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National Museum of Natural Science, Taiwan*
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Year of the Dragon
Circular Lobby, Life Science Hall
January 6 – May 27, 2012

What is a dragon? According to Tormont Illustrated Encyclopedia, it is a fabulous monster, represented usually as a gigantic reptile breathing fire and having a lion's claws, the tail of a serpent, wings and scaly skin.

In Chinese culture, the dragon symbolizes power and excellence, valiancy and boldness, heroism and perseverance, nobility and divinity. He is energetic, decisive, optimistic, intelligent and ambitious. Unlike the negative energies associated with Western dragons, Chinese dragons are beautiful, friendly, and wise. Instead of being hated, they are loved and worshipped. They are deeply rooted in the Chinese culture. Chinese around the world always proudly proclaim themselves ‘descendants of the dragon’. Chinese emperors thought they were the real dragons and sons of heaven. Thus, the beds they slept on are called “dragon beds,” the throne, a “dragon seat,” and the emperor’s ceremonial dresses are known as “dragon robes.”

The dragon is the fifth sign of the Chinese zodiac which consists of 12 animal signs. The year of 2012 is the Year of the Dragon. For Chinese, everything connected with dragons is blessed.

Celebrating the coming of the new Lunar Year of the Dragon, the National Museum of Natural Science presents this Dragon exhibition to make visitors to know better about dragons and their influence on Chinese culture. The exhibition displays more than 70 artifacts of the mythical creature, including drawings, ceramics, furniture, seals, flags and royal robes.

Combining hands-on activities with depictions of dragons and world mythology, this exhibition explores the stories told about this fantastic beast. With a changing program of stunning loans from the Zhejiang Museum of Natural History, alongside the Museum’s own exceptional collection, and precious artifacts provided by National Palace Museum, National Museum of History, and Institute of History and Philology, Year of the Dragon exhibition will bring children and adults face to face with these centuries-old dragons, and encourage them to discover more through dragon-themed objects.

“Scientists compare the variety of dragon attitude to the meteorological phenomena in nature and propose that the true nature of dragon should be tornados which nowadays rage through the great Mid-West frequently in the US. If this proves to be true, then the ancient Chinese dragons have not faded away, they just went to the US for the time being,” said Dr. Sun Wen-hsing, the Museum Director, at the exhibition reception with humor.

“The dragon dance is an important folk art tradition of the Chinese people. Dragon dances are part of every major festival and celebration,” added Assistant Curator Lee Yun-long, the exhibition organizer, at the opening reception. “In addition to a flying dragon greeting our visitors on the wall of the Life Science Hall, we present a dragon dance performance to welcome the Lunar New Year. Also, we have incisive illustrations of the origins of the dragon dance, the various Chinese characters for dragon, and many other interesting legends about the dragon,” said Lee proudly.

The Year of the Dragon is said to be a year of energy and change. The image of the dragon has been shifted and reshaped in cultures throughout time and across the world, but they fascinate and delight us in all of their forms. Hopefully, this exhibition will revitalize the spirit of dragon embedded in the traditional culture and bring about a brighter future for everyone. Welcome to share luckiness with us in the dragon exhibition!

Year of the Dragon is organized by the National Museum of Natural Science with generous support from
Zhejiang Museum of Natural History, National Palace Museum,
National Museum of History, and Institute of History and Philology