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東海龍王宮 East Dragon King Palace
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東海龍王宮 East Dragon King Palace

Humans have explored more of the surface of the moon than the ocean. Underwater cities, palaces, kingdoms have been mentioned in various myths and literature across the globe. I will be reimagining the East Dragon King Palace, which is the most prominent underwater palace in the East.

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Update - 2 May 2020

Final concept

Design thinking: I really wanted the primordial underwater palace to appear grand and ancient (fit for a Dragon King and his subjects) so I added city lights along the eaves of the roof to really sell this idea that this even the roof structure itself is big enough to hold a city in them and make the palace look lived in. I populated the image with more creatures too in addition to the one mentioned in the previous post; a few dragons returning to the palace, schools of fish on the left with bioluminescence under their eyes, jelly fish which are known to exist in many of the worlds deepest oceans, and also marine snow and speckles of plankton. A lot of the structures are jagged to show the overgrowth of coral but I also wanted to make some aspects loosely resemble dragon motifs so that it was suggestive that the king of the palace was a dragon. Some of the relief is based off Shang dynasty pottery/ornaments, semi neolithic beginning to transition to familiar Chinese patterns.

As mentioned in a previous update, I wanted to make the Ruyi Jingu Bang at its state as a pillar, but rather support the palace directly  its more like a pile holding the trench in place so that it doesn't collapse into the valley. The ambiguous stream of light in the background is Ruyi Jingu Bang, and has begun to glow faintly upon Wukong's arrival.

Although I liked the school of orange fish leading into the image, I felt like it became too distracting and graphical to tie in with the rest of the image, so I've replaced the ones in the foreground with darker silhouettes. The foreground values have also been adjusted as it was too dark to make out anything before.

Progress shots from BW to finish.

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Update - 1 May 2020


Design thinking: The general silhouette of the palace is based off Chinese palace architecture with their iconic expansive sweeping roof structures, but I've replaced the conventional roof tiles and building materials with rock formations and overgrown with corals, hydrothermal vents and other marine debris. With an emphasis on jagged shaped throughout the design as this is a heavily guarded and dangerous place Wukong is about to venture in. (Wukong is perched on the pillar closest to the foreground, posing as a gargoyle while devising a plan to get his weapon.)

Some part of the deep sea are not so desolate as we may assume, there are corals reefs that can only live in waters no warmer than 8 degrees that sprawl across these depths. With the corals supports ecosystems of marine life, some I've used in my illustration include the diver expert -Sperm whale, and deep sea resident - Chimaera (Ghost shark) which are known to live in the most ancient deep waters and are also the missing link between sharks and rays.

Update - 30 Apr 2020

Coloured concepts 

Testing different variants of blue and green hues for underwater effect.

I will be going forward with the concept on the left and working it up and adding more cultural and organic motifs, while building up the narrative and story element.

Rather than have the pillar literally supporting the structure I thought as using it as some sort of foundation (like a pile of anchor of some sort)  that was holding the trench the palace was sitting with in from collapsing. 

I will also have it faintly glow to respond to the arrival of Wukong, who at this moment if still yet to sneak into the palace.

Update - 30 Apr 2020

Grayscale thumbnail concepts

Developed and new concept sketches. Interior and exterior shots and exploring lighting (volumetric).

I want to also make the architecture of the palace itself more organic (coral, rock formation, hydrothermal vents of the deep sea) while taking hints from the style of Ming dynasty structures.

A story moment I resonated with was when the Dragon King challenged Sun Wukong (Monkey King) who has barged in to his palace uninvited looking for a worthy weapon, challenged him that if he should we able to lift the Ruyi Jingu Bang, he would be able to claim it ( a magical weapon that can transform from a giant pillar to tiny needle, which in it's current state is a pillar holding up the underwater palace. As the Monkey King approached the magical staff glowed and shrunk to size compatible for Wukong's use.

Depicted below are different angles and also different placements of the giant pillar that has responded to Wukong's presence 

Update - 29 Apr 2020

Black and White graphical thumbnail concepts 

Exploring shapes and forms and setting too. Still deciding on what balance of environment vs architecture for the palace.

Looking at the main plot points in Journey to the West and Investiture of the Gods, to see what i would like to base my story moment off of, I will using them as a guide but will deviate slightly from the source 

Update - 27 Apr 2020


Underwater kingdoms have appeared across almost every culture around the world. I will be using East Asian influences as a starting base for my design. The most prominent underwater kingdom that appears in many cultures and myths across East Asia is the 龍王宮 (Dragon King Palace) specifically the East Dragon King Palace. Although it is often depicted as a magical kingdom (that is not much difference from Chinese palaces on land) except with supernatural/fantasy elements.

I'll be setting out to design an underwater palace that has eastern influences from the Shang and Ming dynasty but will be try to make the design more 'ocean' than 'architecture' and more grounded in reality. I've gathered photos of underwater reference at varying depths too to see how the lighting changes and affects difference surfaces.

The focus on the two specific dynasty is because the most prominent pieces of literature with the East Dragon King palace playing an important roles in are Journey to the West and Investiture of the Gods. Both stories are set around the Shang dynasty and were published in the Ming dynasty. The reason I'm looking at both is that not much records remain from the Shang dynasty since it was such a long time ago, whereas the Ming dynasty has a more well rounded record.