(Minneapolis, MN) — February 10th, 2024 —The Minneapolis Institute of Art (Mia) presents “Year of the Dragon: Mystical Creatures of the Sky,” an exhibition celebrating the lunar Year of the Dragon. Tracing the dragon’s origins and evolution in Chinese art over thousands of years, the show features dragon imagery across a wide range of media, from ancient jades and bronzes to ceramics and scroll paintings. The free exhibition is on view in Mia’s Cargill Gallery February 10 – May 5, 2024.
As the exhibition reveals, the dragon has profoundly shaped China’s artistic and cultural identity. Emerging from ancient mythology as a water deity governing the rain and winds, the dragon gradually took its current form – a four-legged, horned, serpentine being breathing clouds. Over time, its meaning transformed into a symbol of power, prosperity and auspicious fortune.
“From their earliest appearance in Chinese culture, dragons have played an important and symbolic role,” said Liu Yang, Curator of Chinese Art at Mia. “This exhibition explores the ways that dragons represent not only heavenly power and prosperity but China itself.”
Featuring nearly 50 objects, the exhibition charts how dragon iconography developed in tandem with major shifts in Chinese history and visual culture. Organized thematically, the exhibition examines dragons as talismanic and totemic creatures, as rulers of weather and water, as symbols of heavenly power, and as the primary characters of the Chinese Zodiac.
Featured objects among the 50 items in the exhibition include a pair of gilt bronze flying dragons from the 8th century, a nine dragon box from the Qianlong period, and jade pendant in the form of a dragon from the 5th-3rd century BCE.