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Jar with Dragon

Jar with Dragon

Jar with Dragon

This storage Jar with Dragon painted with cobalt blue on a porcelain body was produced for the court. The painting depicts a mighty dragon whirling through clouds and sky. This mighty dragon face was famous in China in the early fifteenth century. It may derive from the Kirtimukha iconography, which translates to a “glorious face”  that is found in Indo-Himalayan imagery.

This storage, Jar with Dragon, is an example of porcelain from Jingdezhen, a Chinese city known as the “Porcelain Capital” because it has produced pottery for 1,700 years.  An inscription on the shoulder states that it was made in the Xuande period (1426-1435), which is dated to the rule of the Xuande emperor, who was the fifth emperor of the Ming dynasty of China. His era name “Xuande” means “Proclamation of Virtue.”

Chinese Ceramics

Chinese ceramics are one of the most significant forms of Chinese art and range from construction materials such as bricks and tiles, to hand-built pottery vessels fired in bonfires or kilns, to the advanced Chinese porcelain wares made for the imperial court and export.


A dragon is a legendary creature that appears in the folklore of many cultures around the world. Dragons in eastern cultures are usually depicted as wingless, four-legged, serpentine creatures with above-average intelligence. In Chinese, the word “dragon” has come to be associated with good fortune. Many East Asian deities and demigods have dragons as their mounts or companions. Dragons were also identified with the Emperor of China, who, during later Chinese imperial history, was the only one permitted to have dragons on his house, clothing, or personal articles.

The favorite western image of a dragon as winged, four-legged, and capable of breathing fire was invented in the High Middle Ages based on a conflation of earlier dragons from different traditions. In western cultures, dragons are portrayed as monsters to be tamed or overcome, usually by saints or culture heroes, as in the popular legend of Saint George and the Dragon.

Jar with Dragon

  • Title:              Jar with Dragon
  • Date:             Early 15th century
  • Culture:         Ming dynasty (1368–1644), Xuande mark and period (1426–35)
  • Geography:   China
  • Medium:       Porcelain painted with cobalt blue under transparent glaze (Jingdezhen ware)
  • Dimensions:  H. 19 in. (48.3 cm); Diam. 19 in. (48.3 cm)
  • Museum:       Metropolitan Museum of Art – MET

A Tour of the Metropolitan Museum of Art – MET

MET European Paintings Collection

MET Modern and Contemporary Art Collection

MET Greek and Roman Art Collection

MET Egyptian Art Collection

MET Asian Art Collection

MET Ancient Near Eastern Art Collection

MET American Wing Collection

MET Islamic Art Collection

MET Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas Collection

MET European Sculpture and Decorative Arts Collection

MET Medieval Art Collection

MET Drawings and Prints Collection

MET Costume Institute Collection

MET Arms and Armor Collection

MET Photograph Collection

MET Musical Instrument Collection




  • How did this Chinese dragon without wings fly among the clouds?
  • In Chinese tradition, dragons are associated with good fortune. Why is it so different in western culture?


“My armor is like tenfold shields, my teeth are swords, my claws spears, the shock of my tail a thunderbolt, my wings a hurricane, and my breath death!”
– J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit


Photo Credit: 1) JOM

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