Dragon and Tiger


Dragon and Tiger

Paintings / Azuchi/Momoyama / Edo

By Soga Chokuan (dates unknown)

Azuchi-Momoyama - Edo period, 17th century

Ink on paper



The powerful figures of a dragon and tiger dominate the large canvas of these folding screens. The theme of this painting can be summed up in a Japanese phrase that translates as 'standoff between dragon and tiger.' Though the dragon may be an imaginary beast while the tiger actually exists, they were both venerated as mighty creatures and were often painted together in a set.

From olden times, dragons were said to cause clouds and tigers, wind, with clouds and wind associated with each beast. On the screen to your right, a sharp-clawed dragon glares down on us from the heavens. The swelling clouds seem to surge from right to left. On the left-hand screen a tiger crouches down and strikes an intimidating pose. The bamboo blades above are also depicted swaying from right to left. It seems the winds are blowing violently from the right-hand screen to the left. With its dynamic sense of movement and huge motifs that jut out of the screens, this pair of screen paintings aptly expresses the era's penchant for magnificence and grandeur.

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