Monday, January 23, 2012

Year of the Dragon

Legend has it that in ancient times, Buddha asked all the animals to meet him on Chinese New Year. Twelve came, and Buddha named a year after each one. In the 12 year cycle, this year (4710 on the Chinese calendar) begins on January 23rd, and is the Year of the Dragon.

The dragon is one of 12 animal signs in the Chinese zodiac, but it outranks all others as the ultimate emblem of the Chinese nation and race. Paradoxically, it represents power on the one hand but benevolence and blessings on the other.

The Asian Art Museum blog wanted us readers to comment on our favorite dragons. Well, I couldn't decide on just one. How can there be just one with faced with such beauty? Let Europe have it's St. George slaying the dragon; I'll take ones of China...or Japan... or Thailand...or Cambodia...or Laos..or.. Thailand. I'm not picky about place, only about beauty. 


I have always loved Ming Dynasty porcelain and this is a beautiful piece, both for the exquisite blue glaze and the way that the dragon motif compliments the shape of the plate. Ming dynasty, reign of the Jiajing Emperor (1522-1566). Porcelain with underglaze blue decoration and partially blue glaze. In the center of this plate is depicted a dragon in a floral scroll (instead of the usual clouds that accompany depictions of this mythical animal), complemented by a design of two dragons striding through flowers around the edge. This design is repeated on the back.

Facing dragons (Nephrite).1840-1950. I could have sworn that this piece was older but I may have mixed up my labels (corrections welcomed). This is part of the magnificent Brundage collection which forms the core of the collection.

 The design for this textile is rich with symbols. Along the border are bats among clouds, puns for “ May you have good fortune or luck.” Two blue dragons face each other representing a happy reunion, each with a tail that ends in geometric meanders symbolizing longevity. Of the various flowers surrounding the dragons, the day lily stands out as a motif for honoring one’ s mother and wishing her long life.

Images from the Asian Art Museum.

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