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Lunar New Year 2016

Interesting Trivia

Dragons are considered to be strong and intelligent creatures, able to bring good fortune.

Dragons are seen as symbols of political leaders and warriors.

In Chinese mythology, dragons are considered to be yang, while phoenix is yin. While the dragon is extremely powerful, the phoenix is gentle and graceful.

Those born in the Year of the Dragon are thought to be decisive, passionate, leaders but also tactless and intolerant.  Next dragon year is 2024.

In some Chinese religions, the dragon is revered as a holy creature.

Dragon Heads-raising day is celebrated the second day of the second lunar month—the day that the dragon awakes and raises its head, according to folk legend.

The Dragon Boat Festival (Duanwu) is celebrated with dragon boat races on the fifth day of the fifth month of the traditional lunar calendar.  

The San Francisco Chinese New Year dragon procession is the world’s largest outside of Asia:

  • Elaborate floats, school marching bands, stilt walkers, lion dancers, Chinese acrobatics
  • The dragon is made on a skeleton of bamboo and rattan,
    • It takes a team of 100 men and women to carry the Golden Dragon.
  • Golden dragon grand finale
    • 201 feet long
    • over 600,000 firecrackers!
  • It is considered an honor to be chosen for the grand finale.

Auspicious Power of the Chinese Dragon

The Chinese Dragon, as seen here, is a familiar star in the Lunar New Year celebrations and parades around the world. Why is it important? How did it become the revered and honored symbol that it is today?   

Dragon lore is deeply rooted in the Chinese culture, so much so that the Chinese consider themselves to be “descendants of the dragon.” Chinese myths say that dragons were present during the Earth’s creation—earth-bound rain gods who lived in lakes and rivers, as well as celestial creatures that created balance in the world and protected the Chinese people. 

Image Credit: http://traditions.cultural-china.com/chinaWH/images/arbigimages/0543d6e9e92e7039a774c7edf8c06284.jpg

In ancient times, the Chinese tribes revered totems of certain animals or plants, which connected them to their ancestors and served as protectors and guardians of the people and the land; each tribe had a unique totem. The tribal totem of Central China, on the Yellow River, was the snake, which was called “dragon.” The dragon tribe was mighty in battle and as it conquered other tribes, it took ownership of their totems, adding other animals’ parts to the dragon. The “dragon” evolved into the creature of nine resemblances: Head of a camel, horns of a deer, eyes of a demon, ears of a bull, neck of a snake, belly of a clam, scales of a carp, claws of an eagle, and paws of a tiger. It was regarded as a god of rain, thunder, the rainbow, and the stars and it was revered as the source of all that brought good to the people and the natural environment.

In the feudal society that was established after the tribal wars, the ruling emperors believed that they had the celestial dragons’ blood in their veins, and therefore carried the wisdom and benevolence of their dragon ancestors. The Dragon was adopted as a symbol of imperial power and strength; the emperors’ beds, thrones, and robes were all adorned with dragons, which they hoped would bring good fortune to their lands, and success to their people.

The legends and myths of the Chinese dragon have influenced the beliefs and traditions of Chinese culture.  Dragons are still associated with bodies of water, represent masculine energy, and are thought of as helpful, friendly creatures. Dragons are usually featured in sculptures, paintings, and design and They are one of the twelve animals in the Chinese zodiac. Dragons were regularly invoked in time of drought and the dragon dance originated as a ritual designed to encourage rain.

The dragon dance remains the most spectacular and extravagant way to express fondness for the dragon. It is performed during the two week-long Lunar New Year festivities, culminating in noisy and colorful parades, during which the dragon is honored and celebrated with a dragon procession. The dragon is brightly colored, and elaborately decorated with silver horns, gold and blue eyes, feathers, glitter and sequins, creating a beautiful fantasy. The dragon is very long, constructed on poles, and fluidly carried through the streets by martial arts students. Beating drums, clashing cymbals, and exploding firecrackers accompany the dragon in hopes of scaring away evil and bad luck. The Chinese Dragon is regarded as the ultimate symbol of good fortune. 

Credit

References

Allan, T., and Phillips, C. (1999). Land of the dragon: Chinese myth. London, England: Duncan Baird.

The almighty dragon. (2003). Retrieved from http://www.chinaculture.org/gb/en_chinaway/2004-02/25/content_45896.htm

Botsford, J.. (2015, May 27)  Retrieved from http://resources.primarysource.org/chinesedragon

China. (2000). In R.H. Griffing and A.H. Shurgin (Eds.), Junior Worldmark Encyclopedia of World Holidays. (Vol. 4, pp. 347-361).  Retrieved from http://www.gale.cengage.com/gvrl

Chinese dragon. (1998-2015) Retrieved from http://www.travelchinaguide.com/intro/social_customs/dragon_lion.htm

Chinese New Year parade. (2015) Retrieved from http://www.sanfranciscochinatown.com/events/chinesenewyearparade.html

Dragons. (2009). In UXL Encyclopedia of World Mythology. (Vol. 2, pp. 317-320). Retrieved from http://www.gale.cengage.com/gvrl

Orrill, J. (N.d.) Why are dragons important in Chinese culture?  USA Today Travel.  Retrieved from http://traveltips.usatoday.com/dragons-important-chinese-culture-100723.html

Wu, A. (2015, October 20). The Chinese Dragon: A Symbol of Strength and Power. Retrieved from http://www.chinahighlights.com/travelguide/article-chinese-dragons.htm

The content of this page was made possible by the hard work of Associate Librarian Maria Bartolotti.