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Mythology and folklore tend to be stories that help explain the nature of the world. These stories help people understand the religious and political institutions of civilization and play significant roles in these societies. The main characters in these myths often tend to be gods, demigods, or supernatural humans given power from gods. An interesting thing about mythology is that even in different cultures, the gods serve similar purposes while still be different. In Greek mythology, the god of the sea, earthquakes, storms, and horses is known as Poseidon, while in Chinese mythology, the Dragon King known as Longwang resembles the god of rain and waters.
These deities share lots of similarities as well as differences, and their legends are very intriguing. Although the Chinese mythology of the Dragon King goes very deep and is intensive, Greek mythology and the legend behind Poseidon truly transcends mythology into a great folktale.
The origin of the Olympian Poseidon started with his parents Cronus and Rhea, who are Titans, and Cronus was extremely paranoid that his sons would overthrow his power like how he did to his father, so he devoured all his children to try to prevent his destiny.
Rhea did not like this and decided to trick Cronus into thinking he swallowed Zeus, Poseidon’s brother, and when he grew up, Zeus defeated Cronus and freed his siblings. However, some folk tales say that Rhea also hid Poseidon from Cronus as well in a flock of lambs in Arcadia or in Rhodes to live with Capheira and the Telchines.
Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades all drew straws to see who would rule what three domains of the world, the sky, seas, and underworld. This is where the god of the sea was technically born since before this, and he lived within his father, Cronus. Poseidon’s was very violent as the title ‘earth-shaker’ can give some insight into how the Greeks viewed him, and this led to disputes with other gods. Two of his most famous battles were with the Greek hero Odysseus and the contest for Athens with Athena. Poseidon’s son was blinded by Odysseus, and because of this, Poseidon made his life horrible for ten years keeping Odysseus away from his beloved Ithaca. Poseidon was very greedy as well, and that is when he competed for Athens. To prove that Poseidon would be the better ruler, he struck his trident into the ground and created a seawater stream for the city of Athens, but Athena planted an olive tree. Cecrops, who was the first king of Athens, decided that Athena’s present was way more useful than Poseidon’s and lost the contest for Athens.
The origin of the Dragon King Longwang begins with his daughter Sagara who learned from the Buddha, and he taught her all about dharma in The Lotus Sutra. She then tried to teach her father the teachings of the Buddha, but he refused so the Buddha himself to Longwang’s palace and taught him dharma himself. When Longwang finally accepted the Buddha’s teachings, he was given godhood. One significant difference between Poseidon and Longwang was that while Poseidon was the dominant ruler of the seas, Longwang was part of a brotherhood of gods that all presided over the oceans and rivers of the world. Each dragon king had a dragon controlled all the rivers, springs, and lakes. Longwang was also very aggressive and violent like Poseidon, and he only ever answered the Jade Emperor, which is like the equivalent to Zeus in Greek Mythology. A unique characteristic all the brothers shared was that they could communicate telepathically without ever needing to speak to each other. The Dragon Kind Longwang has appeared in two other folk tales, which can be seen as similar to the battles Poseidon took part in. In Fengshen Yanyi Longwang had brought chaos to the world through natural disasters such as massive thunderstorms and floods. His actions were never reported to the Jade Emperor due to how infamous and feared the Dragon King was. Nezha, a protection deity, cleansed himself in the East Sea, which is part of Longwang’s domain, and it caused his palace to undergo an earthquake. Then Li Gen and one of his sons, Ao Bing, were both killed by Nezha when they were sent to investigate what caused the earthquake. This caused Longwang to go to heaven and speak with the Jade Emperor about a resolution between him and Nezha. However, instead Nezha beats him violently, and the dragon king turns himself into a snake and goes back to the Old Pond Pass to forget the incident ever occurred. After this, the Dragon King kidnaps Nezha’s parents, and for them to be freed, Nezha offers all his internal organs to the dragon kings for his parents’ freedom. The tale ends here, and Longwang’s fate is unknown, but the similarities between Poseidon and the Dragon King’s personality show here, and they do not like being messed with. The other legend is that of Journey to the West, where Sun Wukong obtains the Ruyi Jingu Bang, which is then magically expanding gold-ringed iron rod weapon from the Dragon King. The rod was supposedly an immovable treasure of the undersea palace of the Dragon King, but when Wukong got near the pillar, it glowed immensely, showing that it truly belongs to the monkey king. This awed the Dragon King but also put the ocean’s tides out of control as the pillar was the only thing controlling them.
Overall Greek mythology and Chinese mythology do share many similarities, but the origin story of Poseidon is far more fascinating than that of the Dragon King’s origin. Both these deities have very violent and aggressive personalities, and that is in part due to the nature of the ocean. The ocean can be calm at times but also have the strength of thousands of horses. This quote from Morgan Freeman describes the strength and reality of the ocean perfectly, ‘If you live a life of make-believe, your life is not worth anything until you do something that does challenge your reality. And to me, sailing the open ocean is a real challenge, because it’s life or death.’ Both deities went through major events revolving around other gods as well, but the Greek folklore was a lot more interesting than the Chinese legends. However, Chinese mythology cannot be discredited as it played a huge part in Chinese culture and especially the development of the Yin and Yang.
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