Ryukyu Island Lacquer Tray Gift to the State Department

Diego tree wood, lacquer Okinawa, Ryukyu, Japan.

Arching above the choppy waves, the dragon on this tray emerges from his home, the ocean depths near the Ryukyu Islands. He seems fierce as he extends his three-clawed tiger paws at his side, but unlike the fire breathing terrors of European lore, this Asian dragon is benevolent and intelligent.

He is a symbol of identity for East Asian people, changing the number of claws (three for Japan, four for Korea, five for China) depending on his origins. In Japanese tradition, the dragon is a symbol of mystery and power.

Trade in lacquer ware dates back to the 1400s in Okinawa, where the climate is excellent for producing these valued articles.

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