Snake in Chinese Mythology
China can trace its historical roots in unbroken line for more than 4000 years. Its mythological roots extend even farther back in time. The Chinese known as the Xia people dominated the northern regions of China from about 2000 to 1500 BC. The Xia worshiped the snake, and this creature appears in some of the Chinese oldest myths. Eventually, the snake changed into the dragon, which then became one of the most enduring symbols of Chinese mythology and culture.
Dragons and Snakes
A snake is always associated with the dragon, the symbol of the Chinese nation. A large huge snake is believed to be the first “dragon” that motivated the beginings of later myths, stories and legends. The snake is considered a small dragon by the Chinese. Many experts even think that the imaginary Chinese dragon has the snake as its prototype.
For the Chinese people, the snake symbolizes intelligence, happiness and auspiciousness. In certain part of China (Yixing, East China’s Jiangsu Province), people call the snake as the “black dragon” or “savage creature”. People in East China’s Zhejiang Province call it “dragon in heaven” or “celestial being”. At Dangfu in East China’s Anhui Province, people call the snake as “dragon at home”.
The snake and the dragon are so linked and alike that the Year of the Dragon is even followed by the Year of the Snake. The year 2001 is a Year of Snake, it is considered special year because that year is also the beginning of a new century.
Superstitions About Snakes
There are many superstition related to the snake:
- People in Yixing consider it lucky to see the snake in the bed or in the granary but unlucky to see this reptile on the beams or eaves of the house.
- If there’s a snake entering your home, it is believed that you will live a peaceful life in the time to come. You are also told not to kill the snake as they believe the snake might be a peace patroller sent by the family’s ancestors.
But in Dangtu, people believe it is a bad omen to see a snake at home, it indicates that the head of the house-hold will die or some unexpected disaster wiIl befell the family. To avoid this, people burn joss sticks in order to ward off baneful influence. They even present special food such as fish, tofu, tea or wine as offerings. People will send the snake to the wild (if it is still alive), but if it is dead, it will be buried with respect. At Qingjiang, burying a dead snake is also equal to prostrating before the Buddha.
- If you see several snakes intertwining with each other by the roadside, you are supposed to tear off your button and then throw it away as a way of showing repentance. After that you should act as if you have not seen it. To see snakes mating is considered going against all the heavenly laws of morality.
In some places, the snake also symbolizes wealth or fortune. In both Western and Chinese cultures snake is associated with the bravery of men and beauty of women. In Japan, some people put the skin of a snake into their wallet because they believe it brings luck and can make them rich. Snake is a symbol of wealth and money to the Japanese. They also say that if you meet or see a white snake, you will be lucky in life. That is why some people put a picture of a white snake on their wall. People in thailand believe that if you dream a snake is holding you tightly, you will meet your soul mate soon.
Because of its supernatural powers, the snake is regarded with awe and veneration. Snakes are cared for by the priests and these reptiles are often seen around the Buddhist temples. The Chinese believe that fairies, elves and demons often transform themselves into snakes.