Goryeo Dynasty, Korea, 10th Century
This expertly cast work is of a rafter finial ornament in the shape of a dragon’s head that went on the corner of a building sometime during the Goryeo dynasty. Along with the rafter finial is a wind chime that would have been attached to the chin area of the dragon head using a hook.
Made from gilt bronze, the dragon’s head has various intricate designs including horns, fire blazing from it’s nose, gills, horned ears, eyes, and an open mouth with protruding sharp fangs as well as an open area for the hook to go through that connects it with the wind chime. The wind chime part of it has a circular symbol, petals, and other designs along with an area for the hook; all covered in rust from its old age.
The title “Rafter Finial in the Shape of a Dragon’s Head and Wind Chime” says just about everything you really need to know about the piece; that it’s a Chinese finial in the shape of a dragon head, and that it is accompanied by a wind chime. Although, the title doesn’t describe more specific details such as what it’s made of, how old it is, or its significance (cultural- wise).
I think that this rafter finial could be shown as a power symbol since dragons are usually considered very powerful creatures, as well as the piece would be placed outside somewhere instead of inside, hence the wind chime. It could also be a religious/ philosophical symbol because the dragon is a chinese zodiac sign, and the Koreans, along with Japan and Vietnam and various other cultures were greatly influenced by the Chinese.
This distinguished dragon head had originally graced the side rafter of a Buddhist temple or royal hall. The dragon it’s seen as one of the most important and recurring symbols in Korean art and literature, being seen as a guardian and protector of humans as well as warding off evil spirits. The dramatic features of the head convey a fierceness and invincibility to the dragon, along with giving an amazing example of the great craftsmanship during the Goryeo dynasty.
This rafter finial was meant to be a guardian symbol on a Buddhist temple rafter to protect the people and ward off evil spirits. The wind chime is also an accessory to the finial to ring whenever the wind blows. This is important to what we are studying because we have recently learned about how the Chinese have impacted other countries such as Korea, along with Japan and Vietnam, and how those countries have gained from their interaction with China.