Like most mythological creatures, dragons are perceived in different ways by different cultures. They are commonly portrayed as serpentine or reptilian, hatching from eggs and possessing typically feathered or scaly bodies. They are sometimes portrayed as having large yellow or red eyes, a feature that is the origin for the word for dragon in many cultures.
Winged dragons are usually portrayed only in European dragons while Asian versions of the dragon, sometimes called the Long (Chinese pinyin) resemble large snakes. Modern depictions of dragons tend to be larger than their original representations, which were often smaller than humans.
Although dragons occur in many legends around the world, different cultures have varying stories about monsters that have been grouped together under the dragon label.
Chinese dragons, and Eastern dragons generally, are usually seen as benevolent, whereas European dragons are usually malevolent though there are exceptions. Malevolent dragons also occur in the mythology of Persia and Russia, among other places.
Dragons are often held to have major spiritual significance in various religions and cultures around the world. In many Eastern and Native American cultures dragons were, and in some cultures still are, revered as representative of the primal forces of nature , religion and the universe. Many pre-Columbian cultures were fascinated by the power of dragons.
The Moche people depicted dragons frequently in their ceramics. They are associated with wisdom -often said to be wiser than humans-and longevity. They are commonly said to possess some form of magic or other supernatural power, and are often associated with wells, rain, and rivers. In some cultures, they are also said to be capable of human speech.