|The Blue Dragon
|Dec 20, 2023 - Mar 3, 2024
|Special Exhibition Hall Ⅱ (NFMK Seoul)
The Blue Dragon
Marking the year of gapjin (甲辰年), the 41st year of the sexagenary cycle, the National Folk Museum of Korea presents a special exhibition titled 《The Blue Dragon》, exploring the rich symbolism and folklore surrounding this mythical creature.
The dragon, the only imaginary animal among the twelve zodiac animals, has long captivated human imagination, as captured in the adage, "You can't draw the snake you saw, but you can draw the dragon you haven't seen." This enigmatic quality has made the dragon a recurring motif in Korean art and storytelling. In Korean folklore, the dragon is revered as a deity presiding over water, often embodying the water god or rain god. Our ancestors sought the dragon's intervention to bring rainfall for agriculture and safety during fishing expeditions. Thus, the dragon has held a profound influence on Korean life for centuries.
The special exhibition, 《The Blue Dragon》, delves into diverse cultural symbols and meanings associated with dragons. Through a captivating array of stories and artifacts, the exhibition aims to evoke the vigor and blessings of the dragon, particularly in the upcoming year of the dragon, 2024.
Part 1 You Can’t Draw the Snake You Saw But You Can Draw the Dragon You Haven’t Seen
Dragons are shaped entirely by human imagination. They embody a fusion of characteristics from nine different animals: camels, deer, rabbits, cows, snakes, clams, carp, hawks, and tigers. Despite their fantastical nature, dragons have become deeply embedded in our consciousness, as evidenced by the countless paintings and craft works depicting them.
Dragons are believed to reside in water. Naturally, Korea has many ponds and lakes with names incorporating the word yong (dragon), such as Yongso(龍沼), Yongyeon(龍淵), and Yongdam(龍潭). Moreover, many place names, such as Yongsan(龍山), Yongduri(龍頭里), and Yongduam(龍頭岩), indicate their topographic resemblance with the dragon shape. According to the statistics from the National Geographic Information Institute in 2021, among the hundred thousand official place names in Korea, those related to the twelve zodiac animals account for 4,109(4.1%), with dragon-related names being the most prevalent, numbering 1,261.
Part 2 Clouds Bring Storms, and the Dragon Brings Clouds
The dragon appears in various forms in Korean folklore. Sometimes it is one of the twelve zodiac deities, controlling time and direction, or appears as the god of rain in rainmaking ritual. Other times it is personified as the Dragon King of the Sea or the Dragon Lady of the Underwater Palace, both considered the god of the sea and the river. As the saying goes, “clouds bring storms and the dragon brings clouds,” the dragon has remained associated with water and rain in our lives since ancient times.
The dragon is manifested as a device of prediction, geomancy, divination, defeating misfortune, or taboo. It plays the role of protecting the unknown, unstable future, as well as the role of the guardian of Buddhist principles and the country. These beliefs are based on the dragon’s powerful force, which also leads to the symbolism of Joseon kings as the dragon, with supreme power and authority.
Part 3 The Blue Dragons Lead the Professional Baseball League with Three Consecutive Wins, <Wonder of Nimbus>
Since the dragon, controlling the weather, has symbolized transcendental power and supremacy since ancient times, it is often used as a symbol by many army units, sports teams, and universities. Notably, the Second Marine Division, which fought with distinction in the Vietnam War, is nicknamed “Blue Dragon Division,” and one of the teams in the first year of the Korean professional baseball league was the “MBC Blue Dragons.” The blue dragon is also the symbol of Chung-Ang University.
The blue dragon, often chosen as the animal symbol of various organizations, is also used as the symbol of authority for competitions and awards. The “Blue Dragon Flag National High School Baseball Championship,” and the “Blue Dragon Film Awards” are the most well known examples. “Blue Dragon Train” is the expression for roller coasters, reminding you of the blue dragon ascending to heaven.
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