Dragons in Chinese Art and Mahjong Part 5

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Dragons also appear on painted and lacquered boxes. You  may remember seeing this dragon Mahjong box before, but it is hard to  get tired of dragons! Here you can clearly see the dragon, frolicking in the clouds and partly obscured by them. His body is covered in scales, whiskers and horns are seen on his head, his five toes are splayed, and the flaming symbol of wisdom is within his sights. ( On this box, as in other Chinese art, fire is shown by squiggly lines like those just in front of the dragon and surrounding the "pearl", and clouds are those large round shapes, although they can often be much smaller.) If the dragon represents the ruler of China, as was believed, it certainly would be good if he were able to get  a hold of that wisdom right within his grasp!

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On another post we had a different interpretation of the dragon and pearl, but in Chinese art several different interpretations often are correct.



This dragon and disk is from another Mahjong box. The dragon is leonine, down to the mane surrounding his head. You'll notice the scales of the dragon are different than the ones on the other box, much bigger and less reptilian. The silver inlay is not actually silver, nor is it paint. Rather it is paktong, a substance also known as cupronickel. Paktong is an anglicization of the Chinese word. It can be found on box handles and other box trim, so if you have silver looking handles or trim on your box, it may well be paktong. The above box is in the process of being restored, having lost some lacquer, etc. A photo will be taken when it comes back.

From wikipedia:

"Cupronickel or copper-nickel is an alloy of copper that contains nickel and strengthening elements, such as iron and manganese." 


"A more familiar common use is in silver-coloured modern circulation coins. A typical mix is 75% copper, 25% nickel, and a trace amount of manganese. In the past, true silver coins were debased with cupronickel. Despite high copper content, cupronickel is silver in color."


And now for our dragon photo of the day:

Liu Bolin Eli Klein


Here you see the dragon and "pearl." He is in the water's waves, his body with large scales has flames surrounding his  limbs, and his claws certainly resemble those of a hawk!

Information about this and the other dragon images seen the last few days will appear on April 3rd.

One thought on “Dragons in Chinese Art and Mahjong Part 5

  1. Tony

    Here are a couple of dragon figurines... cast resin, not carved, but good detail nevertheless - not exactly fine art, but they do illustrate the differences between Chinese dragons and the image that we in the West have.
    Note the lack of wings, scaly body, feathery? tail, the 5 toes (4 in front, 1 rear), large camel-shaped head with whiskers, sharp teeth and horns. Also see the flames along the flanks, the clouds that one stands on and the flaming pearl.

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