Meaning of the Number of Claws on a Chinese Dragon
At one point in time, you could loose your head, in China, if the dragon on your shirt had too many claws! The number of claws displayed by a dragon was an indication of rank within Chinese society. The emperor's dragon had five claws. Members of the imperial nobility and high ranking officials were permitted four claws. Low ranking officials and the general public could depict their dragons with three claws.
Use of the wrong number of claws or color on a dragon was considered an act of treason and was punishable by death, not just for you but for your entire clan!