The Journey

Dragon Head Finial

  • 51
  • Japan
  • Heian period, 12th century
  • Gilt bronze
  • H. 5 1/8 x W. 1 1/2 x D. 4 5/8 in. (13.02 x 3.81 x 11.75 cm)
  • Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Gift of Leslie Prince Salzman, M.2007.5

In Buddhist iconography, dragons are defenders of the faith. They are known as guardians of the East, and they are usually shown flying amid clouds and rain. The finial here capped one of a pair of standards that would have flanked an altar during a Japanese Buddhist ritual. A wood shaft would have fit into the hollow neck of the dragon, and a banner would have hung from a hook in the hole in the dragon's lower lip.

PHOTO CREDIT: © 2009 Museum Associates/ Los Angeles County Museum of Art

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