From "Dragonology" to Meteorology: Aristotelian Natural Philosophy and the Beginning of the Decline of the Dragon in China

In: Early Science and Medicine
Qiong ZhangDepartment of History, Wake Forest University, P.O. Box 7806, Winston-Salem, NC 27109, U.S.A.

Search for other papers by Qiong Zhang in
Current site
Google Scholar
Download Citation Get Permissions

Access options

Get access to the full article by using one of the access options below.

Institutional Login

Log in with Open Athens, Shibboleth, or your institutional credentials

Login via Institution


Buy instant access (PDF download and unlimited online access):



The cult of the dragon in China, which expressed itself not only in the ritual sacrifices to the dragon kings during drought and floods but also in the rationalization of the dragon's power to make rain by many serious thinkers from diverse intellectual persuasions, was first subjected to sustained criticism during the early modern era as part of an "enlightenment" drive against popular cults and "superstitions" led by some of the Jesuit-inspired Chinese scholars. This paper examines how these critics drew on Aristotelian conceptions of nature and meteorological theories introduced by the Jesuit missionaries to attack the core ideas of the traditional dragon lore and their underlying cosmology. It argues that the de-animated and rigidly stratified view of nature articulated by this small but clearly discernable group of Chinese critics can be seen as marking the beginning of the decline of the dragon, the allegedly semi-divine aquatic animal which swims, walks, flies, and makes rain.

Content Metrics

All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 692 421 25
Full Text Views 116 25 1
PDF Views & Downloads 107 21 5