Chen Rong's The Nine Dragons
Mysteries within mysteries, this is the gateway to understanding.
Reading the Dao de Jing can be a daunting task for one who is unaccustomed to such simple riddles, as the Chinese language is so well designed to supply. The Dao de Jing itself is a collection of sayings, pearls of wisdom, which are intended to promote contemplation, an expanding of ones observational prowess, and eventually a total realization of the Dao. The Dao is the energy or being of the universe.
To fully realize the Dao, is to become one with the universe, gaining immortality and absolute wisdom. Because the Dao cannot be described as it truly is, many artists have sought to allude to the Dao's true existence in painting and sculpture. One of the artists who has most successfully created a visual representation of the Dao is Chen Rong, the twelfth century literati artist. He is best known for his masterwork, The Nine ...view middle of the document...
Chen Rong was true to this practice, creating The Nine Dragons while drunk. This could very well account for the spontaneity of the work, which was first roughly outlined by Chen Rong painting with his hat; having dipped it in ink, with the fine detail
work was then applied with a traditional calligraphy brush. (MFA)
While these things alone may not set the Nine Dragons apart for any other Chinese literati painting, the work is truly unique and innovative. Most amazing in the work, is the illusion of motion. The waves swirl and crash, while the clouds softly shift through the sky, and the dragons fly playfully and spiritedly. No previous literati work has been able to match this fluid depiction of active movement of the dragons.
Moreover, it is these dragons that hold the most significance in terms of the Daoist principles within the work. The dragon is a personification of the Dao, the realization of which is the goal of the Daoist practitioner. The dragons are elusive and surprising as they leap out in one section only to disappear there after and then again appear at an unexpected time. This visual represents the meditation experience, in which one attempts to clear the mind of all thought in order to experience the essence of the universe unhindered by preconceptions, and sensory interference; however, the very realization that one has attained this state is a signal that one has lost it. Thus realization of the Dao is like seeing a dragon, as soon as the slightest glimpse is caught, the dragon disappears, perhaps never to reappear, or perhaps to appear again at an unexpected time.
As a result of such astounding features, Chen Rong's The Nine Dragons, is a Classic of Daoist art. It currently resides in the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.
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Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Tales from the Land of Dragons: The Nine Dragons Accessed December 10, 2004.<http://www.mfa.org/exhibitions/dragons/dragons.htm>
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