Photographed at Tiantin (Temple of Heaven), Beijing, China.
Detail of stone carving on balusters between the south stairs leading to the “Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests”. The Emperor attended ceremonies here. This is a five clawed dragon, a symbol of the Emperor since about 200 B.C. and only allowed on royal structures. Five clawed dragons are also specific to China. As the dragon got further from China, he has fewer claws. Korean dragons have 4 claws and Japanese dragons 3. I didn’t count the scales but a proper Chinese dragon has 117 scales, 36 Yin and 81 Yang. If original, this one has been outdoors since about 1406 A.D.. Chinese culture considers dragons as symbols of benevolence, intelligence and goodwill. Or as a Chinese office mate once told me “Dragons are good!” That’s a very different perspective from western legend such as Saint George.