Dec 29, 2010

ah long, ni hao

I'd wanted for some time to attempt drawing a Chinese dragon, or long, by referring to the 'nine likenesses', and so I figured this was my chance. :D this picture got waaaay out of hand pretty early on, but I'm glad it did. I haven't finished a big illustration like this in a long time, much less one done for myself, and I couldn't be prouder.

the nine likenesses are: "horns of a stag, head of a camel, eyes of a demon, neck of a snake, belly of a clam, scales of a fish, talons of an eagle, paws of a tiger, and ears of an ox."
-click for source.

some long fun facts I picked up - some I knew already, and others I found while I was bouncing around the net looking at stuff:

- long are carp that have managed to leap the Dragon's Gate, a waterfall along the Yellow River in China. the fish that make the jump are rewarded by being transformed into dragons (someday I want to make a proper picture of this). "the carp leaping over the dragon's gate" is a Chinese metaphor for someone that has worked hard and succeeded at his endeavors -- specifically in ancient times for someone who has passed the imperial examinations. this is also why we have magikarp and gyarados, hahah.

- long are water creatures and were believed by farmers to bring the rains, so sacrifices were made to the Dragon Kings to ward off drought.

for the record, I loved Mulan and still do.

- generally speaking, Chinese dragons have five toes on each foot, Korean dragons have four toes and Japanese dragons have three toes.

supposedly, according to the Chinese, dragons originated in China and as they moved further away from home they lost toes until they had not enough toes to walk properly; according to the Japanese, dragons originated in Japan, and as they moved further away from home they gained toes until they had too many to walk properly. I'm not sure how true this is, but it amuses me. some sources claim that in China only the Imperial dragons had five toes while all lesser kinds had four.

- linking to this story/idiom because the site tells it better than me:
"In the Southern and Northern Dynasties Period (420-589), there was a painter called Zhang Zengyou. Once he visited a temple and painted on the wall four dragons, but gave none of them eyes. The onlookers felt that this was odd, and asked why he hadn't painted the eyes. He answered, "Eyes are crucial for dragons. With the eyes painted on, the dragons would fly away." Nobody believed this, so Zhang Zengyou took up his brush and added eyes to two of the dragons. No sooner had he finished than the two dragons flew into the sky amid a thunderstorm. The two without eyes stayed painted on the wall.
This idiom is used to describe how, when writing or speaking, one or two sentences will enhance the contents."
-画 龙 点 睛
(I'd like to make a proper picture of this someday too.)

- by the Chinese zodiac, the fire dragon is my hour-of-birth sign. :)

..and that's not even a fraction of what I'd love to do for this topic *_* soooo many beasties, so little time.
being home is really making me realize how much Asia inspires me. ♥


Brian "Beard" said...

Wow Shelley, you really went all out. This is absolutely incredible. I love every inch of this illustration! You captured the creature, the location, the feel, and managed to combine your own style with everything else.

Major props to you

And you and Ivey are throwing so much knowledge at me I can barely take it, you two should just teach an East Asian Monsters class.

Shap said...

*golf clap*

shells ♥ said...

thanks so much guys :DD
and Brian I'd love to teach a class like that, hahah. well... at least have enough knowledge to be able to, anyway. mythology is just really cool to me so I tend to retain info of that kind :B

China said...

Oh wow, I love all the different dragons! I love that you incorporated the Korean, Chinese, and Japanese dragons and kept the details really accurate. There was a temple near my house as a kid that featured only dragons and was made to honor the young maiden who was sacrificed to a river dragon that was actually a young woman who was cursed. Long and twisted and anyways- long story short, it was wicked cool.
I'm so glad you've done these!

shells ♥ said...

aww, thanks! <3 I went hunting on google for reference images and I loved how cool and stylistic the Japanese dragons looked. the Korean dragons I had trouble locating images of, so I kind of had to wing it with what little I could scrounge up, and I'm tickled that they still look recognizable to you despite that!
that DOES sound pretty awesome. must have been beautifully decorated too. :D

I've actually done some guardian lion dogs as well and I mean to do some qilin/kirin when I can. :D