These beautiful lacquer racks belonging to Katherine Hartman showcase some of the wonderful painting you can see on Mahjong accessories. Very talented artists designed and painted racks. The type seen here has a top shelf that slides back to reveal betting counters stored within. On the above racks, your eye would have been quickly drawn, by the brightness of the color and the wonderful design, to the dragons and pearl rack, second from the top. We already touched upon this topic, and here we will explore it a bit more in depth in connection with the dragon series, having to do with Mahjong accessories and the dragon and "pearl" pairing.
According to Patricia Bjaaland Welch in Chinese Art A guide to Visual Motifs and Visual Imagery, the pairing of dragons and pearls (or round disk or jewel) started in the Tang Dynasty (which ran from 618 until 906). She feels Robert D. Mowry offers the right explanation, that the dragon and disk represent elements from two traditions, the dragon from Chinese mythology and the jewel from Buddhism. The "pearl" may not actually be a pearl but a talismanic jewel that symbolizes wisdom. Welch adds the jewel often is seen surrounded by flames, adding to the belief that it represents the sun, but flames are often seen in Buddhist art, symbolizing magical powers.
We saw this dragon robe (Qing Dynasty) from the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art on an earlier post. You'll note here the dragon is surrounding a flaming object. Here it certainly does not resemble a pearl, but more like a disk, adding credence to the disk or jewel interpretation.
Above is a porcelain bowl from the Lucas Collection. You'll see a round disk, somewhat resembling a sand dollar, right in front of the dragon.
Above is another lacquer rack, quite different in appearance than the first dragon rack we saw. The dragons are hidden in the clouds, represented by the circular swirls. Two dragons surround the flaming disk; this type of two dragon rack is used by three out of the four players at a table.
The original East player has one with just one dragon.
And another wonderful dragon and "pearl" screen shot. Come visit the site tomorrow for another "photograph screen shot" and the information behind it.