gdhp.jpg (28487 bytes)Golden Dragon Tarot Deck             Review by Michele Jackson

This deck attempts to "...create a synthesis between the symbolisms of the Far East and those of the Western world by starting from the basic ideas of Tarot." The art style and theme are Chinese. The cards are larger than average at 5 1/4" X 3 15/16". They are divided into three areas. The top border that has the card number and what appears to be the name of the card in Chinese for the Major Arcana, and the suit name (without a number) in Chinese for the Minor Arcana. I can not read Chinese, but am making this guess based on the fact that the characters are different on each Major card, but consistent throughout each suit in the Minors. The middle section has the scene and the bottom border has the card name in English. These sections are delineated by a stylized double white border line against a black border. The art is good. There is a lot of color and motion. The scenes are often highly detailed. The backs are not reversible. The Major Arcana have been renamed in order to make the deck fit the Chinese theme. They are:

I - The Apprentice VIIII - The Master of Wisdom XVI - Destruction of the Tempel [sic]
II - The Waterporter X - Destiny XVII - The Star
III - The Queen of Rice XI - The Dragon XVIII - The Moon
IV - The Emperor XII - The Hanged Man XVIIII - The Sun
V - The Illuminated Pagoda XIII - Death XX - The Tao
VI - The labyrinth XIV - Balance XXI - The Monkey
VII - Victory XV - The Thunderstorm XXII - Harvest
VIII - Justice    

It seems that the deck creator came to the realization that many of these titles would not make sense to those unfamiliar with Chinese culture, so the Major Arcana have additional/alternate names in the little booklet that are more descriptive of the card's meaning.  For example: II The Water Porter or: She who possesses inner awareness. The suits are Coins, Wands, Cups and Swords. The Court consists of King, Queen, Knight and Master. For each Master card there is a footnote in the little booklet that says "The correct name of this card is Master of the Wisdom of the (suit name) ." Few of the scenes in this deck bear any similarity to their Waite deck counterparts. The two that come closest are the Ten of Swords (shows a slain dragon) and the Nine of Swords (shows what could be a horrible dreamscape, though it could also be a battle scene). Interestingly, the short meanings given for these two cards are "Well deserved success" (ten) and "Wisdom must assert itself" (nine). This is a common problem with this deck. The imagery and the meanings often seem to be unrelated. It gets worse - the short meaning and the longer explanation also sometimes seem out of synch. For the Nine of Swords the complete meaning is:

Nine of Swords
Wisdom must assert itself
- There will be many obstacles and difficulties
Creative energy is gradually gaining in strength, but it is possible that you are going through an inner crises of uncertainty and doubt, accompanied by a feeling of desolateness.

Examples abound - the Four of Coins shows a water scene at night with a man crossing the water in a narrow boat of some type. Perhaps he is fishing, or crabbing, or just going home. We don't know and are not told. The card meaning given is:

Four of Coins
Fulfilled Hopes
-Energy and fulfillment will be felt in all areas.
It is important to plan a project precisely, and also exciting to experience its success. This card offers great protection and encouragement in the difficult phases of life.

The problem could be that there are myths or stories in Chinese culture that I am not aware of that make the meanings and the scenes fit. However, my guess is that this is an art deck that the author of the little booklet is trying to make fit to well known meanings whenever he can, or the deck is based on specific Chinese myths that the writer of the booklet was not familiar with or chose not to explain for some reason.

Aside from the problems noted above, the little booklet has a brief introduction to Tarot and upright meanings for each card. The Major Arcana meanings are a bit longer than those for the Minors. The Major Arcana meanings begin with an alternate card name, followed by a few key phrases and a paragraph or two of discussion. Again, one gets the feeling that the author is trying to fit his size ten foot into a size six shoe. It is painful to watch. I strongly suspect that there is information about this deck that we need to know and aren't privy to. There are three spreads provided: a three card past, present and future Spread, and two seven card spreads. When I first got this deck, it was from a friend in Germany. He sent me a set with a full length book, vice the little booklet. Unfortunately, it is written in German, a language I can not read. Perhaps the book provides information about the deck that is lacking in the little booklet.

I recommend this deck for those who are interested in things Chinese or Asian. The art makes it a great deck for collectors, but I would not want to try to read with it unless I was ready for some hard-core, rote memory work. Although the deck is available in English, I have never seen it for sale in the United States. I ordered my English version from Italy.

Golden Dragon Tarot
ISBN: 3-90 5017-48-2
Publisher: AGMuller
I ordered mine from Alida.

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Images and text Copyright 1994 AGMuller

This page is Copyright 1999 by Michele Jackson