(7/6/01 4:04:38 am)
| Know this Chinese tale: Red and White painted dragons ?|
I was impressed by the high standards of this discussion group when reading the contributions: no spam, no unreflected, one-off comment, but valuable bibliographical, mythological and religious hints and references. So I decided to call for clues on this case:
I am looking for a specific Chinese tale which I once came across.
While searching, I read the painter Zhang Seng-Zuong's story (called
"Bring the Painted Dragons to Life by Putting Pupils in Their
Eyes") on a website chineseculture.about.com/...121999.htm
today, and it contains some elements of the tale I'm looking for : the famous painter, the dragons, the power of the painted image.
The plot is roughly the following: A famous painter is asked by the Emperor to paint the most powerful and magnificient dragons ever. For that purpose, the finest spider silk is woven, and the most supple paintbrush is made, as well as the best red and white paint. The painter retreats in a cave during several years, and when the day comes on which the Emperor wants to have his paint, the painter draws two zigzag lines on the sheet of silk, one red and one white.
The Emperor goes mad with anger because he expected a scary and huge magnificient paint, so he condemns the painter to be executed. However, the day before the execution, the painter advises a guard to go and have a look at the cave in which he worked. The guard goes and sees walls covered with enormous dragons, hundreds and hundreds of sketches, starting with the most detailed and fierce drawings where every single scale can be seen, the images progressively loosing their detail and gaining in strength and focus until they shrink down to these two lightnings, red and white.
The guard tells the Emperor who is delighted, the painter is freed and richly rewarded (this end I might have invented myself...)
(7/11/01 5:47:20 pm)
Goodness, that is a difficult one. I'm not familiar with this tale, though someone else here may be. My suggestion depends on your access -- hopefully you can get to a good university library system. If so, try to get a Chinese folktale type index on interlibrary loan, something similar to the Aarne-Thompson index for English-language tales. Stith Thompson appears to have written one in several volumes that may have what you're looking for.
However, what you mention does remind me of an old Mercer Mayer and Jay Williams book called Everyone Knows What A Dragon Looks Like. Quite a lovely little children's book -- unfortuantely I don't recall the exact plot, but it may be of interest to you anyway. Here's the Amazon link:
Hope that helps!
(7/12/01 1:07:28 am)
Enemies poised on horizon. Town folk pray for help from the dragon. A fat little Buddahlike man arrives and says he is the dragon. No one but a small boy believes him. He turns into a magnificent dragon and runs off the enemies.
I loved this book when it first camed out, but am slightly uncomfortable with it these days as it seems to be caricatured. Like my problems with Babar which I loved as a child and when I read it to my first born, was appalled at how colonialistic it is.