Friday, August 29, 2008

Artist: Chen Rong

I am currently finishing a novella for Ellora's Cave called Secrets of the Jin Hakku. It is set in the world of the Shinwa people, an Asian influenced culture I created. This was the first world I've ever "built," and I had a fantastic time. Hence, I wanted to share some Chinese art today.

This is one of the dragons from "The Nine Dragons" handscroll, painted by the Song Dynasty Chinese artist Chen Rong in the year 1244 AD.

Chinese dragons are mythical creatures, and although they're occasionally depicted with wings, they fly because of a supernatural power, not because they have wings. Another ability they possess is being able to disguise themselves. They can be as small as a beetle or as large as the galaxy. According to Shuowen Jiezi, they can "form clouds, can turn into water or fire, can become invisible or glow in the dark." Obviously, this dragon is in the process of changing his form.

Strangely, the number of claws the dragon had was extremly important. If it had three, it was an ordinary dragon and appropriate for the common people. A four clawed dragon could be associated with nobility and high ranking officials. However, the five clawed dragon was for the exclusive use of the Imperial family. (Proper colors of the dragon was also important.) If you displayed the wrong number of claws on your dragon teapot for example, you and your entire clan could be executed.

Ha! Betcha didn't know that. :) Never say I didn't teach you anything.

Have a fantastic weekend. Maybe spend it painting a dragon with five claws just because you can.

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