Yonsei University 2020 English essay test question
Compare the dragons of the West and the East. Then apply those concepts to the contemporary society.
Dragons are mythical creatures in both the Western and the Eastern civilizations. In the West, dragons symbolized evil power. In the most popular folk lore of the West, a dragon kidnaps a damsel, and a brave knight goes to defeat the dragon and to rescue the damsel in distress. This literary theme has been used in a popular coffee commercial recently. The evil nature of the dragon stems from the New Testament of the Bible. The devil is referred to as the dragon, or the old serpent. The Beast who represents the force of the Anti-Christ is referred to as the dragon. In the Eastern tradition, the dragon represents the mythical source of political authority. The emperors of China were called dragons. Their thrones were called the thrones of dragons, and their faces were referred to as the faces of dragons. There was a popular Korean TV drama series called “The Tears of the Dragon,” depicting the founding of the Yi Dynasty. In the East, dragons are not considered as evil creatures, but as divine sources of power for kings and emperors.
Dragons in both traditions are mythical beings. They do not actually exist. They exist only in the myths and imaginations of mankind. The idea of a dragon may have risen from the memory of dinosaurs or their similar appearance to reptiles. Whatever the origin of the idea may have been, dragons are mythical imaginations which do not exist in reality.
In that sense, dragons may refer to the non-existent source of either evil or political authority depending on who is imagining them. In the West, dragons represented the ultimate source of evil against which mankind must wrestle. As the ultimate source of evil, their existence is elusive. Though people imagine that dragons exist, they actually do not exist. Nonetheless people imagine them into existence in order to peg the identity of evil in the world. The nature of evil is elusive. We do not know where evil originates. In fact evil originates from the heart of man. It is not what goes in from outside which corrupts a man, but what comes out from within which corrupts him. But such elusive nature of evil is too abstract and vague. In order to clearly identify the source of evil, the Western man imagined the existence of the dragon as the omnipotent being against which man has to battle. In the popular culture of the late 20th century and the 21st century, however, there have been attempts to reverse the image of the dragons from negative to positive. “Puff the Magic Dragon” sung by Peter, Paul, and Mary depicted the dragon not as an evil being, but as a childish, loyal, and mischievous being which could be befriended by an innocent boy. Also recent Hollywood fantasy films depicted dragons as friendly beings coming to the aid of mankind. This attempt to reverse the image of dragons may represent the contemporary revision of the age-old religion-based concept of good versus evil principles.
In the East, especially in China and Korea, dragons represented the source of political authority of the kings and emperors over the people. In the age when democracy did not exist, the mandate to govern people had to be found somewhere in order to provide legitimacy to a ruling king. In the absence of democratic elections, political legitimacy had to be invented. The use of dragons as the source of political authority must have been an effective way of creating the moral and spiritual basis of political power. As long as people look up to their kinds as dragons, they will not dare to defy the kings’ authority.
Both in the West and the East, the mythical dragon was imagined in order to provide some actuality to the concepts which do not concretely exist in the world. The ultimate evil does not exist as a concrete being. It is a state of being which cannot be materialized. Nonetheless the Western Christian civilization imagined the dragon into existence in order to designate the foe against which mankind must wrestle. In the East, the non-existent dragon was imagined in order to provide legitimacy to non-elected kings and emperors. In the contemporary times, we should be more realistic and responsible about where true political legitimacy comes from and where moral evil comes from. Instead of blaming moral evil on the dragon, we must own up to our own moral failure. Also instead of attributing political legitimacy to the non-existent dragon, our nations must draw their right to rule from the only source of legitimacy: the people.
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