Monday, May 25, 2015

Why Our Dragon has Five Claws

Some might be surprised to find a Dragon in Botanica’s Chinese Garden of Friendship. It makes more sense when one learns that unlike the Western idea of devilish dragons, Chinese tradition tells us the Dragon is benevolent, providing protection to those in need.

Representing power, wisdom and good fortune, the Dragon was oft adopted by the Emperor as a symbol of his imperial authority. In fact, several dynasties held that no one other than the Emperor was allowed to wear the five-clawed Dragon. Nobles were allowed to display dragons with four claws, while the commoner’s dragon only had three.

You might also notice our Dragon follows the curve of the stream. This is because, in addition to warding off evil spirits, the Dragon has the power to control water, rain, lakes, rivers and the sea. Folklore holds that the pearl in his mouth is the source of his power and allows him to ascend from the “Earthly World” represented in our Garden by Rose Wind Pavilion, to the “Heavenly World,” our Treasured Friend Pavilion.

Local Artist Jennie Becker sculpted over 200 unique porcelain clay dragon scales along with the head, legs and tail which, placed along a rolling wall, give the Dragon an organic presence and sense of movement.

Despite the Dragon’s benign image, the reverence he is given in Chinese culture confirms that it is unwise to deface or defile any image of a Dragon.