To celebrate the circular shapes of spring this year, I was able to attend one of the latest online workshops offered by the wonderful Prince's School of Traditional Arts. Led by the British-Iranian multi-displinary artist, Leila Dear, this four week course focused on a range of topics around spring and its geometry, from a Tang dynasty 3-fold hare pattern, to the patterns of Nowruz, the Persian New Year, to spirals and symmetries found in nature. I am continuously impressed by these courses and how they touch on so many different cultural and natural elements, all within the umbrella of geometry- and this was no exception!
The symbol of the three hares can be seen throughout the centuries and in cultures and religions around the world, from Asia to the British Isles and within Christianity, Judaism, Islam and Buddhism. Though its precise age and origin is still a mystery, some of the oldest representations are found in Chinese Buddhist cave temples from 5-600 and it is thought the motif may have travelled along the Silk Road, through the Middle East, Poland, Germany and into the British Isles. Celtic versions of the puzzling three hares, chasing around a center point, each with two ears but with only three in total, are common throughout the UK, in various art forms and sacred sites.
Its three-fold symmetry is present throughout nature and is relevant to various cultures and religions, with its obvious connection to a divine holy trinity. Hares themselves are symbolic of fertility, mysticism, wisdom, creativity and new life. Because of their association with the moon, as well as the delightful mating ritual of boxing males during "March madness", their connection to lunacy can be found in our best loved stories and myths.
This particular design is from the Magao Caves, an extensive system of caves and sanctuaries along the Silk Road in China's Gansu Province which contains 1000 years of Buddhist images and statues from the 4th to the 14th Century. This beautiful example from the lesson was from Cave 139,
Late Tang dynasty (848-906). View this image in the Shop
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Thank you and Happy Spring! 🌺