Genesis of the iconography of the Chinese dragon

Conference  at 18:00 p.m. Zhonghyao LI, Graduate of the Faculty of Fine Arts of the Higher Institute of Nanjing, holder of a DEA in visual arts from the University of Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne, Doctor in archeology and history from Sorbonne University – Paris IV.

“In the far east of the earth, there exists a dragon, whose name is China”: this song, known to all, clearly states that the dragon, a fabulous animal, is the symbol of China. As it says in the first Chinese etymological dictionary: “The dragon is the leader of scaly animals. It is capable of fading and shining, of diminishing and growing, of shortening and lengthening. At the spring equinox he ascends to heaven; at the autumn equinox it hides at the bottom of the waters. Guarantor of cosmic order, he represented the emperor. Unifier of the elements of nature, it symbolizes the principle of life and growth, yin and yang in the form of two intertwined dragons. This beneficent creature, emblem of the Sons of Heaven, omnipotent sovereign of the waters and the sky, is a representative, so to speak, of the Chinese and their culture.

 Based on archaeological discoveries, we will trace the genesis of the dragon motif in the iconography of ancient China, then we will tell the legends, art and symbols of the Chinese dragon based on the iconographic motifs on the bronzes and Shang jades. We will then compare a piece from the Cernuschi Museum, purchased by Mr. Cernuschi in China, and two other pieces of the same type, one from Kezuo, Liaoning province, and the other from Pengxian, Sichuan province.


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