The dragon is the only mythological monster in the Chinese zodiac. Some people may think that rats are real monsters — but they are not. They just scare a lot of us with all the scampering around building sites and subway tracks.
Dragons are fabulous monsters. They are huge, fierce and powerful. The Chinese actually have nine kinds of dragons — this year is the year of the Water Dragon. It’s supposed to be very lucky. I certainly hope that it’s a lucky year for MONSTERS.
The dragon is the symbol of the emperor or the imperial dynasties of China’s long history. They are a decorative motif in Asian art and architecture. My mom made me a needlepoint wall hanging of a phoenix years ago. It was based on a Chinese rug design. The phoenix is the symbol of the empress. When I moved into a large apartment I asked her to make a dragon to hang with the phoenix. Now that I live in a small place, they are hung facing one another — and look amazing. Mom did a really good job!
In the west, dragons don’t fair so well. They are fearsome creatures, but their power is interpreted as evil. One way a knight, shining armor or not, made his reputation was with tales of dragon slaying. Talk about spinning good publicity out of a faux victory…. The net result is some great art, especially when St. George is the hero in question. Here are three of my favorites in the Metropolitan Museum’s collection. The Lewis Carroll is not often on exhibit, but I’ve seen this image in books. The Dürer and Crivelli are world-class works of art — worthy of places in the Met’s stellar collection.
Lewis Carroll (photograph)
It’s the Year of the Dragon. Let’s celebrate monsters.