing and reappearing as the body turns. This separates the dragon’s back from its sides and belly.
8. Connect the two circles of the face with curved lines. Then, draw two curved lines along the smaller circle, indicating the dragon’s nostrils.
9. Draw the dragon’s beard. Use a series of curved lines that meet at jagged points at the tip of the nose, below the jaw, and on both sides of the head.
10. Erase guide lines from the head, leaving a clean outline.
11. Draw a tuft of fur or hair at the tip of the dragon’s tail. Use a series of short curved lines that meet at jagged points.
12. Draw the dragon’s many legs. Use pairs of curved lines to outline the legs, noting the bend of the elbows or knees. Then, use pairs of curved lines to draw the sharply pointed fingers or claws, enclosing the hands and feet.
13. Erase overlapping lines from the legs. Draw tufts of fur at the knees and elbows. Use curved lines that meet at jagged points. Then, band the fingers with curved lines, distinguishing the talons or claws.
14. Draw two circles on the face, forming the eyes.
15. Draw bushy eyebrows, erasing as necessary. Use curved lines that meet at jagged points to enclose the flame-like shapes.
16. Detail the dragon’s face. Draw a series of “U” shaped lines between the eyes. Use curved lines to enclose the open, smiling mouth, as well as the irregularly shaped nose.
17. Draw a curved line between the nose and the eyes, and band the snout with curved lines. Draw a wavy line through the mouth to indicate the teeth.
18. Draw spikes on the dragon’s back, erasing as necessary. Use long and short curved lines to enclose the flame-like shape. Then, draw horns or antlers springing from the head. Finally, draw the mustache or barbels on each side of the nose, using pairs of long curved lines that meet at sharp points.
19. Band the sides and belly with short lines.
Color your Chinese dragon. We’ve shaded our cartoon in shades of green, yellow, orange, and purple. Another option is red, like the character Mushu from Disney’s Mulan. You can learn to draw Cri-Kee, too! Be creative!
Printable Drawing Tutorial
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