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Current exhibition

Special Exhibition
Mythical Creatures Revealed in Artifacts
In traditional art, the ancients’ insights into nature inspired the creation of a variety of magical creatures. Over time, these beings evolved, gaining symbolic significance and becoming pivotal in various beliefs and narratives. This exhibition delves into East Asian cultures, tracing back to the ancient pre-Qin era in China, all the way to modern temple and folk art, displaying a rich tapestry of deities and animals embedded in stories. It explores the origins and the auspicious meanings attributed to the mythical creatures, providing viewers with a sense of connection and enjoyment as well as deeper understanding, thereby bringing us closer to the ancients and their aspirations for a fulfilling life.
This special exhibition is divided into four sections and poses intriguing questions such as, “What do mythical creatures look like?”, “What roles do they play?”, “What special powers do they have?”, and “Where can they be found?”. Through these queries, the exhibition explores the creatures’ visual representations, societal roles, extraordinary abilities, and habitual environments. It demonstrates how artists skillfully blend factual knowledge with creative imagination, bringing these legendary entities from myth and historical account to life in the form of remarkably unique and tangible works of art.

Section 1: What do mythical creatures look like?
The imagery of mythical creatures is varied and dynamic. Many are based on actual animals, but enhanced with unique meanings or magnified features, evolving into distinct mythological figures. Uncommon and rare animals often become the subjects of magical tales and powers, transforming into mythical creatures. Legends and ancient writings also describe hybrid beings, blending human and animal traits, their peculiar appearances enhancing their mystique. The most inventive representations involve fusing various species to create new beings, typically endowed with special powers. Some of these creatures are seen as symbols of luck, while others become insignia of the elite. As these myths evolved, numerous similar-looking mythical beings appeared, each developing its own unique identity and powers.

Section 2: What roles do mythical creatures play?
Mythical creatures vary greatly in their portrayal: some are elusive and mysterious, glimpsed only partially, while others are grand and imposing, radiating an awe-inspiring aura. They often act as symbols and emblems for deities, enhancing the gods’ characteristics and making a memorable impact. Religious followers would recognize each deity by its associated mythical beast. In addition, some of the creatures boast unique abilities or profound spirituality and serve as divine mounts. In certain classics or mythic narratives, they may even be deified themselves or become guardians of the faith, earning the reverence and admiration of devotees.

Section 3: What special powers do mythical creatures have?
In ancient times, reverence for nature and fascination with the unknown led people to invest their hopes in animals featured in myths and legends. Enriched by storytelling, these creatures acquired special significance, often symbolizing good fortune, wealth, protection, warding off evil, and long life. As a result, artists frequently highlighted mythical beasts in their creations or used them as decorative motifs, enhancing an artwork’s charm and embedding it with aspirations for a prosperous and fulfilling life.

Section 4: Where can mythical creatures be found?
Mythical creatures were envisioned with a range of abilities and imaginative traits, and were generally regarded as guardians of people and harbingers of joy. Historically, the rarity of some animal species led them to be perceived as symbols of peace and tranquility, meriting their inclusion in historical records. As a result, in art crafts and traditional architecture, the likenesses of these mythical beings have come to bear auspicious meanings, weaving their way into our everyday lives and remaining prevalent to this day.

Exhibition Information
  • Event Date 2024-02-06~2024-07-28
  • Location 1F S101
Qing dynasty
Trace of the Qilin, An Illustrated Study of the Miscellaneous Items in the Mao’s Edition of The Book of Songs, Vol. 3, Book 5
The Qilin is a creature with a deer-like body, cow’s tail, and horned head. It is said to appear during times of peace and at the birth of a sage.
Qing dynasty
Phoenix in Auspicious Clouds, Album of Longevity and Prosperity
The Phoenix, king of the birds, is often mentioned alongside the dragon and symbolizes harmony and bliss in mythology.
Ming dynasty
The Lion
Resembling a tiger but now identified as a lion, the Suanni symbolizes great strength and protection and is believed to shield against all disasters.
Five Garuda Birds (Tibetan Kangyur Case 029, Lower Cover Plank)
In Indian mythology, the colossal Garuda serves as mount to Vishnu, the chief deity. Renowned for being immortal and possessing extraordinary power, Garuda is the eternal foe of serpents.
Song dynasty
Beneficent Rain
In Eastern cultures, the dragon is revered as a rain deity, a harbinger of bountiful harvest, and a symbol of immense power and good fortune. Over time, it became a symbol of royalty.
Qing dynasty
Copper Luduan beast in painted enamel
Able to cross 18,000 miles in a single day and fluent in all languages, Luduan is not merely a symbol of good luck but also represents intelligence and discernment.
Han dynasty
Jade Mythical Beast
“Bixie” and “Pixiu” are two names for a mythical creature believed to bring good fortune, happiness, and wealth.
Tiger God Statue
Wooden Carved
The Tiger God serves as a mount or messenger for deities and is fond of children and considered their guardian spirit.
Qing dynasty
Auspicious Roe Deer
Ancient beliefs held that deer turn white at the age of five hundred, making the white deer a symbol of auspicious longevity. The word for deer, lu, is a homophone for fortune in Chinese, thus symbolizing future blessings.