Dragons for prosperity, happiness and peaceStaff writer▾ | Sunday November 18, 2007 12:30PM ET
People always had a need to separate their living space into functional parts. Today we have a place for cooking, place for resting, place for bathing... Regardless of that, almost every part in our home can be warmer and more elegant with simply use of forgotten room dividers. Their unique designs, colors, famous master techniques and, of course, functionality, can enrich the space and give it the character you want.
History of room dividers started in China in 7th century where the most popular were dividers with six or eight panels. The most common Chinese motif was dragon that in Chinese mythology represents prosperity, happiness and peace, the three most important things in Chinese life.
The most romantic room screens are those with large white birds, usually swans. There are stories in Chinese mythology about swans that had a reputation of being able to travel between Heaven and Earth. Who wouldn’t sit in a room with those beautiful long-winged birds on their way to heaven? A picture of some beautiful landscapes, the most common motive on room screens, can bring joy and sun to your home. One century later, room dividers came to Japan and became the most important thing in Japanese home. Japanese character and feeling for the art resulted in different motifs, sometimes very dramatic, under strong influence of Japanese theatre. And while Chinese liked white birds and dragons, Japanese enjoyed pictures of pine trees because they represent wealth and power.
First European room dividers were built from oak planks and they where extremely heavy. Because of their weight and height they looked more like walls than something that divides. However, they became very popular with time, probably because of their Oriental roots. They were very expensive and only the wealthiest people could afford to own one. The most expensive were Coromandel screens which found a way to royal palaces. Regardless of that, room dividers found their way through the whole Europe, to Russia, France, from England to Holland and became a "must have" piece.
Very soon room dividers conquered America and number of manufactures were established in Europe. Art deco era touched dividers and inspired artist like Degas and Van Gogh that looked at them as an empty canvas that should be painted with love.
Today, room dividers or screens lie down in some basement or dusty attic, forgotten and alone. If you find one bring it to your home. Turn on the light behind divider and the corner of your living room or bedroom will look very warm and romantic. In cold winter nights light up few small candles or put a few drops of aromatic oil in a lamp, and put a tape into player. One glass of cooked wine and you'll need nothing more. ■