Today`s blog concerns the Dragon Fish, a semi-legendary Chinese fish, which seems to have similarities with a giant salamander or giant newt, were such an animal to really exist. Today`s case is from The Hong Kong Telegraph of March 7th 1925 (1) There has only ever been one possible sighting of a giant salamander in Hong Kong, the controversial Sligo`s Salamander found at the Hong Kong Mid-Levels after a heavy rainstorm in the Botanical Gardens, the exact provenance of which is as far as I am aware unknown although it is now thought not to be a new species. (Jon?)
JON: Boulenger, EG: The Zoo and Aquarium Book (Duckworth, London: 1932). It is now thought to be a small and dark specimen of The Chinese giant salamander (Andrias davidianus)
There is no such giant newt in Hong Kong. There is the Hong Kong newt (2) but it is no giant. However, read on:
According to the vernacular papers, which make much of “scoops” and sometimes embellish them, a strange fish has just been discovered by an inhabitant of Portland Street, Yaumati.
This is nothing less than the “dragon” fish, which derives its name from its elongated form and from the quality popularly attributed to it of sprouting legs along the line of its long body after life is extinct. The “sprouting” process is brought about by giving the fish a tap on its head”, and those of the superstitious Chinese who believe in this think they have in the strange fish one of the direct descendants of the dragon. Altogether a very fishy story, but the concluding paragraph in the report states that the man who brought it home to his house at No. 34 Portland Street has sent the fish to the Government Bacteriologist for examination. (3)
Portland St still exists, but is now a few miles inland from Yaumati or Yau Ma Ti. Perhaps in 1925 it was nearer the coast of west Kowloon where Yau Ma Ti is located and therefore this “dragon fish” was a juvenile crocodile? What fascinates me most is this “ tap on its head” business. How I would love to find someone who can translate the “vernacular press”. I`m working on it. I hope the next time Jon or Lizzy or Richard or someone taps me on the head and says “ho ho what a good Fortean you are” I don`t sprout legs; two is quite enough thank you!!
The once well known American author Pearl S. Buck wrote a book called The Dragon Fish in which she says (1944 edition?) : “It was shaped like a tiny dragon. It had four little feet on four short legs, instead of fins, and its tail was long and curling.” (4)
Buck wrote a number of books about pre-Communist China (i.e <>The Hong Kong Telegraph March 7th 1925 p.1
2 The maximum length is 11-15cm. Wikipedia.
3 Hong Kong Telegraph op cit p.1
4 P.S. Buck The Dragon Fish. The John Day Company 1944 p.16 Google Books http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=u1VaAAAAMAAJ&q=dragon-fish&dq=dragon-fish&hl=en&ei=ZZ20TLDwMY-TswbnxMyyCA&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CC8Q6AEwAA
BILLY BRAGG FROM A VAUXHALL VELOX
She said “Do these seats fold down?”
I said “if you pull that handle”
All the time she`d been waiting for
Something with a little more
And all her mates on the new estates
Were walking out in confetti and sunshine
Her mother read her mail
And her Dad was a policeman
Which I must say worried me
But some things have just got to be
So we passed very fast like ships in the night
Or cars on a contraflow system…..