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Dragons Up the Yin Yang

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The universal symbols for Awesome Eastern Stuff.

In a visual work that features East Asian mysticism or cinematic martial arts, the odds are very good that there will be a gratuitous appearance of either the taijitu (known in the west as the "yin-yang" symbol) or an Eastern dragon (either a Chinese lóng or a Japanese tatsu) somewhere. Whether it's a rare artifact, a wall-sized scroll hanging in the temple, or a design on the sensei's (or shifu's) robes, the presence of either or both of these elements serve to remind the audience that Awesome Eastern Stuff happens here.

Typically, the dragon is used to indicate badassery while the taijitu indicates mysticism, but many works will wantonly use either or both just for atmosphere. Particularly inane is the depiction of these dragons breathing fire, as most Eastern dragons were water spirits.note  Bonus points if there is an image of a dragon curling around a yin-yang.

For the most part, resemblance to Real Life varies: most Thai and Vietnamese temples are more likely to feature icons of the various Buddhas instead, but Chinese temples may really have dragon reliefs sculpted into the wall, pillars and/or the roof and/or a small taijitu sculpted at the top of the main entrance. This is because the taijitu originated from Taoism - a completely separate religion from Buddhism (though when Buddhism reached China the two were often mixed together) that isn't as widely embraced by Thai or Vietnamese culture, but is widely embraced in Far East Asia. Depending on area, most Asian city folks may go for days without seeing either symbols, and the only dragon one might find in most martial arts schools will be a Bruce Lee poster in a corner. Other Asians may see it daily due to the presence of an altar in the home.

On the other hand, there's also a bit of Truth in Television involved: the taijitu is a symbol rooted in Asian philosophy and religion, and Eastern dragons are traditional symbols of power and strength. But these two symbols quickly become overused due to Small Reference Pools, hence the trope. It'd be a bit like if a Chinese film studio created a movie set in America that slapped around eagle iconography every ten feet.

Note that this trope does not apply if the symbols are used in contexts that don't involve martial arts or Asian mysticism. A Chinese restaurant with a dragon motif is not tropeworthy; a Chinese restaurant with a dragon motif run by a secret sect of Shaolin monks, on the other hand...

Also see Eastern Zodiac, National Stereotypes, Everybody Was Kung-Fu Fighting, and Our Dragons Are Different. Add in a tiger, and you get fun times.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Displayed throughout Outlaw Star by the pirates. Justified, in that their magic is activated by chanting "Eight Trigrams Three Dharma Seals" in Mandarin and have Taoist themes.
  • BB Senshi Sangokuden features four factions that draw upon The Four Gods for faction motifs - Shou, represented by Seiryu (the Dragon) have been particularly consistent in sticking dragons on everything. Kyou-I F91 even switches to a dragon motif after leaving Giga, represented by Suzaku (the Phoenix).
  • The production notes for the animated Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie point out that, in the original storyboards, Ken and Ryu's dual Hadoken used to defeat M.Bison would have briefly shaped a taijitu upon fusing together.
  • The Cyber Dragons and Cyberdarks from Yu-Gi-Oh! GX represent the two halves of the symbol.
  • Dragon Shiryu from Saint Seiya is all about the Chinese dragon motif, to the point of having one as a Power Tattoo. The same could be said for his son Ryuhou. Both characters are explicitly water-elementals, moreso Ryuhou than his father.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist lightly features this in what we know of Xing, a Fantasy Counterpart Culture of China. May describes Xingese alkahestry as flowing through the veins of a dragon, while Lan Fan and Fu's masks feature halves of a taijitu.

    Comic Books 
  • The Double Dragon comic book series used a taijitu with two stylized dragon heads as its logo. The heroes wore costumes with the logo over their chests and shoulderpads.
  • One of the members of the DC Comics' super-villain team Helix is Tao Jones, a Dragon Lady with probability-altering powers; she wears a black evening dress with a red dragon on the front, along with a yin-yang choker.
  • Richard Dragon often wears a jacket that has a large yin-yang symbol with a dragon draped across it on the back.
  • Marvel hero Iron Fist has a dragon brand on his chest, acquired when he used his chest to block the dragon's scar and prevent it drawing strength from its mystical heart. It has the wings of an Western dragon but the snakey body of the Eastern type.
  • Astro City had The Twin Dragons, a brother-sister martial arts team. Each sibling had a dragon tattooed along one arm; when put together, the two summoned a spiritual dragon to attack their foes.

    Films — Animated 
  • The Flight of Dragons: The wizard Lo Tae Shao is East Asian, and so is his dragon, Shen Zu.
  • Kung Fu Panda:
    • The MacGuffin in the first film is the Dragon Scroll, held in the jaws of a ceiling-mounted dragon statue. The taijitu also appears as the Pool of Sacred Tears, a mountaintop lake which was said to be the birthplace of kung fu.
    • In Kung Fu Panda 2, when Po catches Lord Shen's final cannon shot and then throws it back at him, the spinning Po briefly becomes a taijitu. The taijitu also appears in various background elements.
    • In Kung Fu Panda 3, the taijitu appears as Oogway's staff, in a painting on a scroll showing Oogway defeating Kai, when Po masters chi and creates a dragon that forms the taijitu, and a lake in the Spirit Realm after Kai is defeated.
  • In Turning Red, when the ritual circle is activated, a taijitu appears inside it, but with a twist: in keeping with the family's Animal Motif, one side of the symbol is a stylized drawing of a red panda while the other is a stylized drawing of a human.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Shaolin Soccer, the heroine traces a taijitu in bread dough when she uses her tai chi skills to make steamed buns. (Everyone seems to forget that tai chi as traditionally practiced is a martial art, not just something old folks do in parks on Sunday mornings.)
  • Kung Fu Hustle, the Landlord traces out a taijitu in the courtyard of Pig Sty Alley when fighting the Musical Assassins.
  • The Double Dragon (1994) live-action movie has a magical Dragon Medallion that grants great power when the two pieces are put together.
  • Appears in The Karate Kid (2010). As part of Dre's kung-fu teaching, Mr. Han takes him up a tall mountain to the Dragon Well, where drinking from it purportedly make one invincible. The well is a shallow fountain with a yin-yang symbol in the center.
  • In Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, Scott and his bandmates engage the Katayanagi Twins in a Battle of the Bands. Fitting their Japanese-Canadian heritage and Dual Boss tactics, the Katayanagis use the Power of Rock to conjure a pair of ethereal tatsu out of their amps.

  • In The Wheel of Time, Rand becomes known as the Dragon Reborn, uses a dragon banner, and gets magical dragon tattoos on his forearms. He also makes use of the yin-yang symbol of the ancient Aes Sedai, since he is a male channeler himself and is allied with channelers of both sexes. The modern Aes Sedai are all-female and only use the female half of the symbol (white, point up).
    • Which they call the "Flame of Tar Valon". The black piece, called the "Dragon's Fang", is mostly a cross-cultural hate symbol. Various descriptions of these and the (much less known) taijitu suggest that almost nobody sees any connection between any of the three symbols. This is probably allegorical for the characters' universal tendency to see their personal goals and agenda in isolation from everybody else's (see Poor Communication Kills).
    • An important note though, the ancient Aes Sedai symbol lacks the opposite color dots within each half representing harmony of the two parts, another allegory for the conflict between the two sides within the story.
  • The taijitu symbol features in the Judge Dee story, The Haunted Monastery, providing the crucial clue to solving the mystery. The symbol is turned on its side, leading the judge to the door to a secret passage.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Rob Van Dam typically has a dragon and a yin yang symbol on his singlets.
  • Su Yung has a singlet with a yin yang on top of two dragons.
  • Dragon Galatico of the Bolivian New Extreme Order has yin yang symbols all over his ring gear.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Warhammer 40,000, at one point, made heavy use of the yin yang as an Eldar symbol.
  • Warhammer: The empire of Grand Cathay is a Fantasy Counterpart Culture to Imperial China. It is ruled by a family of immortal Weredragons who are worshipped as living gods by their human subjects, and as a result eastern dragon iconography is everywhere in the country. The taijitu is also present, with Cathayan society, spiritualism and even military tactics based around maintaining harmony between yin and yang.

  • The title and logo of Cirque du Soleil's Dralion — because the show focuses on Asian acrobatic disciplines. Specifically, as per the East-meets-West concept, the title and the creature derived from it that appears in the show is a portmanteau of "dragon" (East) and "lion" (West). (This doesn't make sense once you remember that lions have also been invoked in eastern culture. For example, many Chinese restaurants will have two stone lion guardians at the front door.)
  • Appears in the Act II divertissements for The Nutcracker.

    Video Games 
  • Both the dragon and the taijitu show up in Mortal Kombat at various points; the dragon is even in the logo.
    • Also, Liu Kang can transform into a dragon as a fatality.
  • Onmyōji (2016): The main character Seimei is an onmyōji (lit. yin-yang priest) and in later levels he has a dragon aiding him in battle.
  • Touhou Project's primary use of the taijitu is with Reimu, who uses the Hakurei Yin-Yang Orbs as her Ancestral Weapon.
    • In addition, dragons are said to be among the highest class of youkai, and it's said that one appeared in the sky the day the Great Hakurei Border was erected.
    • A popular crack theory is that lazy gatekeeper Meiling (notably one of the very few characters whose exact species is not identified; she's simply called a youkai, which in Gensokyo amounts to a catch-all for anybody who's not a human or a god) is a Chinese rainbow dragon or hong, due to her surname being Hong and her use of rainbow-themed spellcards. ZUN has declined to comment.
  • Stranglehold has a giant jade dragon statue in Wong's chamber where the final showdown takes place.
  • The Double Dragon video games have nothing to do with dragons, but included gratuitous dragons in their logos and promotional images.
  • The Nintendo DS video game Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword has various dragon-themed MacGuffins, including Dragonstones, the Eye of the Dragon, and the eponymous Dragon Sword. Further, the Eye of the Dragon is a jewel shaped like half of the taijitu
    • The main character's name, Ryu, means "dragon" in Japanese. If you play the modern games with the Japanese language track you'll hear the word "ryu" constantly, what with his name, and the Dragon Sword, and the Dragon Clan, and...
  • In Sonic Unleashed, the levels in Chun-Nan (the No Communities Were Harmed counterpart of China) are named "Dragon Road", and the daytime version features long statues of dragons for Sonic to run along the backs of. Some of the nighttime stages have them too, but not in as large a quantity.
  • Breath of Fire IV (which, of note, is an Asian-themed game, complete with a Qing Empire Expy as the Evil Empire) has this in spades.
    • The two playable dragons Ryu and Fou-lu who are actually part of the same dragon god but were split due to a summoning accident are explicitly "yin" and "yang" themed (despite most of their forms resembling Western dragons); most other dragons in the game are Mix-and-Match Critters of lung/mireu/tatsu and other creatures...or, often, mashups of Eastern dragons and plants.
    • The NPC dragons themselves are merged with classical elements of the Eight Trigrams (to an extent, anyways)
    • Speaking of taijitu and the Eight Trigrams, the end stage of the game involves your character fighting his Yin-half on a stage in which is drawn the "Static Heaven" bagua pattern from feng-shui practice that is heavily implied to be an imperial summoning circle of some sort.
    • Not only does IV have the recurring trope of The Hero being named Ryunote , Fou-lu in part of the game uses the name Ryongnote  or Ronnote  depending on if you're playing in Japanese or not.
    • If the supplemental material in the artbook is to be noted, there's even more references. The empire that summoned Fou-lu is the Muuru Empirenote , among others.
    • An example included in the artbook involves a combination of a taijitu, a design consisting of apparent Eastern dragons, and the bonji (Japanese Buddhist variation of Sanskrit) rendering of "Om" combined in a design on the back of Fou-lu's clothes.
    • Explicit mention is made that the dragons in this world are Physical Gods and that they tend to "catch others in their path", similar to the concept of Dragon Lines. (There is a lot of gratuitous Taoist, Buddhist, and even some pre-Taoist shamanist imagery in ))this game, all of it Deeply Mystical.]
  • The Dragon Clan of Battle Realms feature these heavily. The Serpent Clan, being an offshoot of the Dragon Clan, have their more insidious variation.
  • Surprisingly Averted in Jade Empire, for all of its Chinese influences. There are no taijitu symbols anywhere, and the only dragon you see is at the end of the game, and it's not exactly a symbol of badassness. Quite the opposite in fact. The Water Dragon has been trapped in stone and cut open, to endlessly bleed water. It asks you to kill it so that it can be reborn.
  • The Tao Dragon legendary Pokémon of Pokémon Black and White follow the taijitu theme: The white one (Reshiram) is exclusive to Black Version, the black one (Zekrom) is exclusive to White Version, and the grey one, Kyurem, represents wuji (void, or absence of Tao). The three form a Fire, Ice, Lightning theme, with Reshiram as fire, Zekrom as thunder, and Kyurem as ice.
    • Additionally, in the Japanese versions, Reshiram is known as the White Yang Pokémon while Zekrom is classified as the Black Yin Pokémon (the same way Pidgey's species is classified as Tiny Bird Pokémon).
    • Flip flopped in the sequels-Reshiram is in White 2, Zekrom in Black 2.
  • In No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle, Ryuji, the sole Asian challenger to Travis, is able to create an eastern dragon from his sword made of electricity and lasers. It is possible that Dark Star from the original No More Heroes follows this too, as he used the same weapon, but his continent of origin is left unaddressed.
  • BlazBlue's Litchi Faye-Ling has a lot of Yin-Yang motifs, her emblem has a Yin-Yang, one of her hairpin is based on a Yin-Yang and in some of her win poses, she's making out a dragon-like motif out of her hand.
  • Hanzo from Overwatch has a close relationship with dragon motifs: not only does he have a dragon tattoo across his chest and arms, his ultimate attack summons two spectral dragons. His brother Genji also has a dragon motif: when using his ultimate, his sword is briefly surrounded by a dragon. Not only do they have the Sibling Yin-Yang dynamic, but their short film "Dragons" has them represented as two dragons forming a Yin-Yang pattern.
  • Planet Harukotan from Phantasy Star Online 2 is a planet with a civilization that resembles feudal Japan, and two clans of oni-like beings, the white-themed Xironians and black-themed Quronians, at war with each other. The taijitu is formed from the planet's white and black clouds. While there are dragons in this game, as well, they are more western-themed (hulking four-legged terrestrial creatures, as opposed to the long and slender flying bodies like eastern dragons).
  • While not concentrated on a single character, the Chinese Pantheon in Smite has the elements of the trope spread into it, there are the representatives of the Yin-Yang symbol, Hou Yi and Chang'e (yes, they actually got associated with those elements in their default myth) and a very Chinese dragon in form of Ao Kuang.
  • Super Fighter: While Kim Tai Chi doesn't have any Dragon designs on him, he does have two taijitus, one tattooed on his head and another on his chest harness. It's justified in that South Korea's (where he's from) flag features the taijitu on it (though with a red and blue version instead of the usual black and white), and thus can also be considered a sort of display of patriotism.
  • In Unavowed, there is "The Dragon Tree" restaurant in the Chinatown chapter has two Chinese dragons coiled around the pillars of its front entrance. There's also a reason they're called the Dragon Tree — their patron spirit, the Ba Jiao Gui, is a huge spirit dragon summoned via its connection to a banana tree in the Huangs' rooftop garden, which can be summoned once every decade or so in order to grant winning lottery numbers.
  • Dragons and dragon symbolism abound in the fourth World of Warcraft Expansion Pack, the East Asia-themed Mists of Pandaria.

    Web Video 
  • The taijitu is briefly mentioned at the beginning of Vsauce's "What's the Brightest Thing in the Universe?" video. It's brought back again at the end, linking it to the fact that the brightest things in the universe come from the darkest things (quasar-forming black holes), and that the brightest cities have the darkest skies due to the city lights drowning out the light of the stars. The video itself ends with a depiction of a black hole consuming a star and creating a quasar, before a border circle appears to form a proper taijitu.

    Western Animation 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender:
    • The Moon and Ocean Spirits, Tui and La, are shown as a pair of black-and-white koi fish who constantly follow each other in a pond near the North Pole. This is used to represent the gravitational gyrations of the moon and the tide, on which waterbending is based. Plot-critical because one of the Fire Nation generals wants to kill the Moon Spirit to permanently weaken waterbenders.
    • The original firebenders, who are a red and blue dragon. They're supposedly extinct, but Aang and Zuko are fortunate enough to discover that this is a falsehood deliberately spread for the sake of the majestic reptiles. Again, meaningful because proper firebending requires a careful balance of passion and control, which Zuko uses to regain his firebending after he loses his drive to kill Aang. (At the time of the series, the Fire Nation teaches a corrupted version of firebending based on anger and aggression, which is far displaced from the original art.) Aang also learns that firebending isn't just about destruction, which is critical because he swore he would never firebend again, after he accidentally hurt Katara.
  • Yin Yang Yo! features twin kung fu rabbits, so (naturally) it uses the taijitu in the logo.
  • The brothers in Double Dragon (1993) could put on dragon masks to turn into the Double Dragons of the title. They also sported dragon tattoos across their chests and trained in the Dragon Dojo.
  • American Dragon: Jake Long: The protagonist is a Voluntary Shapeshifting dragon and part of a worldwide league of dragons. The logo, of course, includes a dragon silhouette.
    • Yin and Yang became an issue in the episode where Jake learned about his duplication powers.
  • The protagonists in Xiaolin Showdown are the Xiaolin Dragons, and the show has a dragon as a principle character, who is a Sizeshifter to become their primary means of transport.
  • Legend Of The Dragon: Ang's power-band has a dragon symbol, which also appears behind him in the Transformation Sequence. The Big Bad is the Master of Darkest Yin, who wears an outfit with the dark half of the Yin-Yang symbol.
  • Jackie Chan Adventures features a dragon as the main antagonist (Shendu), features the dragon on one of the twelve talismans and said talisman appears on the main logo for the series. Did we mention that the main characters are Chinese in ancestry?
    • Also, the last talisman to make a debut had Yin and Yang based powers.
  • The later seasons of Detentionaire had a yin-yang symbol that is actually made up of two Tazelwurms, a red one and a blue one, who, while not technically dragons, do look quite similar. This symbol can be found in places such as the back of a book on magic and on a pendant the Serpent, a martial arts expert, wears.
  • In Miraculous Ladybug, Marinette's costume as Dragon Bug, when she wields the Ladybug and Dragon Miraculous in tandem, has a swirling asymmetrical design that resembles the curvature of a taijitu. The Miraculouses are Chinese in origin, and Marinette herself is half-Chinese.

Alternative Title(s): Dragons Up The Taijitu