Fairy riding a dragon - Symbol of cultural transformation
A fairy riding a dragon is a unique image, appearing in most traditional religious and belief spaces of Vietnam such as temples, pagodas, temples, cafes, and mausoleums. It is so popular in Vietnamese culture, but when compared in the relationship of cultural exchange and acculturation with the world and neighboring countries, the fairy riding the dragon appears as a unique architectural feature, a phenomenon. rare in cultures influenced by Confucianism.
To fully understand the bold meaning of this image, let's look back at the close relationship between the dragon and the emperor. According to traditional Confucian beliefs, the dragon symbolizes the supreme power of the King, who is known as the Son of Heaven, while women are not respected and are governed by many strict rules. With the image of a fairy riding a dragon, this notion seems to have been shattered.
According to researchers, the image of fairies riding dragons appeared commonly in Dai Viet fine art in the 16th-18th centuries. During this period, the weakening of Confucianism was also an opportunity for rural customs to rise.
The village communal house is where the spirit of "the king's rule is inferior to the village's rules" is most clearly shown. Here, the image of a woman bound by feudal rites is liberated, replaced by the image of a fairy, with echoes of matriarchy and ancient fertility beliefs. A clear testament to the submission of Confucian beliefs to indigenous traditions that have been ingrained in the blood of Vietnamese people for thousands of years.
The motif of fairies riding dragons also shows the differences between Vietnamese and Chinese cultures. To the Northerners, dragons carry terrifying and inviolable authority. On the contrary, in Vietnamese fine arts, especially village fine arts, the dragon of all houses. It is the most powerful and sacred animal, but also very benevolent. The fairy is the mother, the dragon is the father.
It can be seen that the image of a fairy riding a dragon demonstrates the ability to adapt culture in the process of cultural exchange and contact with the outside world, creating unique and humane creations. Those creations contain the soul and aspirations of the Vietnamese people in dialogue with other civilizations. If the dragon symbolizes the male/patriarch, the emperor, Lac Long Quan, then the fairy represents the female/matriarch, the ancient mother, Au Co. A fairy riding a dragon is therefore an interesting and very Vietnamese symbol.
Join us in exploring unique cultural materials in the next articles of the "Creative Inspiration" series!