A Nine-dragon wall or a Nine-dragon screen is a type of screen wall originating from Han Chinese traditional architecture, which mainly depicts nine different Chinese dragons.
These impressive structures are typically found in imperial Chinese palaces and gardens. It is said that they are usually erected not only for blocking the line of sight to protect privacy, but also to show auspicious blessings.
There are 04 Nine-dragon walls in mainland China. Two are in Beijing, at the Forbidden city and Beihai park. The other two are in Pingyao and Datong, both located in Shanxi Province. Two more are located in Hong Kong with several more outside China.
The Datong Nine-dragon screen, located in Heyang Street of the Datong Ancient City in Shanxi Province, is the oldest and the biggest Nine-dragon walls found in mainland China. It is also 250 years older and three times bigger than the Nine-dragon wall found in Beihai Park, Beijing.
It is built in front of the palace built in the 14th century for prince Zhu Gui, the 13th son of Zhu Yuanzhang – the first emperor of the Ming Dynasty.
The wall is 45.5 metres long, 08 meters high and 2 meters thick and made out of 426 multicoloured glazed tiles. The wall itself comprises of 03 sections, the top, the wall body and the wall seat.
The nine dragons in the wall body are depicted in pairs chasing flaming pearls with a full frontal dragon at the centre. The pearl, essentially called as the ‘pearl of wisdom’, is associated with spiritual energy, wisdom, prosperity, power, immortality, thunder, or the moon. The dragons are depicted among natural elements such as turbulent waves, high mountains and rolling clouds. The dragons themselves, are all four clawed dragons, as the five clawed dragon was strictly reserved for the emperor only.
The seat of the wall was compounded with 75 pieces of relieves made up of colored glaze brick, depicting animals smaller dragons as well as cattle, horse, sheep, dog, deer, rabbit etc.
The rectangular pool in front of the wall is to reflect the dragons in the wall, with the rippling water giving them a more lifelike effect.
(Pics – Shanika Jayasekara)