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Fantastical flying beasts

Major Beijing exhibition traces history of the dragon through 8,000 years of imagery, Wang Ru reports.

By WANG RU | China Daily | Updated: 2024-05-18 10:19

Bronze mirror holders with dragon patterns of the Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 220) unearthed from Luoping county, Yunnan province.[Photo provided by Jiang Dong/China Daily]

At the opening ceremony on April 29, Ma Yuan, deputy secretary-general of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said that through artifacts, photos, videos and 3D displays, the exhibition elaborates on the origins, development and evolution of dragon culture, as well as the historical value and modern significance of the dragon as a national totem.

According to Guo Wu, a researcher at the Institute of Archaeology at CASS, the dragon is one of the most important Chinese totems. It is believed to be closely connected to the formation of the Chinese state and civilization. As a result, the dragon can still be seen everywhere and is beloved by the people.

"We want to show images of the dragon's 8,000-year history in China to allow visitors to understand how it has gradually evolved alongside the formation of China, and what it is like today," says Guo.

The exhibition opens with photos of the earliest-known dragon image from the Chahai Site in Fuxin, Liaoning province, which is made out of stacked stones from about 8,000 years ago. The image is 19.7 meters long and has a recognizable head, body and tail, and is inferred to have been used in sacrificial ceremonies.

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