Nine Dragons (painting)

Discussion in 'Dragon Poetry, Dreams, Music and Creativity' started by Allisiam, Oct 7, 2015.

  1. Allisiam

    Allisiam Well-Known Member


    Nine Dragons
    ArtistChen Rong
    TypeInk and color on Xuan paper
    Dimensions46.3 cm × 1096.4 cm (18.2 in × 431.7 in)
    LocationMuseum of Fine Arts, Boston, Boston
    Nine Dragons is a handscroll painting by Chinese artist Chen Rong from 1244. Depicting the apparitions of dragons soaring amidst clouds, mists, whirlpools, rocky mountains and fire, the painting refers to the dynamic forces of nature in Daoism. The depicted dragons are associated with nine sons of the Dragon King, while the number nine itself is considered auspicious in Chinese astrology and folk beliefs.

    The painting, containing multiple inscriptions and stamps, begins on the right side and ends on the left. The left side features various colophons, including those by Zhang Sicheng and Dong Sixue, a Song dynasty official. Two inscriptions on the painting were made by the artist's own hand. The dating is based on one of them. According to the inscription placed at the end of the painting, the work was inspired by two other paintings, Cao Ba's Nine Horses and Nine Deers, attributed to Huichong. A later inscription by the Qianlong Emperor says that besides praising Chen Rong’s painting, Qianlong ordered a court painter to make a copy of it. Qianlong also impressed several seals on the original painting, whose text appreciate the work.

    Last edited: Oct 7, 2015
  2. Allisiam

    Allisiam Well-Known Member

    Nine Sons of The Dragon King

    March 6, 2012 By Ponte Ryūrui


    Figure 1 Fragment of the Nine Dragon Scroll, original currently in the collection of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.
    In the year 1244 C.E., 35 years before the Chinese Southern Song dynasty (Chinese: 南宋, 1127–1279) was conquered by the Mongol army led by Kublai Khan, Chinese ink painter Chen Rong (陳容; pinyin: Chén Róng, ca. 1200–1266 C.E.) unleashed his frustrations with a political career onto a paper, and created possibly the most renowned Asian dragon ink painting – The Nine Dragons Scroll (九龍圖卷, pinyin: Jiǔ long tú juǎn). Chen Rong was a scholar and also a low level official official, though not a very successful one, from Fujian Province (福建省pinyin: Fújiàn shěng) in south-eastern coastal China. During his time, he was already recognised for his skill of painting dragons and bamboo. The inspiration to paint The Nine Dragons Scroll was spawned by the bitterness of his involvement in the political life. The medium were ink, paper, and … considerably large dose of wine, as he was completely intoxicated when painting it.

    Figure 2. Fragment of the Nine Dragon Scroll, original currently in the collection of t
    he Boston Museum of Fine Arts.
    Digressing here, I must say that the analysis of the most outstanding calligraphy masterpieces leads me to a conclusion that one should consume wine along with using the ink. Whether it is Wang Xizhi (王羲之, pinyin: Wáng Xīzhī, 303 – 361) and his famous Preface to the Poems Composed at The Orchid Pavilion (蘭亭集序, pinyin: Lántíngjí Xù), Huai Su (懷素; pinyin: Huái Sù, 737–799 C.E.) and his Autobiography (自敘帖, pinyin: Jì xù tiē) or insane cursive script, known as kuang cao (狂草, Chinese: kuáng cǎo), of Zhang Xu (張旭, pinyin: Zhāng Xù, fl. 8th century C.E.), it is always a combination of their uncanny personalities, outstanding skill, strong emotions and even stronger wine.


    Figure 3. Fragment of the Nine Dragon Scroll, original currently in the collection of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.
    The quantity of dragons in the scroll is not a coincidence. “Nine” is a very auspicious number in Chinese astrology and ancient beliefs. It is somewhat a magical number. If you multiply 9 by any of the numbers from 1-9, and then add the numbers of the result to one another, you will always end up with 9. For instance: 5 x 9 = 45, and then 4 + 5 = 9, etc. I wrote quite extensively about this number in the article on the etymology of the character 九 (きゅう, kyū, i.e. “nine”).


    Figure 4. Fragment of the Nine Dragon Scroll, original currently in the collection of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.
    The Nine Dragons Scroll is absolutely massive. It is nearly half a meter wide and over ten metres long (46.3 x 1096.4 cm)! It depicts the nine sons of the Dragon King and their various natures. Chen Rong blended images of the mythical beasts with clouds, mists, whirlpools, rocky mountains and fire. All of those are manifestations of the Way of Nature found in the Dao De Jing (道德經, pinyin: Dào Té Jīng) by Laozi (老子, pinyin: Lǎozǐ, 6th century B.C.). According to the ancient Chinese legend, the nine dragons represent nine sons (and therefore nine natures) of the Dragon King. Although, the nine sons may appear under different names in various stories, their abilities usually match with those described below:


    Figure 5. Fragment of the Nine Dragon Scroll, original currently in the collection of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.​
      1. Bixi (贔屓, pinyin: Bìxì), the eldest son, who is often depicted as a dragon tortoise. The hard shell of the turtle represent resilience, toughness, also longevity and good fortune. Bi Xi can be often seen at the bottom of pillars and building foundations.
      2. Chiwen (螭吻, pinyin: Chīwěn), the second son, who is in control of the water element. He is often embedded in the rooftops designs, depicted with a mouth wide open, that seems to be devouring the edges of the roof. It is said that Chiwen protects households from fire.
      3. Pulao (蒲牢, pinyin: Púláo), the third son, a master of the mighty roar that warns people of nearing disturbances or disasters of various kind. It is not surprising that Pulao is often seen carved on temple bells, drums or other instruments that produce a loud sound.
      4. Bi’an (狴犴, pinyin: Bì Àn), the fourth son of the Dragon King, the guardian of justice and righteousness. He can be sometimes mistaken for a tiger, as his mouth seems to combine features of both, the dragon and the tiger. Courts and various justice related institutions often have his image carved over the entrances to remind all who enter of his watchful presence.

    Figure 6. Fragment of the Nine Dragon Scroll, original currently in the collection of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.​
      1. Taotie (饕餮, pinyin: Tāotiè), the fifth son, who, just like me, enjoys food. During Shang (商朝, pinyin: Shāng cháo, 1600 – 1046 B.C.) and Zhou Zhou dynasty (周朝, pinyin: Zhōu cháo, 1046 – 256 B.C.) dynasties he was often cast on ritual bronze vessels and tableware. Taotie is a guardian of wealth, wellbeing and all what is delicious.
      2. Gongfu (蚣蝮, pinyin: Gōngfù), the sixth son, a fantastic swimmer whose world is water. You will find his image on roof drains, bridges, ships. He is also in control of the floods, and his presence protects against them.
      3. Yazi (睚眦, pinyin: Yázì), the 7th son, the dragon god of battles and victory. You will find his powerful gaze staring at you from various blades or spear carvings, possibly even war banners. Presence of Yazi brings fear to the enemy forces and ensures the triumph in military conflicts.

    Figure 7. Fragment of the Nine Dragon Scroll, original currently in the collection of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.​
    1. Suan’ni (狻猊, pinyin: Suānní), the 8th son, who is often found near incense burners. Possibly every one of you has seen his image. He is depicted as a lion-shaped mouth dragon, sitting calmly and observing the surroundings. His body is covered with flames and usually painted gold. Suan’ni is believed to be the guardian of knowledge and dragon god of wisdom. According to the legend villagers sent a message to the Dragon King complaining about his son, who, according to them, was doing nothing all day long, except sitting and playing with fire. When the Dragon King arrived to see for himself what is going on, he noticed that his son was explaining to the children importance of the fire, and its eternal spirit. He then realised that his son is knowledgeable and responsible.
    2. Jiaotu (椒図, pinyin: Jiāotú), the ninth son, the guardian of the household. In another ancient legend the Dragon King tried to enter the house of his son Jiaotu, which task was extremely difficult. After a long time and many trials, he finally succeeded. Jiaotu is often seen on front doors protecting the house from burglars, etc.

    Figure 8. Fragment of the Nine Dragon Scroll, original currently in the collection of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.​

    The Nine Dragon Scroll by Chen Rong is haunting me from the first day I laid my eyes on it. It is absolutely mesmerising. It is a brilliant combination of various panting techniques, such as random splashes of ink, so characteristic for this particular artist, seamlessly combined with refined and surgically executed brush strokes (especially around the areas which depict rocks and cliffs). This masterpiece leaves me staring transfixed, drivelling like a child under a spell of Donald Duck’s wild adventures. Chen Rong’s frustration with his life is so clearly seen in the ferocious images of the dragons. They appear and disappear into the fog of human illusion, just like it happens in real life. This painting is an astounding manifestation of ever-lasting movement of the world, and consequences of emotional chaos. It is a combination of utter brilliance, strong feelings, outstanding calligraphy and ink painting skill, and a completely sloshed mind.
    Last edited: Oct 7, 2015
  3. Allisiam

    Allisiam Well-Known Member

    Nüwa and Shoushan Stones 女娲补天遗石寿山
    Nüwa (or Nügua), who has the lower parts of a snake, is the most famous goddess in ancient Chinese mythology known for creating mankind and repairing the sky. And there is a story between her and Shoushan Stones.

    The story began thousands of years ago with the battle between two deities, Gong


    Gong and Zhu Rong. Gong Gong was finally defeated and flew into rage with shame. He knocked down the pillar of the heaven, leaving a big black hole in the sky. From then on, the earth cracked open, fires blazed out of control, water flooded everywhere and fierce animals ate the innocent. Many people were killed in this unprecedented disaster.

    Nüwa was so sad to see mankind who she had created were suffering that she decided to fix the sky and end this catastrophe. By using the five-colored stones melted together, she succeeded to patch up the hole. Due to her endless efforts, people on earth could enjoy their lives again.

    Nüwa was happy to see that but had no idea about how to deal with the colored stones left. An old deity gave her a suggestion that she could build a stone mountain on the earth for mankind as a refuge to protect them from the future floods. Nüwa accepted it and there came the Shoushan Mountain with the brightly colored Shoushan Stones inside.

    Shoushan Stone I found today depicting a Dragon 10/6/2015


    Shoushan stone is a kind of alabaster quarried from a mountain called Shoushan in the northern suburbs of Fuzhou. This craft is prevalent in the Jin'an area of Fuzhou, capital city of Fujian Province on China's east coast.

    With a soft, smooth surface and various colors, Shoushan stone is an ideal material for carving and is known as "the top grade-colored stone for carving." It is characterized by exquisiteness, smoothness, softness, and cohesion.

    Shoushan stone is made up of lava and the minerals around it, which are gradually re-congealed into a colored crystalline ore. Comparing favorably with jade, it far exceeds jade in color. Shoushan stone is the best of all various colored stones in China.

    There are around one hundred kinds of Shoushan stone. The most precious kind - Tianhuang stone - is more valuable than gold and enjoys a reputation as "the king of stones." It is said that one liang (50 grams) of Tianhuang stone is equal to three liang of gold.

    It has been more than 1,500 years since Shoushan stone was first exploited as a precious stone for its gorgeous colors, smooth and moist character and its various and changeable veins. During the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279), the stones in Mt. Shoushan had already been largely exploited. The Shoushan carving industry was finally formed after continuous development in the Yuan (1271-1368), Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties. Even the royal seals of the Qing emperors were made of Shoushan stones.

    The unique style of Shoushan stone-carving had split into two genres by the Qing Dynasty. One genre specializes in the circular carving of figures, landscapes and animals, and the other focuses on Boyi carving that emphasizes poetic artistic conception.

    The various types of Shoushan stone-carving now include circular carving, relief carving, openwork carving, hollowed-out carving, Boyi (shallow relief) carving and marquetry carving. The contents range from human figures, animals and landscapes, to flowers and birds. Top craftsmen are able to create wonderful images by utilizing the natural contours and fine streaks of colors in the stone.

    The long history of stone carving has seen many famous carvers and fine carvings. Most of these masterpieces were either collected at the palace as imperial treasures or selected by local officials as tribute to pay to the court. First-class carvers were often called into the court to carve Shoushan stone artworks. Some of these stone carvings are still kept in the Imperial Palace in Beijing.


    Copyright©2015 Xiangshizhai Artworks. All rights reserved.


    Last edited: Oct 7, 2015
  4. Allisiam

    Allisiam Well-Known Member


    By N.S. Gill

    Ancient/Classical History Expert

    Nügua and Fuxi on a mural on a wall in Peterborough, East Anglia. CC Flickr User gwydionwilliams
    Nügua is a Chinese creator goddess who made man (as opposed to creator gods who make the universe or do both):
    1. by mixing yellow earth and water to form a doll and
    2. from a cord dragged through the mud.
    The men shaped by hand from the earth became the rich and noble. Nügua grew tired of making enough of the doll-men to populate the entire earth. When she created the others using the shortcut, string method, she had created the poor and humble.

    Nügua taught the people how to marry and reproduce themselves, for which reason, she is a goddess of match-making. She is also the repairer of the universe, Transformer of the Myriad Creatures, a wind goddess, a female shaman and a rain-dancer.
    Nügua is shown as half human, with a serpent or dragon's tail, and is associated with earth, water, and caves. Sometimes she holds a compass. One of the "Three August Ones," Nügua is a bringer of civilization.
    Nügua is a sister-wife of Fu-Hsi, the first of the three sovereigns (2852-2697 B.C.). The pair is shown with intertwining snake-bottoms. The pair were treated as guardian spirits of the dead.
    • "Divinity and Salvation: The Great Goddesses of China," by Lee Irwin; Asian Folklore Studies (1990)
    • "The Snake in Chinese Belief," by Denise Chao; Folklore (1979)
    Alternate Spellings: Nu Wa


    An ancient painting of Nüwa and Fuxi unearthed in Xinjiang, holding the tools of creation - compass and square.

    Nüwa and Fuxi in Chinese Mythology: Compass & Square

    Posted by Bryce Haymond on September 17, 2008 36 Comments

    An ancient painting of Nüwa and Fuxi unearthed in Xinjiang, holding the tools of creation - compass and square.

    Hugh Nibley gave a lecture in 1975 on “Sacred Vestments” which was later transcribed and included in the collected works volume Temple and Cosmos (pgs. 91-132). The entire paper is fascinating, and highly recommended reading. One of the things he wrote about were certain Chinese artifacts which had been found depicting two mythological gods, Nüwa and Fuxi, and the tools they hold:
    Most challenging are the veils from Taoist-Buddhist tombs at Astana, in Central Asia, originally Nestorian (Christian) country, discovered by Sir Aurel Stein in 1925… We see the king and queen embracing at their wedding, the king holding the square on high, the queen a compass. As it is explained, the instruments are taking the measurements of the universe, at the founding of a new world and a new age. Above the couple’s head is the sun surrounded by twelve disks, meaning the circle of the year or the navel of the universe. Among the stars depicted, Stein and his assistant identified the Big Dipper alone as clearly discernable. As noted above, the garment draped over the coffin and the veil hung on the wall had the same marks; they were placed on the garment as reminders of personal commitment, while on the veil they represent man’s place in the cosmos. (pg. 111-12)
    Nibley included drawings of this depiction found on veils in the Astana Tombs in Xinjiang, China, with a caption that reads:
    In the underground tomb of Fan Yen-Shih, d. A.D. 689, two painted silk veils show the First Ancestors of the Chinese, their entwined serpect bodies rotating around the invisible vertical axis mundi. Fu Hsi holds the set-square and plumb bob … as he rules the four-cornered earth, while his sister-wife Nü-wa holds the compass pointing up, as she rules the circling heavens. The phrase kuci chü is used by modern Chinese to signify “the way things should be, the moral standard”; it literally means the compass and the square. (pg. 115)
    See the photos at the end of the post for more examples of this icon. The veil redrawn in Temple and Cosmos is shown photographed in the second row, fourth from the left.
    Wikipedia notes, “Nüwa and Fuxi were pictured as having snake like tails interlocked in an Eastern Han dynasty (206 – 220 A.D.) mural in the Wuliang Temple in Jiaxiang county, Shandong province.” It also notes the various roles of Nüwa (and sometimes with Fuxi) in Chinese mythology:
    • Creator
    • Woman/Man
    • Mother
    • Goddess
    • Wife
    • Sister
    • Tribal leader (emperor)
    • Maintainer
    • Repairer
    • Sun god/moon god
    • Adam and Eve
    Some have even suggested that “Nüwa” might be related to “Noah” from the Genesis account, with some parallels between the accounts, such as Nüwa’s sealing of the sky with five colored stones connected with Noah’s rainbow.
    Another description of Nüwa and Fuxi and their tools is found in a book entitled The Magic Square: Cities in Ancient China by Alfred Schinz:
    It appears from these legends that civilization, i.e. ordered human life, begins with two personages, both portrayed as being semi-human and with mermaid tails. Nüwa and Fuxi, originally sister and brother, later became wife and husband after they had invented proper marriage procedures and family names to prevent marriages between people from the same family. Nüwa, in her own legend, had restored order between heaven and earth after a horrible catastrophe had caused heaven to tilt to the north so that it no longer covered all of the earth. This may refer to the first observation of the oblique elliptic and the angle of the pole star. Nüwa found it necessary to reestablish the four cardinal points, which she did, thereby creating the prerequisites for further observations.

    In the oldest pictures of her she carries a compass, the instrument related to heavenly observations. Her brother Fuxi became the first legendary emperor, which also implies the establishment of government, of law and order… On another, more practical level he is said to have invented axes for splitting wood, the carpenter’s square, ropes for hunting and fishing nets. It is worthy of special attention that the two words for compass and square, gui ju, used together denote -the rule, custom, usage- and -good behavior-, i.e., keeping order. Furthermore, it should be observed that the male-female system, the yang-yin philosophy, is expressed here in a complex manner, first as Fuxi and Nüwa, second as compass (male) and square (female), and third as Nüwa (female) with compass (male) and Fuxi (male) with square (female). The compass-square dichotomy is similar to the heaven-earth, yang-yin, relationship, which in this case means that man (Fuxi) establishes harmonious order between heaven and earth. This is also expressed in the Chinese character for king, wang, the upper and lower line indicating heaven and earth and the middle line man, all three connected by the vertical line. This represents the position and function of the ruler; it is he who establishes and keeps order by placing himself in a balanced and harmonious position between heaven and earth, so that yang and yin cooperate in a beneficial way.

    [Caption] Fuxi and his sister Nüwa, he with the carpenter’s square and she with the pair of compasses. From the decoration incised in the wall of the Wu Lang tombs in Jiaxiang, Shandong, second century AD. The Chinese words for carpenter’s square, ju, and a pair of compasses, gui, together form the expression to establish order. This is what, according to their legends, Fuxi and Nüwa did. The carpenter’s square also stands for the square that is the symbol of the earth, while the pair of compasses represent the circle, the symbol of heaven. Fuxi, the male (yang), gives order to the earth (yin), and Nüwa, the female (yin), gives order to the heaven (yang).1
    A book entitled The Mathematics of Egypt, Mesopotamia, China, India, and Islam by Victor J. Katz and Annette Imhausen relates a practical tradition about the use of these tools in Chinese history:

    Here Fu Xi – the first of the “Three Sovereigns” – is shown on the right holding a ju or carpenter’s square. In some versions of this legend Fu Xi is said to have invented both the carpenter’s square and the compass, or gui – which is held in the above depiction by his consort Nü Wa (on the left). According to the Chronicles of the famous Chinese historian Sima Qian, the Emperor Yu of Xia (who reigned in the twenty-first century BCE), when attending to floods, carried with him “a plumbline in his left hand and a gnomon and compass in his right” in order to do the surveying required to bring the floods under control [Li and Du 1987, 3].2
    The Silk Road
    by Susan Whitfield and Ursula Sims-williams connects the concepts of the compass and the square with the circle and the square:
    In traditional Chinese cosmology the earth was square and the heavens round and thus Fuxi holds a set square to draw the former, and Nüwa a pair of compasses to draw the circle of the earth.3
    Noted by Mark Edward Lewis in Writing and Authority in Early China, these symbols were used to represent cosmic order, a link between heaven and earth, and a favorable environment for the deceased:
    This role of linking Heaven to Earth also figures in the depictions of Fu Xi and Nü Wa. First, in Han tombs their elongated, serpent bodies stretch from the bottom of the register to the top, and in later depictions this vertical ascent becomes even clearer. In Sichuan sarcophagi they play the iconographic role of the dragons on the Mawangdui banners who physically link the earthly realm to that of Heaven. This idea is reinforced through the regular inclusion of two other iconogrpahic traits. Fu Xi and Nü Wa are often depicted with the sun and moon, and they are shown holding a carpenters square (Fu Xi) and a drawing compass (Nü Wa). The former are metonyms for Heaven and the celestial equivalents of yin and yang. The latter suggests the linking of square Earth to the round Heaven. Most scholars agree that the role of the intertwined Fu Xi and Nü Wa was to depict the interaction of yin and yang that underlies cosmic order and thereby secure an auspicious environment for the denizen of the tomb.4
    Santillana and Dechend offer more explanation for the figures of Nüwa and Fuxi:
    The Chinese picture illustrates in true archaic spirit (which means that only hints are given, and the spectator has to work out for himself the significance of the details) the surveying of the universe. The two characters surrounded by constellations are Fu Hsi and Nu Kua, i.e., the craftsman god and his paredra, who measure the “squareness of the earth” and the “roundness of heaven” with their implements, the square with the plumb bob hanging from it, and the compass. The intertwined serpent-like bodies of the deities indicate clearly enough, although in a peculiar “projection,” circular orbits intersecting each other at regular intervals. 5
    In another place some Chinese commentators have noted the uses of these tools in construction or building:
    All “great instruments” were invented by the ancients to help lesser men “first rule the self and then rule others.” Although all are needed in construction, by no means do all these tools work in the same way. Level and line determine straight horizontal and vertical lines, while compass and square are needed to form perfect circles and corners. By analogy, each of the social institutions, including ritual, has its own function in building civilization, with each addressing a separate human need. It is characteristic of the sage-ruler that he always knows which tool to apply to the specific problem at hand.6
    There are probably hundreds of other sources which describe these symbols in Chinese tradition and mythology. You can find more by doing a Google Books search for “nuwa square compass.”
    I’ve done some image searching and these two figures are almost always depicted holding the same symbols in their hands, and which have been described by many different scholars as the tools of creation and divine order. See the images below.

    1. Schinz, The Magic Square: Cities in Ancient China, 25-26, link. [ 21a9. ]
    2. Katz and Imhausen, The Mathematics of Egypt, Mesopotamia, China, India, and Islam, 191, link. [ 21a9. ]
    3. Whitfield and Sims-williams, The Silk Road, 329, link. [ 21a9. ]
    4. Lewis, Writing and Authority in Early China, 204, link. [ 21a9. ]
    5. Giorgio De Santillana, Hertha Von Dechend, Hamlet’s Mill, 272, link. [ 21a9. ]
    6. Yan Hsiuing, Xiong Yang, Michael Nylan, The Elemental Changes: The Ancient Chinese Companion, 54, link. [ 21a9. ]

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