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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

A C-shaped jade dragon on display attracts attention.[Photo provided by Jiang Dong/China Daily]

Meanwhile, the dragons found on Shang Dynasty relics reveal that the Shang people incorporated many of these features into their depictions, ultimately leading to the creation of a fixed dragon image, Guo says.

"Shang dragons often exhibit characteristics like horns on their heads, bodies resembling snakes or crocodiles, fangs and manes. … This means that with the rise of monarchies controlling large areas, dragon depictions transitioned from being varied and scattered to becoming unified for the first time," says Guo.

The exhibition highlights a number of dragon artifacts from before the Xia and Shang dynasties, including a C-shaped jade dragon, one of the typical formats of jade dragons made by the Hongshan Culture, which was discovered in Inner Mongolia autonomous region.

"The jade dragon's snout protrudes forward and lifts upward, and it has a relatively long mane on its back. …The dragon is presented in a soaring and upward-flying state, and embodies the aesthetics of ancient people, who adopted a minimalist approach in its making," says Li.

Another typical Hongshan Culture jade pig-dragon (a jade dragon with the features of a pig) is also on display. Visitors are not only able to see the image, but can also get to know exactly where it was found through photos of the site.

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