Chen Zhijian inherited his studio in 2008 after his father’s departure and his own business’s failure; he confessed he learned it from scratch with a little bit of talent. As his skills improved over the years, he is now able to supply outstanding dragon heads to the three most famous dragon boat factories in Zhongtang, with over 30 heads ordered each year. HERE! discussed Dongguan’s unique dragon boat features with the artisan.
Heads: Every village has their own distinctive style of dragon head. Nowadays some villages still prefer to keep the traditional look on their dragon boats and will bring their old dragon head to Chen to make a new one.
Wangniudun’s Furongsha Village: Black face, downward curving lip, blue horns and forehead, smaller human nose.
Wanjiang’s Shangjia Village: No beard, upward curving lip, golden deer horns, green cloudy head.
Paddles: Paddles are matched too. For example, red paddles often resemble Guan Yu (a general in the Three Kingdoms period), because he is often portrayed in red face on statue and images. White paddles are for the Guanyin Temple because this Buddhist goddess is depicted in white clothes. Black paddles symbolize Xuan Wu/Cai Shen Temple because they both have long black beards. Rare golden paddles used by Wanjiang’s Shangjia village is said to symbolize an imperial dragon head preserved in their Honghua Temple. Gold is the color of the imperial house.