The Meaning of Dragon and Phoenix
"Dragon", 龙(lónɡ), is primitively a kind of tribal totem. We can see from the image of the "dragon", its body like a horse, the body like a snake, the corner like a deer, the tail and scales like a fish, and the claws like a chicken - it can be concluded that "dragon" is a totem appeared after a number of tribes were joined together. The legend also tells that the tribes of Chinese ancestor Huangdi (Yellow Emperor) and Yandi (Fire Emperor) were using "Dragon" as the totem.
Till today, there are still a lot of words with the character of "dragon" in Chinese. When doing something, a delicate finish called 画龙点睛 (huàlónɡdiǎn jīnɡ, literally the "finishing touch when painting dragon"); someone or something leading others, called 龙头老大 (lónɡtou lǎo dà, literally the "big boss as if the dragon's head"); no principal among many people, called 群龙无首 (qún lónɡwú shǒu, literally " leaderless among dragons"); the whole story’s back and forth, called 来龙去脉(lái lónɡqùmài, literally "the dragon's ins and outs"); hoping one's children will have a bright future, called 望子成龙(wànɡzǐchénɡlónɡ, literally "being hopeful for the children to be a dragon"). In addition, in Chinese daily lives, there is a type of tea called 乌龙茶(wūlónɡchá, the "black dragon tea"), a kind of noodle called 龙须面(lónɡxūmiàn, “noodles like dragon's whiskers”), a fruit called 龙眼(lónɡyǎn, "the dragon's eyes”), and even the water taps are called 水龙头(shuǐlónɡtou, the "outlet of water dragon").
Chinese people also like the "Phoenix", 凤(fènɡ), which is also a collection of totems composed by a variety of animals, especially birds. From the "phoenix" image, we can find chickens, eagles, peacocks and other birds. In the "dragon" image, the original characteristics of various animals are still faintly discernible, indicating that the dragon tribe has the characteristics of compromise and coexistence; while the "Phoenix" image only highlights the characteristics of the birds, basically leaving no traces of other animals. It can be concluded that the "Phoenix" is not a result of compromise of multiple tribes, but the result of conquest. In other words, the "dragon" somewhat reflects compromise, and "Phoenix" somewhat reflects intractability.
Historically, the "Dragon" is a symbol of the emperor; the "Phoenix" is a symbol of the Queen. A more interesting thing is that, even the "Dragon" has been exclusively representing the emperor, according to the saying that “the Dragon has nine sons”, the dragon seems to be a female; on the other hand, according to another saying that "the Phoenix pursuit the Dragon", the phoenix seems to be male.
Dog in Chinese
In Chinese language, “dog”, 狗(ɡǒu), is a character mainly used for name-calling. Seldom words can be found with “dog” to deliver auspicious meaning, while one can find such insult or humiliation words at hand containing the “dog”. For example, Chinese people usually call others if angry with them: 走狗(zóu ɡǒu, literally running dog), 臭狗屎(chòu ɡǒu shǐ, literally dog shits), 狗崽子(ɡǒu zǎi zi, literally puppy), 狗腿子(ɡǒu tuǐzi, literally dog’s leg), 狗杂种(ɡǒu zázhǒnɡ, literally dog bastard), 癞皮狗(lài pí ɡǒu, literally mangy dog), 狗东西(ɡǒu dōnɡxi, literally dog), 狗男女(ɡǒu nán nǚ, literally dog man and woman), etc. Some folk adages are also related with dog, such as 狗拿耗子多管闲事 (ɡǒu náhào zi duō ɡuǎn xián shì, means the dog beholden to mind their own business), 狗眼看人低 (ɡǒu yǎn kàn rén dī, means a dog looks over other people), 狗改不了吃屎 (ɡǒu ɡǎi bùliǎo chīshǐ, means the dog to her wallowing in the mire), and 狗咬狗一嘴毛 (ɡǒu yǎo ɡǒu yìzuǐmáo, means a dog-eat-dog mouth wool). Any of these words or adages being used onto somebody could incur peer’s antipathy or even wrath in response.
As a matter of fact, in Chinese eyes, dog has a very close relationship with humans. Chinese people rooted out the dog’s merits long time ago - raising dogs became a traditional activity since then - commonly seen everywhere in either urban or rural areas even now. As with the situation in foreign counties, dogs are used for hunting, house-guarding, host accompany, so far as to assist police investigation. At present age, dogs also showed their potentials in emergency rescue, disaster relief, drug seize, routing guide and nursing cares.
Of course, man and dog have been keeping the relationship of master and slave, and as a master and a slave, it's normally hard to become friends for them. No matter how smart, loyal, or duteous the dogs are, they cannot receive the master’s respect. On the contrary, the more the dogs are obedient, near and dear, the more people take them unserious. The reason behind such culture may be residing in their servility and their character of bully the weak and fear the strong.
However, nowadays Chinese dog culture has gradually approached the international community, with the evidence of sprawling pet stores and pet hospitals.
A Story of Snake and Elephant
Many people know the saying人心不足蛇吞象(rén xīn bùzúshétūn xiànɡ), which is used to describe people who are greedy as a snake who wants to swallow an elephant. In fact, the character of “象” in the saying originally refers to another character, “相”, which has the same pronunciation, and means the prime minister. An interesting story behind the saying goes like this.
Once upon a time, a poor man saved a snake by accident. In order to repay the grace of help, the snake promised to satisfy the requests of the man. At the beginning, the man demanded only food and clothes, which were simply fulfilled. His appetite began to dilate later, though. After hearing that the emperor wanted a legendary luminous pearl, and people who found the pearl would be awarded an official position, the man turned to the snake again. To repay the man, the snake divulged that its eyes were the luminous pearls, and then scooped one out and gave it to him.
With the snake’s eye, the man achieved what he wished. However, one thing happened later transfixed his temporal content. When the queen knew that the emperor had got a luminous pearl, she requested one too. The emperor had to issue a notice, telling that who dedicated the second pearl could get the position of minister. At the news, the man rushed back to the snake, asking for the second eye. The snake advised him not to be too greedy, but the man refused to listen. He took up a knife, stepping forward and trying to scoop out its second eye by violence. The snake finally realized that human’s avarice is endless. It suddenly enchanted to become a python, and swallowed the man who attempted to be the minister.
The story as well as the saying tells us that, cherish what you have got, and never to be too covetous.