Monday, July 18, 2011

The meaning and significance of the Chinese Dragon - 2012 is the year of the dragon

Dragon in Hon's ceramic installation with projected animation
all images - Jan the UJ 
photographer. 
Next year is the year of the dragon, in terms of the Chinese horoscope for 2012.  What to expect, is determined by various factors as explained and disseminated in publications such as Your Chinese Horoscope 2012. However as designers and artists, the meaning and significance of the dragon is a complex subject. Details such as its claws could have radical differences in terms of the dragon’s meaning and significance. Every effort should therefore be made to thoroughly investigate the mythology of such creatures, especially with regard to their cultural, religious and sectarian value and importance.  This is of particular significance, when the dragon is incorporated as the main design feature; referenced as central to the design concept and or idea. Getting it wrong, at this stage of the design development process, could have disastrous consequences. It could lead to the disqualification of your design in a competition. It can also be very offensive and or insulting on a national and cultural level (public relations) if the symbol is used without thorough research. Remember, the dragon is the cultural symbol of China and if used inappropriately could seriously infuriate a nation.  This is true when they are targeted as consumers, in the design and manufacture of goods, and if incorporated as signs and symbols in marketing and communication products, especially advertising campaigns. Conduct your research thoroughly and make sure you have grasped the true meaning of the creature (from a cultural representation perspective), empowering you to incorporate the sign and or symbol confidently in terms of product development.  This will ensure that you can explain its significance and incorporate the dragon in a design creatively, ensuring a sound and innovative end product.

Dragon in Hon's ceramic installation with projected animation
It is important to make sure that your research sources are reliable and your knowledge sites and or reference documents are credible and believable. That the websites, books and or magazines are respected as knowledge ‘centres of excellence' and that the authors are internationally accredited in terms of their knowledge of the field and the dissemination thereof. This is of particular importance when it comes to indigenous knowledge.
Dragon in Hon's ceramic installation with projected animation

The Dragon as defined by JC Cooper in his book titled, an Illustrated Encyclopedia of Traditional Symbols. Next year is the Year of the Dragon, in terms of the Chinese Zodiac, the following symbolism is therefore from Chinese perspective. Generally the dragon in the Orient, is a beneficent, celestial power while, in the Occident, it becomes chthonic, destructive and evil. 

In the Far East it symbolizes supernatural power; wisdom; strength; hidden knowledge; power of the life-giving waters; it is the emblem of the Emperor of the Son of Heaven and, following him, the wise and noble man.

In Chinese alchemy the dragon is mercury, the blood and the semen.

Five clawed Chinese dragon as
captured on a rare blue and white 'dragon' moonflask as
cited in a Sothebys catalogue, 7 Nov 2007. 
Chinese comprehensive (Taoist, Buddhist):  The dragon and serpent are not separated in Chinese symbolism. The dragon represents the highest spiritual power; the supernatural; infinity; the spirit of change; the Divine power of change and transformation; the rhythms of Nature; the law of becoming; supernatural wisdom; strength. It is ‘the Celestial Stag’ the sun; light and life; the Heavens; sovereignty; the masculine yang power. The dragon of the clouds is also thunder and the fertilizing rain, the waters of the deep and spring. The Azure Dragon, lung, the highest, lives in the sky and is the vital spirit.; celestial power; infinite supernatural power and , on earth, the delegated imperial power, the Emperor. The lung, or Imperial Dragon, has five claws and its head is to the South and its tail to the North. It also represents the East and fertilizing rain.

The common dragon, mang, has four claws and is temporal power. The three clawed dragon was an early Chinese form, later to become the Japanese Dragon. Li, the hornless dragon, lives in the sea and controls the deeps; he also symbolizes the scholar. Chiao lives in the mountains or on land and represents the statesman.

nine resemblances of the dragon according to Wang Fu as
captured on a rare blue and white 'dragon' moonflask as
cited in a Sothebys catalogue, 7 Nov 2007.  
The ‘nine resemblances’ of the dragon are (refer to image above) , according to Wang Fu; “his horns resemble those of a stag, his head that of a camel, his eyes those of a demon, his neck that of a snake, his belly that of a clam, his scales those of a carp, his claws those of an eagle, his soles those of a tiger, his ears those of a cow.

The two ‘contending dragons’, facing each other are the yin-yang forces of dualism, all opposites and complements, celestial and terrestrial powers; they usually have either the sun or night shining pearl, the moon between them; backing each other they symbolize the yin-yang and eternity; chasing each others tails they depict the two-way creative action of the yin-yang powers.
dragon ball or flaming pearl as
captured on a rare blue and white 'dragon' moonflask as
cited in a Sothebys catalogue, 7 Nov 2007.  
 The dragon is often portrayed with the ‘dragon ball’ or ‘flaming pearl’ (illustrated above) and this has been variously suggested as ‘rolling thunder’ or the ‘rain-bringer’ with the dragon swallowing the pearl as the wane of the moon and belching it forth as the waxing moon, but in Taoism and Buddhism it is  the pearl which grants all desires, the pearl of perfection, that is to say wisdom, enlightenment and the spiritual essence of the universe. The dragon with the phoenix is the union of Heaven and earth, Emperor and Empress, the divine potentially containing all opposites, also the interaction of the macrocosm and the microcosm, the two aspects of the androgyny, the rhythms of involution and evolution, birth and death. These are also symbolized by the double spiral. The dragon can depict lustfulness if portrayed with the tiger as anger and hostility.

1 comment:

Jamie-Lee Dedlow said...

Thanx for the information Eugene, its a huge help. and your images are amazing.