A large dragon hovers in the cloud-covered sky at the upper left as a smaller dragon swimming in the ocean has only its head visible. The old dragon, with its long whiskers and scaly body, strikes a protective pose with both front legs extended toward the small struggling dragon. Subtly shaded clouds emphasize both action and atmosphere in the composition.
This is a rare example of a new theme created by early Ming court artists to convey the political message "Old Dragon Leading Its Son to Worship Heaven." As the dragon symbolizes the Chinese emperor, the so-called "Son of Heaven," the function of this painting is to glorify the emperor's rule, which was known as the "Mandate of Heaven" in imperial China.