Dragon & Dragon & Dragon year
23 Jan 2012 to 9 Feb 2013 is the next dragon year of China. The ancient Chinese created a 12-year cycle of Chinese zodiac which is represented by 12 different animals. They are rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog, pig. Dragon is the 5th in this cycle, but the most popular, and the only mythical creature.
The figure of typical Chinese dragon has a long scaled serpentine body, two short antlers, four lizard legs, and chicken claws. They are either flying in the sky or swimming under water, controlling wind, cloud, rain, and hurricane.
The Chinese dragons usually symbolize divine power, nobility, strength, success, superiority and auspiciousness. Dragon dance and dragon boat race are very popular activities of celebrating Chinese traditional festivals, especially in dragon year like the following one. And sometimes the successful and outstanding person is described as ‘the dragon in human’.
In a very long historical period of China, the dragon is also associated with Divine Right of the Chinese emperor who usually claimed themselves as “the true dragon and son of the heaven”. Consequently during this period, only the royal family (or sometimes the upper noble) can use the dragon pattern as decoration, and particularly only the emperor can use the pattern of golden dragon with five claws.
Similar to the European zodiac theory, Chinese also believe in zodiac characters. A man will be characterized with the zodiac animal of his birth year. And because of the positive characters of Chinese dragon, many Chinese parents schedule their pregnancy in order to have dragon baby. It is believed that there might be a new baby boom in China in the following dragon year, the estimated figure for Beijing city is more than 200,000 new births.
Different from the Chinese one, the European dragon is usually portrayed as a huge fire-breathing or poisonous, scaly and horned dinosaur-like creature, with bat-like wings (sometimes leathery), lizard legs and a long muscular tail. Dragons, in many European stories, usually live in cave, guard treasures and keep fairy, nymph, or princess like beings as prisoners.
The impression of evil, aggressive, fierce, and fire breathing monster is probably thanks to the enormous Christian influence once all over the European land. The “Book of Revelation” twice refers to ‘the dragon, that ancient serpent, which is called the devil and Satan.’ And there are various stories and mythologies about how Saint George fought against an evil dragon.
However, there are also many similarities between Chinese and European dragons. For example, both Chinese and European dragons are usually immortal, but can age; and both of them are strongly associated with water. The carving of dragon is one of the common decorations of Viking ships, and Chinese dragon is worshipped as the god of water.
In the Celtic mythology, dragon also symbolizes power and reign. The Celtic word for chief is ‘Pendragon’ and Uther Pendragon is the name of legendary king of sub-Roman Britain and the father of King Arthur. One of the ancient tales of Merlin suggests that the red dragon, which is still in the national flag of Wales, represents the Celtic reign over Lloegy(Welsh for England).
In the ancient Chinese stories and folklores, there are actually a full category of dragons and sub-dragons that vary by number of horns, shape, scale, legs, claws, and wings. Yes, with wings. In a series of famous Chinese ancient mythologies, there is a dragon with wings, side with the good people, fighting against evil dragons, sub-dragons and other beings. And in some modern fictional arts this dragon (Ying Long) is portrayed very similar to the European dragon. One of these tales is called ‘Master Yu Regulated Waters’.
In another famous Chinese book ‘the journey to the west’ (written in 16th century), dragon lords are the gods that controlling different seas, rivers, streams, and the rainfalls of the world. Instead of the general impression of untouchable, awesome and almighty figures, they are more middle management figures. And the same as the Homeric Olympian gods, they are not only able to exercise the impossible, but also have inept human-like qualities. They have some power, but also have heavy worries; they are honest, but also cunning; they are responsible to their duty, but also caring about family.
This kind of personification happens also in the western modern fictions, where dragons are usually powerful and highly intelligent, and sometimes can shift into human forms. In one of the stories of “The Dragonlance Chronicles” a female silver dragon is falling in love with a young knight Huma, and carries him to fight against Takhisis the queen of darkness – a five head evil dragon.
There are too many charming stories to tell about this legendary creature, nevertheless, ahead of the coming dragon year, Absolute China Tours wishes everyone of you becomes the ‘dragon in human’, earns more than dragon’s treasure, and lives as long as a dragon.