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Ly Dynasty Dragon and Chinese Dragon

Ly Dynasty Dragon and Chinese Dragon


In Chinese culture, dragons appeared more than 8,000 years ago. Over time, the dragon image constantly changes and shows diversity in different localities. Therefore, it is very difficult to choose a unified model dragon image to talk about Chinese dragons. Within the scope of our research, we only focus on universal comparisons, to explain the differences between Chinese dragons and Ly Dynasty dragons instead of going into detailed analysis of shaping.

  Chinese dragon: symbol of Confucianism and feudal power

  Chinese dynasties from very early times monopolized the image of the dragon, elevating it to a symbol of supreme kingship since the Han Dynasty. The subsequent Tang Dynasty detailed the dress code and established a hierarchy according to which only the emperor could use the dragon pattern. The Song Dynasty continued to maintain this tradition. By the Nguyen Dynasty, dragon worship had become legal. In 1270, Kublai Khan strictly regulated the creation and use of five-clawed dragon designs in the costumes and household items of officials and commoners. Many people were beheaded to death because of this law.

  Following the two Ming Qing dynasties, the dragon continued to push to its peak. It is a fact that it is almost impossible to see images of dragons in folklore, and vice versa, in royal palaces like the Forbidden City, dragons appear everywhere. So much so that it feels like the dragon is the only project specifically designed for the royal space. In general, there are four words that express the ultimate level of the dragon image: Cao - Da - Toan - Le. 'Cao' means the dragon must be a mascot carved and painted at the highest place. 'Da' means many in number, posture, appearance. ‘Toan’ means the body is always drawn as a whole body. 'Le' means magnificence, showing skill and sophistication.

  Ly dynasty dragon: dual symbol of Confucianism & Buddhism

  Under the Ly dynasty, Dai Viet still used Confucianism as an institution to manage society, but its ideological life and spiritual activities took Buddhism as a spiritual pedestal. Therefore, the dragon image of the Ly Dynasty is a mixture of two aesthetic trends of Confucianism and Buddhism. The Grape element makes the dragon authoritative, signifying the king's theocracy. The Buddha element makes the dragon humane, representing the Buddha nature in the mentality of an entire era. However, the Buddha element is somewhat more prominent than the Confucian element in terms of shaping.

Specifically, the Ly dragon, although expressing the royal power of Confucianism, has almost no oppression or ferocity like the Chinese dragon. In particular, the Buddhist element is shown in the motif "dragon holding pearls" (derived from the dictionary "dragon offering pearls" in Buddhist scriptures) in most archaeological artifacts. Dragons are always associated with other Buddhist symbols such as towers, swallows, lions, chrysanthemums, lotus flowers, leaves, Kalavinka... Because the Buddha nature is relatively bold, the dragon image in the Ly Dynasty It also becomes more harmonious, more aesthetic, and more humane, so it partly represents the spirit of tolerance and flexibility of the era.

In the past, there were many misconceptions about Ly dynasty dragons, stemming from subjective research and anti-Sino sentiment, wanting Ly dragons to be different from Chinese dragons. In this article, we do not aim to deny cultural exchanges with China, but hope that everyone will have a more fair and objective view. We can be completely proud because the Ly dragon image is not only excellent in design but also carries within it a profound humanistic spirit of the era.

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