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People at the Hebei museum, and my friends, and Baidu http://baike.baidu.com/view/606163.htm all agree that 青龙白虎 means "Dragon and White Tiger." (I capitalize because these name specific folk animals.) When I asked at the museum whether it means the dragon is green they could not see why I would ask that. So I suppose 青龙 is a traditional name that just means dragon and not green.

Can anyone here tell me if that is right? And can anyone explain a reason for it? Or is it just the kind of thing can happen with traditional names in any culture?

Actually, on line a lot of people translate it as Azure Dragon. I know 青 has several more meanings than the western green/grun/vert. So maybe just plain Dragon is not a good translation of 青龙. But I do not know.

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青龙 should be translated as 'Azure (or Green/Blue) Dragon', that is the accepted translation for the mythological context. (Check some dictionaries, Pleco or CEDICT, they all use Azure Dragon, Wikipedia, and this Wiki article on the Four Symbols, too.)

Why would 青 mean nothing here? You can argue if it is blue, green or azure, but it is a color. Perhaps the people who translated 青龙白虎 as 'Dragon and White Tiger' just got confused about the different equivalents of 青 (blue, green, black) and left it out.

If Wikipedia is not authoritative for you, you can try a site colon search on Google with site:edu 青龙 . This will search for 青龙 on the websites of American universities. You can see that most of these sources will give the translation as either Blue, Green or Azure Dragon.

If you are still looking for some evidence, there are some books written on (or inspired by) Chinese mythology with the title bearing your expression:

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  • Yes I the the people wanted to avoid the issue of just what color this is. And, while a "white tiger" really is a special kind of tiger, an azure dragon is not really a special kind since there really are no dragons. – Colin McLarty Jun 25 '15 at 13:22
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Drunken Master's explanation is plausible and makes sense: 青 may have been left out from the translation due to the fact that it could have 3 or 4 color meanings (it is preferable to omit a word when in doubt of its meaning, specially if it risks changing the whole title's meaning).

However, I just wanted to add that the title may indirectly refer to other thing:

  • 青 may also mean young (from 青年 qīngnián = youth), and actually according to a Chinese Characters Roots book, the original meaning of the character was:

    "the color when things began to grow"

    Therefore, again and indirectly, it cannot only represent youth, but ingenuity and being naïve as well.

  • opposing to the White Tiger (白虎), without any ambiguity, it may indirectly remind of the white hair of a wise old person.

So the title may reflect a deeper meaning than the direct one transmitted by the colors...

Edit

This idea gets particularly interesting because:

Dragons also symbolize masculinity and virility, Yang 陽 element

Which may refer to the young days of Tu Ming, the Taoist monk from the story, and as he evolves, the symbol that represents better his older self is the:

Tiger 虎: Known as the king of beasts, used as masculinity and valor symbol; fierce and decisive nature.

By this we can deduce the whole point of the book:

Tu advances not only in his practice, but also in his understanding of life and love as he falls under the spell of five unforgettable women unequaled in religious literature. In the exciting conclusion, he experiences an epiphany that redefines what it means to attain the highest knowledge.

I.e.: from a young viril Dragon, Tu Ming becomes a wise white old Tiger.

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I would always think 青龙 is a bluish dragon. But it seems that google images makes greener than I thought: https://www.google.com/search?q=%E9%9D%92%E9%BE%99&tbm=isch

The whole thing comes from 青 taking on a number of different meanings in older texts. It ranged from blue to green to black. Realistically, the word could mean any shade in between, but in this specific case it isn't going to be black because of the existence of 玄武 (玄 is black). The reason I say blue is because it was the first meaning attached to the word.

Here's a reference: http://www.zdic.net/z/27/xs/9752.htm (key part is 本义:蓝色).

Regarding your question, I suspect either "Dragon" or "Blue-Green Dragon" would be okay.

  • 1
    This is helpful. But do you think 青龙 should not be translated as just Dragon? Should it be Azure Dragon or something? The 白虎 is always translated as White Tiger. – Colin McLarty Jun 25 '15 at 2:51
  • While you are right about the meaning of 青, the OP's question was a bit more specific towards 青龙. The meaning and possible translations of 青 (and 苍) have been already discussed on this site earlier: chinese.stackexchange.com/questions/10392/… – Drunken Master Jun 25 '15 at 5:34
  • I would say either as plain 'dragon' or 'blue/green dragon'. It seems that the most popular translation is 'azure dragon', but maybe it's just me but that translation seems very deceptive. – Ringil Jun 25 '15 at 6:58

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