Shanghai Museum exhibition carries the spirit of the Dragon Year

Wang Jie
Shanghai Museum is welcoming the Year of Dragon with an exhibition "Longing for Spring."
Wang Jie
Shanghai Museum exhibition carries the spirit of the Dragon Year

Gilded Bronze Dragon Head and Silver Chain (618-907)

The dragon, a mythical creature that has appeared in legends for thousands of years, is a spiritual emblem of the Chinese people.

To mark the Year of the Dragon, the Shanghai Museum is hosting the "Longing for Spring" exhibition.

The exhibition allows visitors to explore eight diverse dragon-shaped cultural relics from different periods from the Shanghai Museum, Liaoning Provincial Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology, and Xi'an Museum collections.

"The oracle bone script of a dragon depicts a dragon's antlers, with a large mouth, elongated body, and curled-up tail," said Chu Xiaobo, director of the Shanghai Museum. "Yet its origin remains elusive today, with a kaleidoscope of assumptions based on reptiles, insects, totems, and astronomical observations."

According to ancient Chinese scriptures, dragons can change their size and visibility at will, flying among the clouds in mid-spring and hiding underwater during the autumn equinox.

Its powerful and mysterious abilities, particularly control over rain, were critical to an agrarian culture. This auspicious creature was historically associated with the East and stars, and it served as a sign of imperial strength. The dragon is also a remarkable example of the merger of Buddhism and Daoism, from which people get their beliefs in Dragon Kings, which continue to this day.

Shanghai Museum exhibition carries the spirit of the Dragon Year

Blue-and-White Flat Vase with Carmine Red Dragon, Clouds, and Two Handles (1736-1795) from Jingdezhen Kiln

Dragon images frequently depict coiled snakes, migrating crocodiles, or galloping monsters, and their distinct versatility has resulted in a plethora of art forms and interpretations.

So dragons represent not just human efforts to adapt to and change the environment, but also a stunning blending of diverse cultures and arts.

One of the exhibition's centerpieces is "Silver Chain with Gilded Bronze Dragon Heads." This piece from the Tang Dynasty (618–907) period was discovered at Yaodian in Xianyang, Shanxi Province.

The silver wire chain body has a dragon-head-shaped lock. The dragon's head is constructed of copper and gilded on the surface. Its mouth features a circular lock buckle.

Buddhist monks are meant to wear the chain while praying. The fine craftsmanship and expensive materials indicate the Tang Dynasty's socioeconomic progress as well as the economic prosperity of Buddhist monasteries during that period.The displays also feature "Water Basin with Dragon Design" from the late Western Zhou Dynasty (c.11th century-770 BC).

Exhibit Info

Date: 9am-5pm (close on Mondays)

Address: 201 People's Avenue 人民大道201号

* Please make online reservation through

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