Asian dragon art typically conveys cultural concepts of spiritual balance, masculine power and transformation, according to the American Museum of Natural History. European dragons often represent strength and guardianship, but many tattoos depict them as antagonists, representing personal demons that must be slain.
Tattoos have personal significance for each individual, but fans of Asian-inspired tattoos are often attracted to traditional imagery of swirling, dancing dragons interacting with clouds, water and other natural elements. Asian dragons are graceful and highly respected creatures of immense power. They are symbols of earthiness and seasonal change, embodying the "yang" element of balance with their bright and active masculine energy. Many Asian dragons are also magical changelings capable of taking multiple forms, making them popular symbols of renewal and metamorphosis.
European dragons have a reputation for being powerful, imposing, malevolent and greedy, fiercely guarding their hoards of treasure. In tattoo art, these qualities are commonly emphasized in a positive light, representing an individual's personal strength of character, loyalty, watchfulness and protective spirit. However, tattoos' meanings depend on context, and European images praising dragon slayers, such as Saint George, date back to the Middle Ages. Tattoos showing a hero battling or riding a dragon may symbolize personal triumph over adversity or past mistakes.