15th/16th Century; elm or cypress, Shanxi.
This big magnificently deep carved dragon was torn from a temple structure, as can be seen by the old iron nails on the flat back. In temples, dragon-figures signify as protectors of the Dharma (Buddha’s teaching). Like most temple furniture, decorative items and religious figures, this carved dragon was painted with at least five layers of natural mineral colors and gilded, much of which remained. The dragon looks very fierce as befitting a protector of a sacred site. Antique temple dragons are quite rare and valuable as not many can be found today. They were some of the most desirable relics bought by collectors when China opened to the world in the 1900s. This one would look magnificent over a doorway as protector of the premise.