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Thread: What are those?
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Old January 18th, 2013, 06:14 PM   #67
Jeff Sun
Join Date: Jul 2008
Posts: 23

Originally Posted by Pierre Galafassi View Post
Hi Jeff,

The following examples of Timurid- and Il-khanid dragons, show (again) the very strong Chinese influence on Persian art, at least from the Mongol conquest onwards.
In FIG 1 and 2 the dragon is not airborne, as in most later Chinese representations, but is very similar to examples from the Song dynasty.
However, I wonder whether the concept of a hero fighting and slaying the dragon is truly Chinese (1) or was not rather based on Turko-Mongol mythology. For Chinese tradition the dragon was supposed to be beneficial, not hostile. Do you agree?

(1) Contrary to the fight of the phoenix and dragon.

FIG 1. Il-khanid period. 1341. Shiraz school. Bahram gur slays the dragon. Freer Sackler

FIG 2. Timurid period 1420-1450 . Herat school. Warrior slaying a dragon.

FIG 3. Timurid period 1420-1450. Cover of Ulugh Bey’s wooden box.
Wow Peter! Great post. I also apologize for my late reply.

There is no denying the East Asian influence in these photos, but it may have filtered through an 3rd party: Tibet or India.

In Figure 1 and 2 the dragon has an upturned elephant-like trunk. This is especially evident in Figure 2. This is a form of Tibetan dragon which is called a Shalu. It's face is similar to another mythological creature found in Indian and Tibetan art called a Makara. Although no-one can say for sure, my feeling is that the Shalu is a Tibetan synthesis of the classical Chinese dragon and the Indian Makara.

It's presence in Persian art could point to Mongol influence, as there was long an influence of Tibet on Mongolia via shared religion and constant pilgrimage between the two. However, I do not know whether large scale Mongol conversion to yellow-hat Buddhism predates their conquest of Persia or not.

Just another thing to think about, I guess.

The dragon in figure 3 is VERY Chinese, indeed.

And yes, I agree with you 100%. A hero fighting a dragon is not-Chinese as the dragon is a beneficent creature. Perhaps it is a Mongol influence. Perhaps the dragon is a later stand-in for some other earlier, but less popular, Persian mythological creature. I've read the Shahnameh from cover to cover and don't ever recall a dragon in all it's pages.

Last edited by Jeff Sun; January 19th, 2013 at 01:48 AM.
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