Of Dragons and New Year

I was watching a PBS special last night that morphed a profile of Hong Kong with an exploration of the Dragon as a symbol. As you may know, the Year of the Dragon starts Monday with the Aquarius New Moon (additional coverage here). I have long been a fan of dragons and of being born in a Dragon year, though I didn’t look in detail at the symbolism. The program, which I’m not finding easily but I’m sure it’s available, made the point I’ve always noticed — of the 12 Chinese animals he’s the one who “doesn’t really exist.”

The segment described how the Dragon is composed of a morph of the whiskers of a catfish, the claws of a bear, the body of a serpent (though with scales), and a diversity of other best attributes that give him a fearsome strength. The Dragon is a blend of Yin and Yang energies — the scales are evenly distributed with these energies.

In the East, he’s considered the benefactor, the one who stands guard over good fortune. In the Western world he’s been reduced to a shadow of fear, with our terms like “slaying dragons” meaning to get rid of deep issues. Even in The Hobbit, the dragon is presumed to be evil and is killed. The Dragon appears throughout Chinese culture in his role as proector and guardian. I was vaguely aware that people in Asia would plan to have their children during Dragon years, which says a lot about how much respect this supposedly imaginary critter has.