The Chinese New Year is one of the most celebrated holidays on earth. Occurring annually between January and February, the Chinese New Year adheres to the ancient Chinese calendar and is often regarded as being the Eastern version of Christmas. Chinese New Year is the single biggest holiday in China (and anywhere that has a sizable Chinese population—including the United States) and public celebrations usually include many parades, fireworks, and colorful decorations—especially in hues of gold and red.
One of the most iconic characters/creatures in Chinese mythology is the “dancing” dragon. Unlike their fierce European counterparts, Chinese dragons are regarded as being lucky, not evil, and they can even be friendly and playful rather than fire-breathing monstrosities. The Chinese New Year is distinctive because each year has a zodiac animal attached to it. There are 12 animals in the Chinese Zodiac: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep (or Goat), Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Pig—Dragons actually contain parts of all the other animals. Hence, “Dragon Years” are considered to be exceptional (even though “Rabbit Years” are luckiest). Individuals who follow the Chinese Zodiac view people who are born in a “Dragon Year” as potentially great and passionate leaders who can also be tactless and arrogant.
Chinese dragons are also incredibly distinctive looking. Beautifully rendered in drawings, paintings, sculptures, or even fabrics (including the detailed dragon costumes worn by performers at parades), Chinese dragons have become beloved and instantly recognizable fixtures all across the globe. In recent years, Americans and Europeans have increasingly embraced Chinese New Year. For example, in New York thousands of people flock to Manhattan’s Chinatown to see the spectacular parade. The promise of seeing “dancing” Chinese dragons has a lot to do with the appeal of the event.
Although most people know what Chinese dragons look like, fewer know any in-depth facts about them. Thus, below are some interesting bits of information about this gorgeous mythical creature:
• In Chinese mythology, dragons have a very positive connotation. They are regarded as strong creatures that are signs of good fortune. They are also symbols of powerful figures such as political leaders and warriors.
• In yin yang philosophy, yin represents female energy and darkness whereas yang represents male energy and light. Chinese dragons are yang and the phoenix is yin. The phoenix is rendered as gentle and graceful, opposed to the powerful dragon.
• In the Chinese language, there are many words for “dragon” and most of them end in “l-o-n-g.” For example, “shenlong,” means “god dragon” and “dilong” means “earth dragon.”
• Chinese dragons are associated with the number nine. Dragons are often displayed in sets of nine or with nine features.
• Dragon boat racing, a type of boat racing using boats specially decorated with a carved dragon’s head, is an annual event held during Chinese New Year.
• Both ancient and modern Chinese artists and sculptors often depict dragons as winged, horned, creatures with hawk-like claws and tiger-like paws. Dragon imagery is in high demand on items like pottery and dishware.
• In some traditional Chinese religions the dragon is worshiped as a holy creature.
• In modern day China the dragon symbol is used mostly for decorative purposes. However, it is still a cultural taboo to disfigure a depiction of a dragon.
Happy New Year!