Long gu literally means “dragon bones”, and yes it is an ingredient in traditional Chinese medicine, but not from dinosaur bones.
The earliest widely accepted Chinese writing is the oracle bone inscriptions of Shang dynasty. It was discovered by a late Qing dynasty scholar named
Wang Yi Rong who first noticed the existence of Long gu in traditional medicines, as he investigated on these Long gu further he discovered that every
piece has got similar writing-like characters on them. These “dragon bones” are in fact tortoise-shells and other animal bones used by the Shang
kings for divination.
As for the origin of Chinese dragon, there are many theories on it among Chinese scholars including from dinosaurs as the mistaking of Long Gu for
dinosaur bones seems to suit, and from Babylon as a cultural import which the author is implying here as evident in the statement “our dragon friend
heads now to the north-east from Mesopotamia, to the lands of the Orient.”
I don’t know if such assertion is based firmly on archaeological record or not as I’m not familiar with the archaeological study regarding the
origin of Sumerian dragon. But from what I know the origin of dragon in China can be traced back to the Neolithic period.
The earliest undisputed dragon symbol was found in a tomb named M45 at Xi Shui Po archaeological site in Pu Yang. The site which belongs to Hou gang
phase of Yang Shao culture dating back to 4500 B.C was excavated in 1987.
Besides being one of the earliest depiction of dragon, it is also the Azure dragon that constitutes the earliest star map. Before its discovery, it
was proposed that element of Chinese astrology such as the four symbols was imported from Babylon around Qin-Han period. However in 1978, a star map
painted on the cover of a lacquer case was discovered in a spring-autumn period(432 B.C.) tomb of Zeng state argues indigenous origin.
Those who argue indigenous origin of Chinese astrology propose even earlier development in China since the Zeng star map is already developed one.
Even they didn’t expect to trace its origin to such early time when M45 was discovered in 1987,
However, the connection between star maps found in Zeng tomb and 6500 years old M45 is unmistakable evidence of cultural inheritance, for instance the
depictions of the Azure dragon of east and the white tiger of west are consistent.
Some experts believe M45 dragon is based on Chinese alligator or the sort as it resembles one, which is actually one of the explanations for the
origin of Chinese dragon, among others.
It’s more than physical resemblance that make their argument, according to them, ancient texts speak of man taming the dragons, one tribe during Xia
dynasty was actually charged with taming the dragons for the king, and their clan name derived from such expertise. Hence the original dragon should
be real animal that was tamed by man.
According to those who propose that alligators were the origin of Chinese dragon the reason that the depiction of dragon found from Erlitou culture
(Xia dynasty) was accompanied by a bronze bell is because the bell was used for taming the animal or at least reflects that history.
I don’t know whether the dragons found in various ancient cultures have common origin or not, but Chinese dragon can trace its origin to at least
4500 B.C. whether its based on alligators or not, and it has been a cultural inheritance since then, this is well established by archaeological
P.S. One intriguing thing about the star map found in M45 is that according to computer calculation by some scholar the position of the celestial
stars are not reflections of the night sky 6500 years ago, but 133,000 years ago, the so called “second astronomical explanation for M45 star
[edit on 3-12-2009 by sunsky]