Year of the Dragon

A dragon faces the viewer while wrapping its body around a rock or dune, with waves visible in the background.

Attributed to Kaihō Yūshō, Pair of Screens with Dragons and Waves, Japan, Momoyama period (1573–1615), ca. 1600–1615. Ink on paper. Yale University Art Gallery, Gift of Rosemarie and Leighton R. Longhi, B.A. 1967

A celebration of the dragon across media from the past 500 years, coinciding with the 2024 Chinese Lunar New Year 

March 15–November 10, 2024

The Yale University Art Gallery is pleased to present Year of the Dragon, an exhibition coinciding with the 2024 Chinese Lunar New Year that celebrates this mythical beast through nearly 30 artworks spanning from the 17th century to the present day. In the West, the dragon has historically been characterized as an evil creature, flying through the air while breathing fire from its mouth, but in the East, the dragon is believed to possess power in the celestial realm and to pour out blessings in the form of rainwater over swirling wind. The dragon also has a place in the Eastern zodiac calendar—alongside 11 other animals, such as the rabbit, snake, and tiger—in which each year is associated with an animal and its reputed attributes. The objects on view, which are largely drawn from the collection of the Yale University Art Gallery, feature dragons on folding screens, other paintings, textiles, ceramics, ivory, and woodblock prints. Other works, such as Katsushika Hokusai’s well-known woodcut The Great Wave (ca. 1831), feature the wind and water elements that are often associated with the dragon. This object, along with the other light-sensitive works in Year of the Dragon, will be replaced with a new selection in July 2024, offering repeat visitors a new experience of the exhibition. Taking inspiration from East Asian history, folklore, and myth, Year of the Dragon demonstrates a long, complex, and continuing artistic tradition around this fantastical creature. 

Exhibition Credits

Organized by Sadako Ohki, the Japan Foundation Associate Curator of Japanese Art.