Chinese Dragon RobeSince it's Chinese New Year's in February, I thought we look at this Chinese Dragon Robe detail that is found in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

In China dragons are often considered good and symbolize the cosmic force of the universe. The Chinese dragon is also a symbol of good luck and power and is thought to bring rain for the crops. It is also a symbol of the emperor, and the imperial dragon has five claws, while other dragons only three or four. 

On this robe, the five claws identifies it as a robe that was worn in the emperor's court in the seventeenth century during the Ching Dynasty. 

The artwork is made of silk gauze embroidered with silk. The couched yarns are wrapped with filaments of peacock or Siamese fighting-cock feathers and couched-wrapped gold.

For hundres of years the Chinese were the only people in the world who knew how to raise silkworms and produce silk, the finest natural fiber we have.


 

This piece is a lively black dragon that curls and twists on the gold background. His mouth is open wide and his prominet black and white eyes are bright and attentive. 

See how the scales are repeated to make a decorative pattern on the dragon's body. Sharp spiky white triangles form the teeth, claws and whiskers. Two large feet seem to spin like wheels. You can notice the red nostrils and veined toungue. The stylized design motifs repeat around him. The circle, a flaming peral, is often seen with the Chinese dragon. Sometimes it is escaping the dragon's pursuit and sometimes it is caught in the dragon's mouth or claws. It is believed that the white circle represents the moon in the dragon's early history. Black, white and red (the symbol of joy for china) are repeated throughout this composition.

 


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