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What is Dragon Art

Dragon art is commonly seen throughout China.  The dragon is a mythical creature that is often used in art, poetry, songs, literature, architecture, and other aspects of the Chinese culture.  As you will discover in this article, the Chinese dragon has taken many different paths throughout time although its actual origin is still not known.

Starting with the Ming Dynasty in the early 16th century, wine jars have been discovered that are made form beautifully colored stoneware.  Although you would see the wine jar in other dynasties, it was more commonly used during the Ming years.  The designs are often vivid and lively, many times portraying two pairs of dragons pursuing a flaming jewel in cloud and sea motifs.

Vases were also common types of dragon art, especially during Chia Ching’s reign.  The dragon art vases were designed from porcelain and commonly made with five-color, enameled decorations that included the imperial five clawed dragons as they frolicked among the ocean’s waves.  These vases designed with dragon art came in all sized and the colors were always spectacular.  Then in the Tang Dynasty, there was the gilded bronze dragon art.  One piece in particular was uncovered in 1975 during an excavation in Xi’an City that was considered an exceptional find.

Dragon art was also an important part of the clothing, restricted to royalty only.  Emperors would wear long, flowing robes that were adorned with dragon art and the color yellow, both considered reverend and sacred, again to royalty.  Even the empress wore jackets that were embellished with dragon art.  In addition to the dragon, these jackets were magnificently colored with flowers, bamboo, birds, and flying kites.

Three of the most spectacular dragon art robes that have been uncovered during excavation include the Dragon Robe, which comes from the Ching (Qing) Dynasty.  This particular robe today is hanging in the Minneapolis Institute for all to enjoy.  Then, you have the Dragon Robe of a Mandarin.  This dragon art robe is of a rising celestial dragon with wonderful embroidered silk.  Finally, the Dragon Robe from the Chuba, Qing Dynasty from the 17th century is on display at the Metropolitan Museum in New York.

Other forms of dragon art are magnificent portraits.  For instance, the Emperor KangXi is shown in a portrait of him sitting at his desk, on display today at the Peking Museum in Beijing.  The Red Dragon is another beautiful portrait that enhances the history of dragon art.  Painted on a black lacquer brush pot from the Wan-Li period in the Ming Dynasty, this piece is incredibly beautiful.  As you can see, dragon art is commonly seen in a number of ways in China.

Keep in mind that dragon art is built around a number of different dragon types, nine major ones in all.  Included among the nine are:

  • Winged dragon
  • Horned dragon
  • Celestial dragon - known for protecting and supporting the god’s mansions
  • Spiritual dragon - generates rain and wind
  • Dragon of hidden treasures - guards hidden wealth
  • Yellow dragon - once emerged from water and presented to the legendary Emperor Fu Shi
  • Coiling dragon - lives in the water.
  • Dragon King – consists of nine separate dragons, each ruling over the four seas

Just as there are nine dragons displayed in dragon art, you will also discover that the Chinese people represent these in nine different ways.  First, the dragons are carved on top of gongs and bells because of the loud dragon call.  Then, they are carved onto the screws of fiddles because dragons love music.  The third is the dragon carved on top of stone tablets since dragons also love literature.

Next is the dragon on the bottom of stone monuments because dragons are strong and can support a lot of weight.  Fifth, the dragon is placed on temple eaves to alert to danger, the six is on beams of bridges because dragons love the water, seventh is on Buddha’s throne, which represents rest, next is on sword hilts since dragons can slaughter, and finally, dragons are carved onto prison gates because they enjoy making trouble and quarreling.


top pick Dragon Art : Feng Shui Booth

Dragon Cinnabar Plate
Beautiful red Chinese Dragon cinnabar plate with wood display stand about 6" in diameter. A beautiful way to display your good taste in Chinese art and decor. Its bright red color makes a powerful accent to any area.

Bronze Chinese Dragons
Our most exquisite bronze Dragon incense burner. Dragon holds a Jade Jewel atop the Burner's lid. It measures approximately 7.5 inches wide. This is a one of a kind piece.

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