Mythical snake-like dragons date back to artefacts discovered in north-east China as early as 5000 BCE, but it is not known why they resemble snakes. The earliest depictions of dragons were called pig dragons – small jade sculptures featuring a pig’s head with a coiled body. Early versions looked more like a foetus, with the longer serpentine body becoming popular later. In Chinese culture, dragons are synonymous with water and are said to be the masters of rainfall, waterfalls, rivers and seas. This cold partly explain the serpent-like form, as a swimming mechanism similar to an eel, or perhaps the wavy snake-like shape, was a reason dragons became associated with water. Traditionally, it’s not only snakes that dragon depicters have borrowed from – there are many other anatomical resemblances found in Chinese dragons, including stag horns, carp scales, tiger feet and eagle claws.
Answered by Rik Sargent.