Dragons are a cultural icon in many different societies, and our human fascination with these mythical creatures never seems to end.
BRAINSTORMING! What do we actually know about dragons?
During the Medieval period no one ever doubted the existence of dragons. It was known as a common fact that they have existed since the creation of earth. This changed when science began to challenge faith. During the 17th century scientists began to doubt the real existence of dragons, but conceded that “phantasmic creatures” were at least possible.
As a consequence "faked" dragons were made by unknown artists and they were “discovered” to be placed in the early museums to prove the possibility of unknown and undiscovered creatures. They compiled mummified rays, bats and other winged creatures to create something new and unknown.
Out of all of our different and wonderful cultures, there are two distinct cultural traditions of dragons that have always remained the most prominent in today’s society:
The European dragon, derived from European folk traditions and ultimately related back to Greek and Middle Eastern mythologies, Hercules etc.
The Chinese dragon, spread out through Japan, Korea and other Asian countries.
Dragons in culture
Today, dragon art is very popular in many forms: from tattoos to sculptures. In mythology most dragons are used as symbolism for evil, but in Asian culture the dragon is a symbol of the emperor. European dragons are usually portrayed with bat-like wings, while Chinese dragons have the likeness of huge snakes.
Oriental Dragons It is said that China’s first emperor, Fu Xi had a dragon’s tail and that his successor, ShenNung, had a dragon for a father. The Imperial Dragon has five claws instead of four so that he can move in five directions simultaneously to issue orders for the Emperor. The fifth direction is the centre in which he remains. Fu Xi and NüWa pictured with dragon tails intertwined. Picture by Ma Lin 160 AD
Oriental dragons The Oriental dragon is so praised in eastern culture that temples are built in their honour. People visit these temples daily to pray to the dragon from everything from good health to finding love. The Oriental dragon is also very good luck. The year of the dragon is the year in which the most children are born in the eastern world because if you are born in this year you will have good fortune and wealth.
Harbin Snow Festival2005 China
Even though the Disney movie Mulan is a western depiction of oriental society. It still puts dragons in a lucky, positive context. Which is very different to Western cultures idea of what a dragon was.
In Western Culture: the American dragon was seen as a violent and greedy creature that lives in cave and hordes treasure. It's usually a solitary creature which causes havoc for near by towns and castles. Most American dragons have the ability to spit every thing from fire to ice and like most reptiles its colour is dependent on its environment.
The colour of the dragon was also directly related to their personality. A classic example of an American dragon is smog the dragon told about in the story of the Hobbit.
The ACTIVITY 01! Find and research a dragon artist: Write down / print and glue in your visual diaries the answers to the following questions:
Who is the artist? Where did the artist come from?
What artistic mediums does the artist use?
What do you like about the artist?
Some artiststo choose from: John Howe, Ciruleo, Joe Mueller. John Luck Sites: Google, Deviant art
Jason Barbacovi.(2005). Harbin Snow Festival Photographs. Retrieved Sunday 1st May, 2011 from Jason Barbacovi’s Me and Chair Man Mao the Blog website: http://chairmanmao.jasonbarbacovi.com/2005_01_01_archive.html CMS: Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools. (2010). Monochromatic Dragons: Le Blanc’s Middle School Art Page. Retrieved 1st May, 2011 from website: http://pages.cms.k12.nc.us/emanuelaleblanc/mondrag.html The Power Point Paradise. (2011). Chinese Mythology Clarified by Miao Legend Confirms Noah’s Flood History! Retrieved Sunday 1st May, 2011 from The Paradise Post website: http://powerpointparadise.com/blog/2011/02/chinese-mythology-clarified-by-miao-legend-genesis-hebrew-history/ Monstrous.com., (2011). Origins of Dragons. Retrieved on Sunday 1st May, 2011 from website: http://dragons.monstrous.com/oriental_dragons.htm