Chen(辰), Year of the Dragon
Dragon is the only animal sign created out of sheer imagination with features from many other animals among all Chinese zodiac signs. Thus dragon is characterized by beast wildness mankind intelligence and immortal wisdom. What Chinese people feel about the dragon is special right from the very beginning when the dragon was created. There was dragon totem worship in the primitive society, and people believed in its almighty power that brings wind and rain in the agricultural society, and then people employed dragon as the symbol of extreme imperial power in the feudal society, all indicating its unique importance in the Chinese cultural history.
As a result of people’s affection and worship, the dragon was listed among the twelve Chinese zodiac signs and imbued with rich folk cultural connotations. In the feudal society, the emperor wore dragon robes to display his royal prerogative. Dragon robes were embroidered with wave patterns called seas-and-rivers patterns on its lower hem. The pattern indicated unity and eternity of the state. Another metaphorical meaning of dragon is an honorable success. For example, there is a traditional Chinese idiom related to dragon: Wishing One’s Child to Become a Dragon. This idiom has revealed Chinese parents’ expectation for their children to have a bright future. Furthermore. dragon is also considered the spiritual and cultural bridge to the vast Chinese majority. They call themselves the descendants of the dragon. People from other countries sometimes call China the eastern dragon out of amiability.
Dragon’s significant position in Chinese culture and its image employed in all social fields have led to many folk festivals. The Dragon Head Raising Day is on the 2nd of the second lunar month. People believe that the dragon hibernates in wintertime and wakes up on this day. After the dragon wakes up, it will first make a good rain as a start of the growing season. Most field work begins in the second lunar month. therefore people hope that the dragon will drive away all toxic bugs On the Dragon Head Raising Day, many people light candles to keep toxic bugs and animals such as scorpions and centipedes out of their houses. They also eat special food on this day, including dragon-whisker noodles, dragon-scale flat cakes and dragon-ear cakes to attract good luck. Playing dragon lanterns is a must-do activity in Spring Festival and Lantern Festival. Dragon lanterns are called dragon dance. trick the dragon or dragon lantern party in different places. There are many types of dragon lanterns including bamboo, cloth, paper, and iron skin dragon lanterns. People put candles into the body of the dragon to make dragon lanterns. Playing dragon lanterns is a folk cultural activity, which firstly aimed at praying for rains and harvests. Then it has gradually become a festival celebrating activity. Dragon boat race, on the 5th of the fifth lunar month, is another folk activity related to dragon. It was firstly used in the sacrifice ceremonies to worship the god of water or dragon by the Yue nationality at the end of the Primitive Society Age. There is another version about the origin of the dragon boat race, namely memorizing Qu Yuan, a great and loyal poet. Today, dragon boat race has become a popular and entertaining sport competition in watery laces of southern China with fixed rules as follows: all boats set off at the same time to finish the same distance: the fastest boat wins the competition; each team comprises twenty members who sit in two lines in their dragon-shaped boat; every boater has a paddle and there is one commander with a flag sitting at the head of the boat and one cheerleader playing the drum at the boat tail . This game reflects people’s affection for the dragon as well as their wishes to become as energetic as dragon.