|Corner detail of my Kashmiri coffee table.|
Five and a half decades ago, my mother- and father-in-law lived for a time in Pakistan. They were working there as doctor and nurse for the British Civil Service Overseas. At some point, they purchased a coffee table and a tall floor lamp made in Kashmir. Both were made out of black walnut, and both were carved with dragons. About a decade ago, we inherited them.
Having recently come back from a trip to China, I can see that the dragons on my furniture are descended from the ones I saw there -- they have the rope-like tentacles that emerge from their faces near their mouths, like whiskers. Like moustaches. The long serpentine bodies, the bird-like claws, the horns of goats and the manes of lions.
I come from a dragon-plagued people too -- the Scandinavians -- though our dragons are different. They have wings. They have fuller bodies and sturdier legs.
I wonder if dragons all began in the Far East, slowly following the sun along the Silk Road; from China, through Tibet and then through Kashmir, through Persia and finally to the barbarian West where we claimed them as our own? (As we so often have....)
Or did they emerge from the two ends of the ancient world at the same time (the human mind being hard-wired to imagine gods and monsters)? I wonder if they met up in Istanbul, or Constantinople as it was then known. I wonder if they clashed, all fire in the darkened skies; or if they found themselves a little less lonely in the world, knowing that others of their kind existed?
|Dragons writhe around the margins of my Kashmiri coffee table.|
|Corner detail of my table.|
|A dragon detail on the leg of my table.|
|Dragon at the base of my Kashmiri floor lamp.|
For more posts about Chinese dragons, click here or here.