Rafter Finial in the Shape of a Dragon Head and Wind Chime
early Goryeo dynasty (918–1392)
Finial: L. 15 1/2 in. (39.4 cm); H. 11 3/4 in. (29.8 cm); W. 9 in. (22.9 cm); Chime: H. 15 1/4 in. (38.7 cm); W. 7 1/4 in. (18.4 cm)
Purchase, The Vincent Astor Foundation Gift, 1999 Benefit Fund, and The Rosenkranz Foundation Inc. Gift, 1999
This superbly cast and boldly modeled ornamental finial in the shape of a dragon's head would originally have been attached to one of the four corner rafters of a royal hall or Buddhist temple building (see, for example, the photograph of a model pagoda on this wall). The bulging eyes, flaring nostrils, and elaborate scales convey fierceness and invincibility, in keeping with the apotropaic function of this auspicious creature. The small holes at the sides of the neck were probably used to secure the heavy object to the wooden roof structure. The bell, which functioned as a wind chime, would have been suspended from the loop at the mouth of the dragon by a hook, which is still discernible at the top of the bell. The decorative panels on the lower halves of both faces of the bell feature a swastika (an ancient symbol associated with the Buddha) within a lotus-flower platform. In contrast to larger bells, which were sounded by striking the surface with a wooden mallet or stake, this small bell had an attached metal-plate clapper inside (now missing). A nearly identical set of dragon's head and wind chime resides in the Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art in Seoul.
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