My Dragon-Turtle Teapot

My teapot and the fan I painted.
My teapot and the fan I painted when visiting the museum.

Here is the story of my teapot. JB said “wow, look at this amazing dragon teapot” and then he set it down. We were at the Korean potter’s studio and I decided as soon as I saw it and realized that John had put it down that I would buy it – if I had enough money! I did! And let me tell you – I am over the moon that I did! I just love my teapot!

12th Century Goreo Dynasty tortoise shape ewer.
12th Century Goreo Dynasty tortoise shape ewer, in the Korean National Museum.

The next time I saw “my teapot” we were in the Korean National Museum and an amazingly close facsimile was on display. It was a twelfth century Korean Goreo Dynasty piece of celadon stone wear water ewer – shaped like a tortoise sitting on a lotus flower. When I bought my pot I had no idea it was a replica of Goreo Dynasy stoneware! It just really spoke to me and when you hear what I have found out about the meaning of the symbolism represented in it, you might be as blown away by the significance of it as am I.

Closed and open lotus flowers.
Closed and open lotus flowers in a garden close to Cheonmachong in Gyeongju.

The Lotus flower symbolizes rising from suffering into enlightenment and freedom from suffering. This is what the dragon tortoise is seated upon. Notice that the lotus flower is open and not closed, which means that the flower is open to her surroundings and not closed off. The turtle herself is rich in symbolism. She is a universal symbol of birth, life, death and rebirth. I am currently going through a rebirthing process in my life, so the symbolism thus far is very significant to me.

Apparently, the tortoise spirit is a teacher of waiting and of vision. You must have both of these traits in order to be a successful treasure hunter. In other words, you must have an enduring ability to hold the vision of the treasure shown to you in meditation and you must wait with peaceful patience as your dreams transform from vision to physical manifestation.

We did not find my cups here! Just the tea and the knotted decoration.
We did not find my cups here! Just the tea and the knotted decoration.

So now I will tell you about finding the matching cups in Insadong. We were wandering around shopping and looking in all the fun shops and as we wandered I looked at the tea cups in every shop that had them. Not one of the cups that I picked up felt right. I had finally given up and told my friend we did not have to look for cups any more as I was just not feeling it. Maybe I would find them another day. Just when I gave up I found some cups with a vaguely familiar design and I just had to buy those cups. They were the cheapest I had found – five for 12,000 wan, or about 12 bucks. The most expensive I found were $100 a cup which would have amounted to way more than I had paid for the pot! When I got them home and unpacked them, my 12 buck purchase matched perfectly. In fact, the design on the cups is the same as the lotus flower my turtle is sitting upon. This is a silly little story, but I had a vision of what I wanted for cups and I had to be a patient treasure hunter but my patience paid off royally!

The turtle is a patient creature; it’s patience and ability to find peace in the moment has brought the Tortoise a great gift… the gift of a very long, rich and fruitful life. The Tortoise is happy wherever it finds itself, day by day enjoying another facet of it’s discoveries. Moreover, the tortoise makes his home wherever he decides to stop and rest. I am very much like the tortoise these days as I am learning to make make my home wherever I happen to be currently living and laying down my head to rest each night. Tortoise is content and at peace on his journeys. Tortoise symbolism also teaches this: “do not follow the illusions of the oasis that appears instantly before your eyes ~ this is a mirage. Instead, know that patience is the map to experience the outcome of visions and desires. Each of us has abundant treasure that awaits us, but few have the patience to find it”. I pray that I am more and more like the tortoise each and every day!

Did you notice that my tortoise or turtle has the head of a dragon, just like one of the 9 sons of the dragon king? Dragon turtles have a dragon head and a turtle body. The dragon turtle symbolizes longevity, determination, harmony, career success and courage. Rather than being evil as in the West, dragons in Korean folk lore are auspicious, magical creatures with unsurpassed power and vitality. Also, dragons can have yin or yang energy. Yin energy is female and passive energy; a winged dragon symbolizes yin energy.

Notice that my dragon has wings and therefore is a yin dragon. “As with all things yin and yang, the yin dragon’s energy is quite the opposite to that of the yang dragon. Heavily influenced by the planet Venus, the winged yin dragon emits a negative energy charge. This darker, mental type of energy is primarily female in nature. While the yang dragon charges ahead in a frenzy of activity, the energy of the yin dragon is more thoughtful and introspective. It may not present the flash of energy associated with yang, but yin energy is known for its powers of endurance” (retrieved from here).

My teapot is a turtle sitting on a lotus flower and she possesses the head of a winged dragon. She primarily represents yin energy which is appropriate for a tea pot. I sometimes have fierce yang energy, so a lovely spot of tea from a yin pot just might be the appropriate balancing antidote for me! I also love that she sits on an open lotus flower, one that is open to the world around her.

So, won’t you drop by and have a cup of tea with me and sip from an open lotus flower poured from my dragon tortoise shaped ewer? We can rise from our suffering together and perhaps be enlightened as we share in pleasant conversation. We can be thoughtful and introspective together and take a rest from frenzied activity as we enjoy a nice hot cup of green tea. We can also toast each other’s courage and determination and support each other as we share our challenges and successes in quiet conversation. We will encourage each other in our personal visions and dreams as we work patiently to realize them. And lastly, but certainly not least, hopefully we will also share also share together a hearty laugh or two!

I loved this teapot when I first set my eyes on it, and now after my little bit of research and reading, I love her even more! The symbolism is rich and meaningful to me.

One thought on “My Dragon-Turtle Teapot

  • July 24, 2014 at 11:29 am

    Your fan goes with your teapot so beautifully – especially now that I know the story behind the teapot. It is such a lovely way to have tea. What a fantastic souvenir of Korea. Enjoy your ‘cha’.


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