The Nine Dragon Screen

The Nine Dragon Screen is presently the oldest and largest glazed screen in China today, located east of the intersection of Dabei St. and Dadong St. in Datong city, which was built over 600 years ago. This 600-year-old screen, 45 meters long by 8 meters high, was originally guarding the gates to the mansion of Prince Hongwu, the 13th son of Zhu Yuanzhang-the first emperor of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644 AD). The Nine Dragon Screen can be divided into three parts, the pedestal, body and roof.

The Nine Dragon Screen The Nine Dragon Screen

The pedestal is rectangular shaped with a height of 2.09 meters (6.9 feet). Its narrow middle section is composed of 75 glazed tiles with images of oxen, dogs, deer rabbits and other animals.

The design of the body is that of a green wave on the lower part and a blue and yellow cloud on the upper part. It consists of nine flying dragons, with a golden-scaled, shiny-eyed dragon located in the center. On each side of the central dragon is a pair of light yellow dragons with their heads pointed East and tails pointed towards the central dragon. A second pair of elegant yellow dragons is next with their heads and tails pointed west. A third pair is ferocious-looking purple dragons which seem to be wrestling with the sea. The fourth pair is highly spirited dragons. The nine dragons are life-like and illustrating their ability of calling the wind and controlling the rainfall. The areas around the dragons are supplemented with images of plants, mountains, stones, water and grass. These patterns along with the nine dragons compliment each other. The roof is covered with glazed tiles. There is a pond with a stone bridge located in front of the screen. The reflection of the dragons becomes dynamic, especially when a breeze disturbs the surface of the water.

According to Chinese superstition, ghosts and devils can only travel in straight lines, so these magnificent screens were placed before residency gates in order to keep them off. The Nine Dragon Screen itself is of a colored glaze finish and depicts the nine dragons swirling in mists of clouds, between water lilies and half glimpsed mountains. Of the nine, the center dragon is considered the most impressive, its glazed eyes staring fixedly off into the distance.

Tip: The best time to visit the Nine Dragon Screen is from June to October due to monsoon season. You may take bus No.4 at the Datong Railway Station.

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