Here Be Dragons! Dragons, Dragon mythology, Dragon Pictures & Dragon Art
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Dragon Sculptures

In the mythology of various Oriental countries, (notably Japan, China, Korea and Taiwan), the dragon is the supreme spiritual power, the most ancient emblem in mystical beliefs and also the most well known power motif in Oriental art and architecture. Oriental-Dragons represent celestial and terrestrial power, wisdom, and strength; and so they are a popular choice for spiritual adornment in just about everywhere from imperial palaces to public parks.

One old mythological tale describes the dragon as an ambitious animal who wanted to replace the tiger as "king of the animals." The ancient Chinese Jade Emperor had to judge whether to make the dragon or the tiger the ruler of the animal kingdom, but finally settled on making the dragon the king of the water and the tiger the king of the earth.

Unlike the earthly tiger, however, dragons are said to possess great powers, bringing wealth and good luck to all who revere them. They are so famous, in fact, that in traditional Chinese New Year's Day parades, giant costumed dragons roam the streets to bid away evil spirits that the Chinese fear might otherwise spoil the new year. The five-clawed-dragon became the Chinese-Imperial emblem, while the three-clawed-dragon traditionally indicates a Japanese origin.

There are several sculptures and statues denoting the imperial power of this mystic mythological creature, that date back so far that archeologists are convinced they pre-date written history.


Some dragon sculptures, or artistic dragon paintings commonly sculpted onto ceramic, porcelain or clay vases, were enameled to decorate an emperor's antique collection, (such as the above photograph, depicting the twin dragon red lacquer-brush pot which belonged to the Ming Dynasty during the Wan-li period, 1573-1620.) But beyond the endless amounts of dragon-decorated pots, vases and miniature figurines, there are much grander displays of dragon sculptures to be found.

The Nine Dragon Wall

Take, for example, the Nine Dragon Wall. This popular tourist site in Beijing has been a place of worship and reverence for dragon-lovers for more than 200 years. The giant dragon sculpture, which encompasses the entirety of the wall, stands 15 meters high and 21 meters long, colorfully decorating BaiHai Park. The wall is comprised of 424 seven-color ceramic tiles-drawing massive crowds to look on in awe at this incredible piece of artisanship that was conceived long ago in the 1700's.

You might think that the Wall of Nine dragons sculpture only has nine dragons on it, but that is not all that meets the eye. While there are nine giant dragons in the famous dragon sculpture, the wall has many hidden dragons as well. With a closer look, you will find that the wall is covered from edge-to-edge with a series of smaller dragons that are embedded in its impressive artistry-leaving a total of 635 dragons to be found. It is one of the most famous dragon sculptures in the world.

The "roaring dragon" of Sokoku-ji

Another impressive dragon sculpture which holds a mysterious secret can be found on the ceiling of the Sokoku-ji Temple of Kyoto, Japan. The temple, which has, painted on it, a large and powerful dragon which looks down upon it's enterers from its high place on the Temple ceiling, is said to have magical qualities. This is because, when people in the Sokoku-ji Temple clap their hands, the dragon sculpture roars.

Traditionally called the "roaring dragon" of Sokoku-ji, this temple-ceiling painting was specially engineered to create a reverberating sound, made to sound like the "roar" of a dragon. The roaring sound is produced when the acoustic reflections of a clapping noise repeatedly bounce between two parallel wooden plains, (the floor and the ceiling), which happen so fast that they omit a series of overlapping echoes, or drawn-out sound waves that are believed to mimic the sound of a dragon roar. No other dragon sculpture comes quite so much to life as the roaring dragon sculpture at the Temple Sokoku-ji!

Other Dragon Sculptures

Other dragon sculptures that have been noted over the centuries are artifacts such as this ancient wine jar, originating from the early 16th century Ming Dynasty.

This brilliantly colored large stoneware vessel is one of the most popular wares of the Ming period. The lively design features four dragons encircling the vase, which are pursuing a token flaming jewel that is well known to the mythologies of the Orient culture. - This picture is from Two Thousand Years of Chinese Ceramics by V. Reynolds, P.H. Curtis, and Y.F. Pei (70k).

This antique Jade coiled dragon sculpture dates back to the Hongshan Period (c. 4700-2920 B.C.) ~Liaoning Provincial Institute of Archaeology, Shenyang Its carefully-sculpted curvature and his body of sea-green jade stone implies that he is a water dragon. Water dragons are thought to be less selfish and opinionated than the more myth- dominant fire Dragons. He is more inhibited, and less power-hungry than the common imperial Chinese dragon sculpture suggests.

This Gilded Bronze dragon sculpture comes from the Tang Dynasty (AD618-906). Excavated 1975, Xi'an City, Shaanxi Province, and kept in the Shaanxi History Museum in China, the bronze dragon symbolizes a humble pursuit of power, and is one of the most appreciated ancient dragon sculptures known in the world today.



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