A Chinese-looking dragon curls among stylized waves with lashing tail and fiercely clawed forefeet. However, its three claws mark it out as a Japanese dragon (Imperial Chinese dragons regularly have five, while ordinary Chinese dragons have only four). Its beady eyes stare upwards towards a glimpse of pine branch.The dragon is perhaps the most popular of all the beasts of Chinese and Japanese mythology. Although fearsome - seeing an entire dragon will bring instant death - it will not attack unprovoked. The dragon represents both the Yin and Yang principle of Daoism, and the everlasting cycle of life. It is also associated with the watery principle. The ruler of the waves, Ryu or Kyo, possibly depicted here, lives in a palace beneath the sea.The dish has a Chinese date mark: 'Da Ming Chenghua Nian Zhi' (1465-1488). intimating the high regard for Chinese ceramics in Japan when this piece was made.