dragon; imperial; "big dragon" radical
Kanji 1899

Thank you for visiting this Character Home Page. Below you'll find a synopsis of the essay. If you wish to read the full text, the PDF of the essay is available for purchase to the right.


Unlike Europeans, who have feared dragons, the Japanese have viewed them as mythical or divine since ancient times. The dragon is even more important in China, where it symbolizes the emperor, is associated with water and weather, and is an imaginary creature in legends. In this essay you'll find out about dragons from every angle, including the following: animals with dragons inside them, tense relations between dragons and tigers, dragons that fly away, and the dragon inside the waterfall kanji. In more practical terms, you'll read about Chinese dragon boats, as well as Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan, who both had connections to dragons. Finally, you'll discover whatever there is to know about the "dragon" radical—and why one might be tempted to call it the "hidden dragon" radical. Incidentally, 竜 is a Shin-Joyo kanji; it's a 2010 addition to the Joyo set.

Revision history:

Feb. 24, 2023: pp. 13 and 14: Made several changes to the discussion of radicals, adding links to Radical Notes and correcting information about the 辰 radical in particular.

Apr. 16, 2021: p. 13: Updated the Wikipedia quote in the Ha Long Bay caption because the Wikipedia text has changed.

Dec. 14, 2019: 

  • pp. 1, 3, 13, and 18: Corrected places where I had called 龍 the "old" form or 竜 the "modern" one when, in fact, both have long histories. Now I've called 龍 the non-Joyo kanji and 竜 the Joyo one.
  • p. 2: Etymology Box: Replaced the old Henshall etymology with the new one. 
  • p. 13: Updated the etymology of 滝 to match the newer Henshall edition.
  • pp. 13-14: Updated the definitions of various kanji.
  • p. 14: Added a link to the Kanshudo games. 
  • p. 18: Fixed the link. 

Aug. 28, 2015: Added the radical name to the list of definitions in the Character Profile on p. 1. Also fixed 4 links.

Feb. 27, 2013: In Sidebar 1 (page 3), I changed the yomi of 竜神川  from りゅうじんかわ to りゅうじんがわ, which is the more probable reading. Also fixed the 2nd link in that sidebar.

Aug. 31, 2012: Added five great photos! You'll find them on pages 12, 18, 19, and 20. 


eve's picture
The king and queen of Bhutan traveled to Soma, a city in the Japanese disaster area, and here's what the king told the children there: "There are dragons in all of our hearts. Dragons grow by eating experiences. And they become stronger and stronger over the years. You must always be in control of the dragons."

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RADICAL竜 (212: big dragon)