I would be completely remiss if I didn’t include this post! It’s the Lunar New Year (also known as the Chinese New Year, or Spring Festival in
China) and 2012 is the Year of the DRAGON! RAWR!
Can you imagine a celebration that lasts for 15 days, with each day bringing new ideas, festivities, presents, traditions, feasts and reverence? What a party! And this year’s is certain to be especially boisterous, because according to legend, the Chinese are descendants of dragons!
In honor of this year’s “animal” (the Dragon), a new, commemorative stamp was printed in China which caused quite a stir, as many Chinese people thought the dragon looked “too scary” or “too fierce”. Many Chinese view the dragon as graceful and lucky, a good omen, etc. and yet the artist who designed the stamp below drew inspiration from a design of “the dragon that used to adorn the Chinese emperor’s robes”. Me, I happen to think it’s cool.
The U.S. Post Office also came up with a Lunar New Year commemorative stamp (also way cool in my opinion):
One thing you may not know is that the ancient Chinese calendars used what is called the Stem-Branch system to count the days, months and years. There are 10 Stems and 12 Branches in this system. Stems are named by the Yin-Yang and Five Elements (Metal, Water, Wood, Fire and Earth). Branches use animal names. Stem and Branch are used together to form a cycle of 60 counting systems which begin with Wooden Rat and end with Water Pig. So each year has a specific “gender” (Yin or Yang) and “element” associated
with the animal. You can learn more about it here or here, if you’re interested. 2012 happens to be the Male Black Dragon or Water Dragon year (in the Five Elements, Water is associated with the color Black).
So what characteristics does Dragon bring to the table of a new year? “According to Chinese astrology, people born on the year of the dragon are said to be strong, self-assured, eccentric, intellectual, and passionate, among other things.”
“In contrast to European dragons, which are considered evil, Chinese dragons traditionally symbolize potent and auspicious powers, particularly control over water, rainfall, hurricane, and floods. The dragon is also a symbol of power, strength, and good luck. With this, the Emperor of China usually uses the dragon as a symbol of his imperial power.” (source: Wikipedia)
Did you know that Dragon has 9 sons?
The number 9 is considered sacred in China (and in many other places) and associated with heavenly, celestial power. The nine-storied pagoda is a symbol of heaven. The number nine is considered to be the luckiest number because all odd numbers are considered heavenly and nine is the highest single digit odd number; and the Chinese word for nine (jui) sounds like the Chinese word for “long” as in longevity or long life. Nine also symbolizes the nine layers of heaven and is associated with yang, male energy. (It also happens to be my personal lucky number…hmmm)
I could go on and on about dragons… I could tell you about how the number of claws an oriental dragon has depends on its place of origin!
I could tell you all about how the Chinese have 9 (surprised?) types of classical dragons!
But I think this dragon needs some sleep…and you know what they say about sleeping dragons…;)
In the meantime, Gong Xi Fa Ca! (That’s the traditional Chinese New Year greeting that means “wishing you prosperity” in Mandarin.)