They dragon is a very common mythological beast. Stories and folklore of dragons are found all over the world. Perhaps most amazing, the dragon is described as a similar creature in all parts of the world. A dragon is most frequently depicted as a reptile with the claws of an eagle, the tail of a serpent, and wings like a bat. In the European tradition, a dragon is winged. In numerous tales, dragons are purported to breath fire or be venomous.
Regardless of whether a dragon is winged or not, it is usually said to be capable of flight or possess great magic. Nearly always, dragons hatch from eggs, like other lizards, and live for a very long time. Dragons are often associated with religions. In Chinese culture, the dragon is religiously significant and is upheld as the protector of Buddhist laws and a guardian. In Western tradition, the dragon is more malevolent. In a few translations of the Bible, the word dragon is sometimes used to refer to the devil. A major difference, besides whether dragons are good or evil, between Eastern and Western dragons is that Eastern dragons are able to transform into humans, while Western dragons have no such ability.
Dragon tattoos are significant throughout the world and are very meaningful. In China, the dragon is often tattooed with the phoenix, another mythical beast. A phoenix is a bird-like creature that, in its old age, sets itself on fire. From the ashes, the bird is once again reborn. In the Chinese traditions, the dragon represents yang and the phoenix represents yin (see Yin/Yang). Together, these symbolize the male and female forces of the world and, when combined, create balance and harmony.
Just as good must be balanced by bad and heat by cold, the dragon and phoenix tattoo designs complete each other. In Western culture, the dragon was a great foe that could only be conquered by the bravest, strongest, and most noble warriors. Knights would embark upon a great quest to test their courage and to perform their duty. As such, Western dragon tattoos often symbolize these characteristics, like nobility, honor, bravery, duty, and triumph.
Unlike other motifs, both men and women have dragon tattoos. Dragon tattoo designs are usually very ornate and are often quite large in order to accommodate for this high level of detail. This is not always the case, though, and some dragon tattoos are small and simple. Eastern dragons are typically tattooed in the Eastern aesthetic and style. These dragons are quite distinct from the Western style of dragons.
Eastern dragon tattoos may be colorful or black and grey. Western dragon tattoos have much more variety stylistically. These tattoos can look like realistic lizards or be stylized and cartoon looking. Like the Eastern dragons, Western dragon tattoos can also be colored or black and grey. This choice is usually determined by the tattoo design and personal preference. Regardless of whether the dragon is Western or Eastern, the dragon tattoo is, with few exceptions, a tattoo with a positive meaning and rich history.
Another frequent element in both Western and Eastern dragon tattoos is the presence of flames or fire. Even if the dragon is not depicted breathing fire, he is sometimes surrounded by flames. Because the dragon is associated with yang, he is also synonymous with heat. Likewise, the phoenix is reborn of flame, so the fire component is often a unifying aspect of the overall tattoo design.
Western dragons breath fire and are often illustrated as actively breathing flames in tattoos. Other times, smoke is depicted as coming from their nostrils, as if they have just finished breathing fire. Also, Western dragons are usually tattooed with their wings spread and in flight, which is when they are their most fearsome.