Dragon Lady

Some Americans think Hillary Clinton is a "dragon lady".

There’s a big difference in the perception of dragons in Chinese and Western cultures.   In Western cultures, we view them as hideous and  malevolent, who are fire-breathing menaces what need to be slain by a heroic brave knight.

In Chinese culture, the dragon is viewed as something as wise and benevolent and symbolizes longevity.

It is the Western concept of dragon that is carried over to the term “dragon lady”. A “dragon lady” has two principle meanings.  It is either who is an overbearing or tyrannical woman or a sometimes it means a glamorous, and mysterious woman.

It the glamorous, mysterious woman that seems to be the origin of the term.   In the 1930s, an American cartoon strip, “Terry and the Pirates”, which was set in the Orient, had a woman character nicknamed “the Dragon Lady”.  She was mysterious, powerful and led a band of pirates.

This original term seemed to apply only to Asian women and had some stereotypical connotations.  Over time, those connotations disappeared and simply referred to overbearing women.  Now the term is derisively.

The term “dragon lady” has been applied to women such as Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin in American politics.

Some have referred to the Emperor Dowager Cixi 慈禧太后, Soong Mei-ling 宋美齡 of China, and Madame Ngo Dinh Nhu of Vietnam as dragon ladies because of the power they wielded.

A synonymous  term for “dragon lady” is “shrew“.   William Shakespeare wrote a comedy entitled, “The Taming of a Shrew“.

This woman definitely looks like a "dragon lady"!

What’s the Chinese equivalent of “dragon lady”?   I’d love to hear your examples in the comment section.

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  1. Faye says:

    There are “dragon lady” (龙女) in Chinese folk lores and kongfu novels (武侠小说).

    In folk lore, a dragon lady or dragon princess, normally means daughter of a dragon. Most noteworthy one is the little daughter of East Sea Dragon King (东海龙王). Various Legend told about how she was fascinated by the human world, and decided to take a closer look. So she changed into the form of a big fish or water snake, got in trouble (either caught by fishermen or left in the shallow water couldn’t go home) . She was saved by handsome young man, almost always poor and getting ready for the government exam (科举). She then in turn come back as a beautiful woman and help the young man get rich and famous as a reward. Very typical reword story.

    Another story about Dragon lady is Buddhism story. Sagara-nagaraja’s daughter was very smart. One day, ManJusri is lecturing Lotus Sutra, she listened for a while and suddenly enlightened, turns into a dragon. Other followers of Buddha quested her sudden enlightenment, since the process often takes years to achieve, and the dragon lady looks dirty and less dignified. However, the dragon lady brings out a bright dragon ball (yes… Dragon ball is not originated from the comics), and give it to buddha. Buddha took the dragon ball quickly and smiled. Dragon lady said, you can be enlightened just as quickly. (this story is just something I’ve heard when I was young, could be wrong, I have no way to verify it, since I know little of Buddhism)

    In KungFu Novel (武侠小说), the most famous Dragon lady is called “the little dragon girl” (小龙女). She’s the main character of Jin Yong’s famous 神雕侠侣。you can find more information on this character here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xiaolongn%C3%BC

    That’s about everything I can think of regarding Chinese Dragon Lady.

  2. Faye says:

    LOL well, probably because eastern dragon is nicer than western dragon (our dragons don’t guard treasures, eat people or breath fire).

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