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The Qianlong Court Bell

When you come to the exhibition room of exquisite ancient bells, the first object to catch your eye will be an imposing, superbly cast bell. It stands 2.54 miters and weighs 3,108 kilograms. The bell is covered with the pattern of mighty dragons flying through water and clouds, the sea, cliffs and floating clouds. The mouth of the bell is cast with the divination symbol of "qian" in the Eight Tri-grams. All visitors admire the superlative workmanship of the bell. Since not a single character can be found from the bell, one can hardly conclude when the bell was cast. However, the divination symbol of "qian" and the decorative pattern of dragons (pronounced "long" in Chinese) suggest the combination of "qian" and "long." In other words, it is believed that the bell was cast in the reign of Emperor Qianlong during the Qing Dynasty. This was indeed a witty and fanciful design. The bell was carved with patterns of 22 lifelike dragons with whiskers as thin as human hair as well as bright and piercing eyes, baring fangs and brandishing claws in different postures. It reminds one of the doggerel: "A cow's head, a deer's antlers and prawn- like eyes. An eagle's talons, a snake's body and a lion's tail. To do a lifelike painting of a dragon, nine bends and three curves will be just about right." If you don' t believe, you may paint by yourself.




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