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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 gold saddle decoration with dragon patterns from the Tang Dynasty (618-907).[Photo provided by Jiang Dong/China Daily]

Guo says archaeological evidence reveals that before the Xia and Shang dynasties, people from different areas made dragon totems, although those images differed, as features of animals they liked or believed to be mysterious, like the crocodile, the snake, the pig and the bear, were integrated with those of the dragon.

For example, a dragon image from the Taosi Site in Xiangfen county, Shanxi province, which dates from about 4,000 years ago, has a body similar to a snake, while one from Hongshan Culture, a key Neolithic culture that existed between 6,500 to 5,000 years ago in northern China, has fangs and a mane. An image from the Lingjiatan Site in Hanshan county, Anhui province, which dates back to between 5,800 and 5,300 years ago, has horns on its head. All these features can be seen in the exhibits, says Guo.

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