Ringing in the Year of the Dragon at the Kruizenga Art Museum

Title image is taken from the Kruizenga Art Museum Instagram page @kruizengamuseum.

If you have been struggling with your New Year’s resolutions, take advantage of the Lunar New Year for inspiration and the opportunity to begin again. This week, the Kruizenga Art Museum celebrates the culture and history of this notable holiday.

The Lunar New Year is a time of celebration in China as well as surrounding countries, beginning with the second new moon after the winter solstice and ending on the full moon. Also known as the Spring Festival, the celebration began on Feb. 10 this year and will end on Feb. 24. The Lantern Festival marks the end of the celebration, as ancestors are honored and red lanterns, which symbolize happiness, are used to decorate.

2024 sees the transition into the year of the dragon, a symbol of the Chinese zodiac. There are twelve animal signs that make up a repeating cycle of twelve years: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Pig. The only mythological creature of the group, the dragon is thought to represent power and strength. The ancient system is over 2000 years old, dating back to the Han Dynasty. Based on Chinese astrology, the zodiac divides the calendar based on the solar and lunar phases. This explains why the Spring Festival falls on a different date than the New Year of the Gregorian calendar which is used in many parts of the world.

Art plays an important role in the celebration of the Spring Festival. With pieces from the 17th to 20th centuries, the display at Kruizenga Art Museum represents several of the traditions associated with the holiday.

The tradition of burning incense is represented at the exhibit by a censer, a vessel made for that purpose. Common uses of incense included purifying and perfuming the air, as well as for religious practice. It is believed that prayers would be carried to heaven with the smoke. Incense can be burned in government buildings, religious temples and homes.

Beyond the more functional art pieces, decorative works feature some of the symbols that might be displayed during holidays. One silk painting highlights the crane: an animal esteemed in Chinese culture as a symbol of longevity and wisdom. The white crane in particular is thought to be noble or a heavenly messenger in some Chinese legends.

The exhibition will be up until Saturday, Feb. 17, so be sure to stop by this week and witness the beauty of these long-standing traditions! The Kruizenga Art Museum is free to visit for the campus and the public. Their visiting hours are Tuesday to Saturday from 10 am to 4 pm.

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