Level I-Art Lesson 6: The Chinese Dragon
Learn to draw a dragon while you learn about Chinese culture
The lesson is suitable for students in grades 2 through adult.
Art Lesson Description:
Visitors to the Chinese International District in Seattle are welcomed by a huge, traditional Chinese archway spanning the street. The Chinese archway symbolizes strength, good fortune, and safety—a fitting welcome to visitors. In seeming contrast, a fierce-looking, red dragon wraps around the light pole just in front of the archway. Scattered throughout the district one finds many more dragons: dragons painted on the walls of buildings, ceramic dragons decorating restaurants, and a dragon puppet hovering above the entrance of the Wing Luke Museum of the Asian American Experience.
Why have fierce-looking dragons after a welcoming archway? The first-time visitor may be surprised to learn that the dragon symbolizes happiness and prosperity in Chinese culture. Therefore, fierce as they may look, the visitor should consider the dragons as just another welcome sign.
The guided drawing of this lesson offers students the opportunity to invent the shape of the dragon’s body. Creating the background encourages students to explore ways to create a sense of balance in their composition. Since colors have symbolic meaning in Chinese culture, students will be introduced to the potential symbolic value of color.
This lesson is one of the more difficult lessons in Level I, so beginners are encouraged to start with other Level I lessons before using this one.
This lesson includes both POWERPOINT and VIDEO versions of the lesson plus 2 downloadable printouts: a warmup and a drawing of the dragon.
List of Supplies for Each Student:
- 1 copy of the dragon warm-up (it comes with the lesson)
- 1 sheet of glossy printer paper (#ad)
- 1 fine tipped permanent black marker (#ad)
- Washable colored markers (#ad)
- A gold paint pen (#ad) (Optional)
Suggestions for Cross-Curricular Connections:
- Study the history and geography of China.
- Learn the history of Chinese people in the United States and Canada: Read The Cats of Mirikitani (#ad) a story about using art as healing after the internment camps of WWII and the 9/11 bombings.
- Learn about symbols used in Chinese dragons.
- Science: Make an arch—learn about the physics involved and how it is stronger than a door frame.
- Architecture: Learn about ancient Chinese architecture.
- Learn to make some Chinese letters.
- Read the story (#ad) or watch the movie Tikki Tikki Tembo by Arlene Mosel or The Water Dragon: a Chinese Legend (#ad) by Li Jian.
- Watch a Chinese New Year's cartoon.
- Read Explore Ancient Chinese Myths (#ad) and learn about the history, geography, and culture of ancient China.
Approximate Time to Complete the Art Class:
- Guided drawing: 25 minutes
- Coloring the dragon: 30 minutes
- Total time: 55 minutes