Meet all the dragon statues just installed around San Francisco to celebrate the Lunar New Year’s Year of the Dragon, as these intricately designed, wooden dragon monuments now adorn SF parks, markets, and public spaces.
It’s now the fourth year of the Lunar New Year statues being placed around San Francisco in the lead-up to SF’s Chinese New Year celebrations. It all started with Year of the Ox statues in 2021, when the Chinese New Year Parade was canceled over COVID-19. But the giant sculptures were so popular they returned with Year of the Tiger statues in 2022, and Year of the Rabbit statues last year.
And with the SF Lunar New Year Parade to ring in the Year of the Dragon coming up on February 24, the Chinese Chamber of Commerce has once again commissioned Year of the Dragon on Parade statues that are now placed around town in the above locations. SFist got pictures of each of the five dragons in their new habitat, and spoke with the artists who created them.
This year’s dragons are especially unique, as they are made of wood instead of the fiberglass-like sculptures of previous years. That’s a nod to this being the Year of the Wood Dragon, as Daoist traditions assign elements as well as animal identities to the Lunar New Year’s zodiac signs.
“The wood assembly process was more time consuming and a more complex process than I anticipated,” says designer Stephanie Mufson, owner of Parade Guys, which builds the floats of the Chinese New Year Parade. (Mufson also designed the above dragon.) “That said, I am very happy with and proud of the results. They have an almost oversized-toy like quality that I didn’t expect and really enjoy.”
“They also achieved my main goal with the forms, which was to create a dimensional character out of layers of flat plywood,” she adds. “It was important to me to honor the wood material, as it is the year of the wooden dragon, while also delivering a finished piece that transcended its original form.”
So SFist went dragon hunting to get you fired up for the Lunar New Year of the Dragon. The dragons can be found at the locations listed below.
Union Square (333 Post Street)
You’ll find artist Qinghui Ji’s Blue and White Porcelain Dragon at the northwest corner of Union Square, at Post and Powell streets (across from Saks).
“The dragon is filled with symbols related to Chinese New Year: golden coins, lanterns, red envelopes, ingots, firecrackers, fireworks, the symbols for double-happiness (喜喜) and good luck ‘Fu’ (福),” Ji tells SFist. “They all have good meanings and symbolize fortune and good luck. In addition, I added some elements from SF Chinatown: the Dragon Gate, and the Pagoda, so viewers know it's from SF.”
“I was inspired by the classic Chinese art form — the blue and white porcelain,” she adds. “They have been widely used in China since the Yuan Dynasty and are now well known across the world. Almost every Chinese family has bowls or plates that are in blue and white porcelain style.”
“For me, a blue and white dragon brings back fond memories of my family,” Ji says. “I remember eating my grandpa’s homemade food from blue and white porcelain. Every time I finished the food, a little dragon would appear at the bottom of the bowl.”
Lucky Supermarket (1515 Sloat Boulevard)
Once again, the Lakeshore Lucky Supermarket has a zodiac statue that they’ve adorned with colorful on-theme items like oranges, orchids, and lilies that spark crazy Lunar New Year joy.
“The Rainbow Dragon, sponsored by Lucky Supermarkets, was designed to bring vibrant color and beauty into an unexpected place,” this dragon’s designer Stephanie Mufson tells SFist.
“The dragon is a symbol of peace and spiritual harmony, and I wanted my dragon to embody those qualities while uplifting the viewers with its vivid palette.”
PING AN DRAGON by DONNA LAU
Stonestown Galleria (3251 20th Avenue)
It’s worth the trip to Stonestown Galleria to see Donna Lau’s Ping An Dragon (located outside Target at the far southern corner of the mall’s floor level).
“Ping An” is Chinese for “peace and harmony.” According to an artist's statement, “This dragon statue depicts the chronological sequence of the 15-day Lunar New Year activities from the artist’s childhood experience.”
“Carefully stacked oranges with red envelopes, the sweet-filled Tray of Togetherness, red plum blossoms, red lanterns, and the 'good luck' banner represent the home preparations for the new year,” the statement continues. “The tea and food items signify the festivities of gathering with family and friends over traditional Chinese foods. The long string of firecrackers is used to frighten away evil spirits during the grand finale of the Chinese New Year Parade.”
Chase Center (One Warriors Way)
You do not have to pay admission to the Chase Center to see this Heavenly Jade Dragon, as it is on display in the free area called Thrive City, and comes with an Instagrammable backdrop.
And how clever is it that the previous years’ zodiacs are also painted onto the exterior of this dragon? “According to legend, the Jade Emperor called a race of animals on his birthday to create the Chinese Zodiac,” an artist's statement says. “The animals had to cross a rapid river to reach the finish line on shore. As a reward, he named a year after each of them in the order that they arrived."
Depending when you go, there may be a ton of other free activities happening around this dragon. If you want some other family activities to incorporate into your visit, try going before a Warriors game, or when other events are scheduled on the Thrive City calendar.
Rose Pak-Chinatown Station, 943 Stockton Street
The plaque of Rose Pak looks over this Gold Luck Dragon, whose disco flair sparkles with lucky, glittery gold. It certainly adds some razzle-dazzle to the commute for residents on North Beach and Chinatown, and anyone heading to the neighborhood for the Lunar New Year activities starting with this weekend’s Flower Market Fair.
“I want, as I want with every piece of work I put into the world, to bring the viewers a moment of novelty, beauty and unexpected delight into everyday space and moments,” its designer Stephanie Mufson tells us.
As is the case each year, these dragons will be auctioned off when their public display period ends March 2, with proceeds benefiting local community non-profits. This year those nonprofits include API Legal Outreach, Asian Women’s Shelter, and Charity Cultural Services Center.
Images: Joe Kukura, SFist