The dragon is the fifth zodiac animal in the 12-year Chinese calendar.
In traditional Chinese culture, the term “zodiac” refers to a repeating cycle of 12 years in which each year is represented by a particular animal.
In China, “zodiac” is usually referred to as “shengxiao,” literally meaning “born resembling.”
As this term suggests, the Chinese zodiac animals are similar to the star signs more commonly used in western culture. That is to say that certain personal qualities are associated with the people born during a particular zodiac year. For instance, those born during the Year of the Ox are considered hard-working and honest.
What personal qualities are associated with those born during the Year of the Dragon?
In traditional Chinese culture, the dragon typically embodies the qualities of power, nobleness, leadership, honor, luck, and success. The dragon is often considered the most highly revered zodiac animal of all. Many years ago, it was even commonly thought that the Emperors of enormous dynasties were reincarnations of dragons!
Because of these many positive attributes associated with the dragon, there has been a considerable spike in birth rates during the Year of the Dragon in recent years. This is the result of families planning to have their children this year, hoping they’ll be born with the positive characteristics associated with the dragon.
That said, there are also some negative qualities associated with the dragon. It’s thought that they can often be considered impatient and hotheaded.
Why is the Year of the Dragon, the fifth animal in the cycle?
The order of the Chinese zodiac animals comes from an ancient, traditional Chinese story.
The story begins long ago, with the Jade Emperor deciding that there should be a way to measure and keep track of time.
To do this, on his birthday, he told all the animals in the world that there would be a swimming race. The first 12 animals to cross a long river would have a year named after them.
The winner of the race was the rat, with the dragon coming in fifth place, which is why the Year of the Dragon is the fifth year in the Chinese zodiac calendar.
When is the Chinese Year of the Dragon?
The Chinese Year of the Dragon occurs every 12 years. The next Chinese Year of the Dragon will be in 2024. These are the dates of the Chinese Year of the Dragon since the start of the 20th century (the 1900s):
1904, 1916, 1928, 1940, 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000, 2012, 2024, 2036, 2048
The Chinese Year of the Dragon will continue every 12 years after this. Each Chinese Year of the Dragon has a particular element associated with it, which is either wood, fire, earth, metal, or water.
Why are dragons important in China?
Dragons are one of the most respected and admired animals in China! Traditionally, dragons are a symbol of power and strength. They are also strong and independent. Although they may look fearsome, dragons were also seen as loving and kind creatures in Chinese myths, a little bit different from the idea of scary, fire-breathing dragons in Western culture!
Dragons have been traditionally represented as snakelike creatures with physical features of different animals, including eagle talons, deer antlers, and tiger paws. However, in many Chinese arts, dragons have been represented with whiskers on each side of their mouths and horns instead of antlers.
According to Chinese mythology, dragons lived with humans to protect and guide them after humanity was created. Chinese people refer to themselves as descendants of the dragon because the first Chinese imperial dynasty was said to have originated from dragons!
The myths say that dragons were present when the Earth was created. One of the goddesses, called Nu Kua, was part dragon herself. She started to land and made four pillars to hold up the sky. Each post had a dragon on top to hold the weight of the heavens. Nu Kua was also the creator of humans, meaning Chinese people have had a direct link to dragons from the start of their existence.
Some dragons were not as loving, though! The jealous Dragon Kings caused Nu Kua’s creations to be flooded by the Earth’s waters. But the God of Fire came to the rescue and defeated the Dragon Kings. The goddess Nu Kua then returned to Earth to repair the damage and restore her lands. She also created dragons to walk among humanity to help humans recover and restore order to ancient China. Dragons taught humans essential survival skills, like fishing techniques and agricultural skills. Art and music were also introduced to China by dragons. Some dragons were in heaven to oversee the world, ensure balance and protect Chinese people from natural calamities.
So, why are dragons important in China? Because they are protectors, teachers, and part of the Chinese people’s heritage!
Interesting facts about Chinese dragons
Dragons are associated with leadership, wealth, and power in China. These mythical creatures are fascinating, so here are some interesting facts about Chinese dragons for you to enjoy!
- Chinese dragons come in many forms, such as snake-like, turtle-like, or fish-like creatures.
- It may come as a shock to you, but Chinese dragons don’t exist in real life! However, these mythical creatures are found in many paintings and people’s imaginations.
- As water-dwelling creatures, Chinese dragons live at the bottom of the seas, rivers, and lakes.
- Chinese dragons are believed to control the weather, so they are blamed for causing natural disasters like tidal waves, storms, and floods!
- Dragons appear in many Chinese proverbs and idioms, such as ‘A dragon among men,’ which means someone who is very talented, or ‘Paint the dragon, dot the eyes’, which means adding the finishing touch to something.
- Chinese dragons are found throughout the country, with China being the country with most places named after dragons.
- Boats shaped like Chinese dragons are popular during festivals in China, especially the Dragon Boat Festival. They are long boats with carved dragon heads and long tails.
- A dragon dance is performed at many celebrations, involving a long Chinese dragon up to 70 meters made of bamboo hoops and glittering fabric.
- Chinese myth says that the dragon has nine sons with different characters, which are used in architecture, especially imperial palaces.
- Chinese dragons are even famous in the opera, as there are many Chinese opera shows with ‘dragon’ in the title.