Dinosaur Dynasty

13 Jan 2024 | Works

2024 is the year of the dragon across the Chinese-speaking world, so as the lunar new year approaches, I’ve been exploring what to do with it.

There is a miracle creature that I’ve wanted to paint for a long while – the dinosaur.

It so happens that we use the same character (龍) to write dragon as well as dinosaur, so that means that they’re the same species, right?

(Please don’t correct me.)

I decided I would replace the Chinese dragon with a dinosaur.

I first thought I would paint a Brachiosaurus, the most harmless of the dinosaurs. But the more research I did, the more I got inspired by the microraptor. A small, feathered dinosaur, it looks like a combination of the Chinese dragon and a phoenix. The fossils have been discovered in China, and I wonder if our ancestors talk about dragons, are they thinking of the microraptor?

There’s another thing that always happens with me around these big days in the Chinese culture. I’m a proud Taiwanese, so I feel some tension when we speak of “Chinese New Year” or the “Chinese calendar”. The Taiwanese identity is distinct from the Chinese identity, and that’s important to me. At the same time, I do feel connected to the history and the culture.

In this painting, you see this tension play out: I start from traditional Chinese portrait painting of the Ching period – the composition and the colour scheme – and then I bring my dinosaur into the pattern instead of the traditional dragon. A new dynasty begins.

Happy Chinese New Year!



Something a bit old, but the ideas are still new