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Monday, January 23, 2012

Gong Xi Nimen Fa Cai!

Or as we more commonly say in Honolulu, kung hee fat choy (Cantonese).  The year of the water dragon --shui long-- is upon us.  So I put some hot water in my longjin (dragon well) tea this morning and started the year off right.
Breakfast with the dragons.
This is what fresh dragon well tea looks like, in a glass with a bit of dried orange peel.
Dragon well (longjin) tea in Hangzhou.
Alas, my Chinese painting class has been cancelled due to low enrollment. And my teacher is apparently not well. I am at a loss. Still, tonight I will attempt to paint a dragon.

The Chinese dragon is not like the dragons of Western mythology.  They are auspicious, strong, and generally don't have wings.  They are composites of nine animals, in variations with the head of an ox, horse or camel (works for me); the body of a snake with fish scales, tiger feet and eagle claws, horns of a deer, eyes of a rabbit, belly of a frog, mouse whiskers. If there are wings, they are the wings of a bat, and just a pair near the front legs.  The status of the dragon--whether he is for commoners or the emperor-- is indicated by how many claws he has. He often is depicted with a pearl in his mouth or just within reach.  The pearl is a symbol of good luck and prosperity.  It is especially good to have nine dragons flying around.  Speaking of the fish scales, he is supposed to have 117: 81 yang and 36 yin. Even though this is the year of the water dragon, they are generally associated with water anyway and will fly from the sea to the clouds and back.  On a feng shui tour in Hong Kong once, I was shown how the surrounding hills are OBVIOUSLY nine dragons.  And more than a few buildings there feature gaps so the dragon can fly through without obstruction. So they say.
Dragon Gate Apartments.
And one of my favorite little temples in Wudangshan features a nice spirit screen with a fresco of nine dragons.  It's very old and "in need" of restoration, but I hope they don't overdo it.

Nine dragon spirit screen at Tai Chang Temple, Wudangshan
Here's a closeup of one of the faded nine.  I think I can do this well with my brush.
Going for the pearl!
Here's a sturdier dragon--there were nine on this wall-- from Po Lin Buddhist Monastery in Hong Kong.
Dragon at Po Lin in Hong Kong.
So 2012 is here in earnest.  No dragon your feet!  Get on with it!

7 comments:

YTSL said...

Very nice post to ring in the new year of the dragon. :)

Sorry to hear about the cancellation of your Chinese painting class -- but hopefully this will lead to your finding a teacher you will be able to work better with.

baroness radon said...

Thank you!
I think maybe I'm going to be self-taught (practice alone) for a while. When the time is right, the teacher will arrive. Possibly in China.

Brandon said...

So you put hot water in your tea... um, what else would you put in it? Anyways, cool post.

baroness radon said...

@Brandon -- Well,yeah, I guess "hot" is pointless, but that is to distinguish from "boiling" (a no-no) or "cold" like people do with sun tea. But thanks. Dragons are cool (not cold).

sybil law said...

I can't wait to see your dragon! (Uh, I hope you post it!)

baroness radon said...

I am told the dragon doesn't actually EMERGE until Feb. 3, so he's still incubating.

Tao1776 said...

Big Sis - as always, you amaze me! Dragon my feet, I'm not. As you know, what a year last year was! I still want a chicken painting. Waiting.....waiting.....