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Dragon or Python?

Only the true Emperor is granted the privilege of adorning the illustrious Dragon Robe known as the “Long Pau.” Nevertheless, a variant called the Mang Robe was explicitly crafted for the captivating realm of opera performances. The Mang dragon, a symbol of a “lesser dragon,” is represented and referred to as a “python”. At a visual glance, the Long and Mang dragons are indistinguishable. However, one key discrepancy arises in the count of claws, with the Mang dragon commonly possessing four claws, symbolising its subordinate authority in comparison to the Emperor’s revered Long Dragon. It is essential to acknowledge that there exist Mang robes featuring dragons with five claws as well. Out of profound reverence for the Emperor, it is not appropriate to refer to the dragons on opera costumes as Long dragons.

During performances, actors and actresses portraying Emperors, Royalty, Generals, or important Officials wear the “Mang Robe” or Python Robe. The depiction of the Mang dragon varies depending on the character’s role. For example, the Emperor’s Mang is often shown with an open mouth, symbolising his authority and command over his subjects. In contrast, the dragons on the robes of ministers and generals have closed mouths, representing their loyalty and obedience to the Emperor. In addition, the dragons in the costumes of civil officials are portrayed as gentle and quiet, while those in the costumes of martial officials are depicted as bold and mighty. In some cases, the Phoenix is used instead of the dragon to represent female characters of authority.

It’s important to note that these traditions can vary slightly from one opera troupe to another, as they are primarily passed down orally. Therefore, there may be slight discrepancies when it comes to written literature on the subject of Chinese Opera.

When in Penang, make sure to explore the historical places, enjoy the local attractions, and immerse yourself in the vibrant culture of this fascinating destination. Additionally, if you’re interested in Chinese Opera, or museums you may want to check us out and pay us a visit.