Saturday, January 21, 2012

Year of the Dragon

Designation: Deity trees (shenmu) in Taiwan. Artist: Zhang Daqian. Chinese, 1899-1983
Date: 1970. Medium: Ink and colors on paper . Place of Origin: Taiwan | United States
Credit Line: Gift of the artist. Label: Zhang Daqian painted this work during a 1970 visit to Taiwan, where many of his friends lived.

I am more than a bit groggy, having been kept awake until 4:30 AM by my heedless upstairs neighbors (who says that Neanderthals are dead?.)  But while sleep is short, blogging is eternal so here is the Saturday post .

Chinese New Year is here (or almost here). This is the year of the Dragon which is supposed to be tempestuous and eventful. As last year was the Year of the Rabbit which was supposed to be calm and peaceful - and wasn't! - I shudder to think about what we have in store.

The Asian Art Museum blog has a post on the dragon images in their collection and another on Chinese New Year's Food which I am also researching for a future post. They encouraged us to post about our favorite dragons in the collection. There are so many that I love that I don't know where to start.

Unfortunately for me, my collector's eye is not matched by my bare bones budget. But looking is free for the cost of admission and the membership is a great deal.  Although I am a Capricorn and love old things best, this painting caught my eye with its vivid colors and flowing movement. I appreciated the more modern ambiance and the inscription is exquisite.

The inscription by the artist reads:
The clouds of four mountains are endless,
Trees like twisting dragons stretch upward.
They sturdily stand at hundreds of meters high,
It’ s even hard to see the top when I look up together with
young folks.

Trees have been through enough wind and rain, To fill a history of a thousand ages.

Deity trees on Hengguan Road, Taiwan. Painted on Mr. Meng’ s request, in Taipei, the sixth month of the Republic 59th year (1970). Yuan weng [artist’ s signature].

Deity trees, or shenmu, are culturally important natural resources in Taiwan. According to governmental classification, deity trees are at least 1,000 years old and stand over 26 feet tall. Due to their sheer size and age, the trees came to be
respected as sacred natural phenomena and sites of worship to various deities.
(image from the Asian Art Museum website)

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