The Ultimate Dragon Tattoo Guide For Tattoo Lovers
For all the tattoo lovers looking for a majestic, powerful and elegant symbol to use in their next ink, there are few other choices that can stand next to a dragon tattoo.
It’s no wonder, as the dragon has complex symbology, combining the visual representation of a serpent and a bird.
This powerful mythological monster has been around since the ancient ages.
In Christian traditions it is a symbol of evil. In the Orient it is a supernatural power, wise, strong and bringer of good luck.
In all cultures it is a depiction of untamed nature and chaos.
Next to it are the depths of the sea or the high clouds, as these guardians of treasure stand in one’s way to light.
Should you get a dragon tattoo? What do dragon tattoos mean? Need help with a custom tattoo design of it?
We go in depth and dive into the meaning of dragons in different cultures around the world.
Every Tattoo Has A Story – Dragon Tattoo Meaning
Dragon is a mythological creature, living in the fantasy of the man since the dawn of time.
This large powerful being combines different elements from different animals, all adding to its aggressive and dangerous inherent nature.
The animals that are considered to be mixed in a dragon are serpents, crocodiles, lions and birds.
There might not be any other mythical animal as powerful as a dragon.
The Dragon appears in almost every culture around the world with different depictions.
Which doesn’t help at trying to narrow down one true meaning of the dragon.
In short, the Dragon spirit animal meanings are: strength, power, agility, courage, and wisdom.
In legends and folk tales, it is said that it
flew through thoughts, traveled between worlds, was born when the universe was created, and the red-colored ones slept in the center of the earth.
Many times, dragons are shown as destructive monsters in different lores and mythologies.
Other common meanings that can be generally associated with dragons are:
- Magic – Dragons are fire-breathing mystical beings in the legends and folklores of the Western world. These look like a large-serpent and have two huge wings to soar high in the sky.
- Protection – Many believe that whenever you’re going to face your adversaries, it’s always best to summon dragon spirit animals and have their guidance and blessing by your side. You’ll feel magical protection and fueled self-confidence to win anything in life.
There were also Longships used by Norse men called “dragonships” by enemies such as the English because they had a bow on the front of the ship in the shape of a dragon.
Golden dragons are also a part of the koi fish legend, of one koi being rewarded by the gods for managing to swim upstream in waterfall.
Japanese Dragon Symbolism
The dragon or ryū or tatsu came to Japan with much of the rest of Chinese culture.
Both Chinese and Japanese dragons, though regarded as powers of the air, are usually wingless.
As per the portal Traditional Kyoto, they are among the deified forces of nature in Daoism, and frequently connected to being the symbol of:
- Imperial Power,
- Guardian of the Eastern Direction,
- Deity of Rain and of Heaven,
- Protector of the Buddha and Buddhist Law.
Japanese people are known to use the dragon as a symbol of balance, superior wisdom and supernatural powers.
According to their legends, the mortal enemy of the dragon is the Phoenix, for the two represent both conflict and wedded bliss.
In much of the far East, dragon and phoenix symbolism is associated closely with the imperial family — the emperor being represented by the dragon and the empress on the other hand by the phoenix.
Heavily contrasted to the Western mythology, Asian dragons are almost never depicted as violent, malevolent or dangerous.
Indeed, they are seen as powerful and fearsome in the East, too, however it is at the same time they are thought to be just, benevolent, and the bringers of wealth and good fortune.
Dragon’s close association with water will also explain why it’s used as a talisman against fires.
Chinese Dragon Symbolism
According to Britannica, the Chinese dragon, lung, represents yang, the principle of heaven, activity, and maleness in the yinyang of Chinese cosmology.
In Chinese lore, the dragon is a type of majestic beast that dwells in rivers, lakes, and oceans and roams the skies and is considered the highest-ranked mythical animal.
The Chinese dragon has been considered a rain divinity since it’s introduction to the mythology.
This is why there is the belief that dragons can bring rain. So people think that drought is the result of dragons’ laziness.
From ancient times it was the emblem of the imperial family, and until the founding of the republic (1911) the dragon adorned the Chinese flag.
Ancient Chinese cosmogonists defined four types of dragons:
- the Celestial Dragon (Tianlong), who guards the heavenly dwellings of the gods;
- the Dragon of Hidden Treasure (Fuzanglong);
- the Earth Dragon (Dilong), who controls the waterways;
- and the Spiritual Dragon (Shenlong), who controls the rain and winds.
In the Chinese geomancy of Feng Shui, dragons symbolize fortune and good luck.
There are dragons of different colors in Chinese culture, too. Different colors of dragon represent different things.
- blue and green dragon – nature, health, healing, peace, and growth,
- red dragon – luck
- black dragon – vengeance
- white dragon – death and mourning
- yellow dragon – royalty and emperor’s family
- golden dragon – wealth, prosperity, strength, harvest, and power
Chinese Zodiac Dragon
In the Chinese zodiac, there are 12 zodiac animals and the dragon is the only imaginary of them.
The Chinese dragon is already considered the most powerful beast, which translates to the zodiac interpretations of people born in dragon year, too.
Dragon women and men also hold infamous reputation for being a hothead and possessing a sharp tongue.
If you were born in 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000, 2012, or 2024, then your Chinese zodiac sign is Dragon.
Celtic Dragon Symbolism
When it comes to Celtic mythology, the dragon is the most potent mythical animal in it.
The Celtic dragon represented power, wisdom and fertility.
As such, there were two types of Celtic dragons:
- Large, winged creatures with four legs
- Large, serpent-like creature with either small wings or no wings, but no legs
Dragons were depicted in numerous ways, but a common portrayal is of dragons with their tails in (or near) their mouths, effectively creating a circle, like an Ouroboros.
The circle has here the same meaning as in geometry – demonstrating the cyclical nature of the world and life.
The Celtic lore has changed a lot as the Christianity set in, and so has the perception of the dragon shifted from positive to negative.
These grand mythical creatures began to be portrayed as evil monsters that need to be vanquished.
Dragons were adapted into legends of Christianity, where they’re portrayed as monsters symbolic of evil that are eventually slain by Christian saints.
While the belief in Celtic dragons hardly exists in the 19th century, they remain symbolic in modern times, especially in present-day Ireland, Scotland, and Wales.
Beside of adorning the flags and coats of arms, dragons are symbols of royalty, too.
Additionally, in the druid mysticism, the dragon was associated with the four elements (water, earth, air and fire) – similarly as in the Orient.
Their meanings can be boiled down to:
- water dragon has been connected with passion,
- earth dragon has the material notion of power and riches
- air dragon is the one that helps clear one’s thoughts and imagination
- fire dragon enwokes vitality, enthusiasm, as well as courage
Christian Dragon Symbolism
In the Bible, the dragon appears as the primal enemy of God, who is used to display God’s supremacy over all creatures and creation.
The dragon is destroyed or subjected to God in the Old Testament but reappears in the book of Revelation at the end of time when he is finally disposed of, once and for all.
In Christian art the dragon came to be symbolic of sin and paganism and, as such, slain by different saints like St. George, St. Patrick, and St. Michael.
The patron saint of England, St. George is one of the best-known dragon slayers of Christianity.
In The Golden Legend, he saves a Libyan king’s daughter from a dragon.
Best Dragon Tattoo Placements
Many opt for a full dragon back tattoo. No wonder, since there are many majestic scenes that can be used to fill up so much space.
Alternatively, for a big tattoo, you can go for a dragon sleeve tattoo which gives enough canvas for a full dragon body and surrounding elements to be included.
A great option is also a dragon forearm tattoo, especially for anybody looking for a more simpler tattoo.
If you want a Japanese dragon with some cherry blossoms or in red ink, we definitely recommend considering a bigger dragon leg tattoo.
In case you’re trying out your options for a small or tribal design, you can go for a dragon neck tattoo.
For a circular Celtic dragon design, a great placement can be a dragon shoulder tattoo.
Dragon Tattoo Ideas
To help you with your research for your next tattoo design, we went on a hunt through Instagram to find the best dragon tattoo ideas.
Take a look below to check them out all:
Red Dragon Tattoo
Tribal Dragon Tattoo
Simple Dragon Tattoo
Dragon Sleeve Tattoo
Traditional Dragon Tattoo
Black Dragon Tattoo
Blue Dragon Tattoo
Are you looking for a custom dragon tattoo design? We got you.
Our expert tattoo artists will provide a quick initial draft to get you going.
Happy inking ❤
About the author
Milena has decided to start an organization that will create a safe environment for everybody to get their first, second or third tattoo and to encourage young people to transform their ideas into tattoos safely, with talent and vision.
You can find her writing about tattoos on Quora or updating our Pinterest profile with awesome tattoo ideas!