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Saturday, 6 September 2014

the dragon and the phoenix....

Our Happy Family Ball. Jade. 2014. Artist unknown.

This summer in Beijing, we were herded into a small jade factory with an exit through a very large gift shop. We watched a carver sculpt a "Happy Family Ball" -- four hollow, pierced spheres; each contained within the next -- from a single block of jade. Each layer, we were told, represents a generation of a family; grandparents on the outside, then parents, children, and, at the centre, grandchildren.

Swirling around the outer sphere is a carving of a dragon and a phoenix, each grasping the other in its mouth, ouroboros-style. Completing the circle (or in this case the sphere). Completing the family.

The dragon represents the emperor in Chinese lore. It is a symbol of the male principle. The phoenix represents the empress or the female. 

In many ways, the Happy Family Ball is a three-dimensional representation of the yin-yang principle. Of its wholeness, the one figure completing the other. Of its fecundity. Of its passion, and its violence.

Of a tussle and an embrace.

Left: the dragon biting the phoenix. Right: the phoenix biting the dragon.

Detail of scales and feathers, with a view into the inner spheres of the sculpture.

For more posts about Chinese dragons, click here or here.

For more thoughts on the yin-yang, click here, or here or here.

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