The Suitcase Lady


January 24, 2012, 10:13 pm

It’s time for dragons.  Forget everything you know about these legendary beasts…that they breathe fire, eat young maidens, smell sulfurous and are slain by gallant knights or virtuous saints (George, for instance).

Chinese New Year began yesterday, and it is the most auspicious year of the twelve year animal cycle. Welcome 4710, The Year of the Dragon.

Asian dragons are the opposite of their European counterparts. These wingless dragons cavort in the skies and are generally benevolent creatures. According to Chinese mythology, dragons metamorphose over 3,000 years from hatchling to mature dragon.

The Chinese have dragons for every occasion, but four have special significance:

  • t’ien lung   The celestial dragon, protector of the heavens.
  • shen-lung    The spiritual dragon, master of storms and skyborne bringer of rain. Only the emperor could use its image on his robes.
  • ti-lung   The dragon of land, stream and river who spends springtime in heaven and autumn in the sea.
  • fu ts’ang lung   The treasure dragon, keeper of hoards of precious jewels and metals in the deepest vaults of the earth.

I’ve recently been having my art students draw dragons. We have attempted to follow the directions of Wang Fu, a scholar who lived during the Han dynasty (206 BC – AD 220).

“The Chinese dragon’s head is that of a camel, its eyes are a demon’s, its ears are a cow’s, its horns are the branched antlers of a stag, its neck is a snake’s, its belly is a clam’s. The soles of its feet are a tiger’s, while its claws are an eagle’s and the 117 scales sheathing its long body are those of a carp. Of these scales, 81 are infused with benevolent essence (yang) and 36 with the malign essence (yin).”

The pictures below were created by my second grade students…Happy Year of the Dragon!

3 Comments for this entry

  • Sandra

    Mary, you have a gift for urging the best art from young children. We still display Katharine’s mask of Tan Gui (Japanese) with our collection of masks. She made it at age 4, so you know we have retained it for a very long time. It’s one of her favorite artifacts from primary school. Be well. Sandra

  • Diane Loborec Sheehan on Facebook

    Love how each drawing represents the dragon, but each one is completely unique!! So creative.

  • Mary

    Sandra! It’s probably best if you keep that mask up….he is a trickster, but like all good tricksters, he occasionally does do nice things for those who display him!