The youngest dragon people are those born in the year 2012. Those born under this sign are believed to be lively, intellectual, energetic and excitable. They have the potential to become leaders and often go for perfection. When they meet with difficulties, they are not discouraged. They are also said to be magnanimous, romantic and sensitive about their reputation. However, dragon people can be arrogant, impatient and over-confident.
There are many well known dragons, amongst them Sigmund Freud, Joan of Arc, Bruce Lee, Florence Nightingale, Robin Williams, John Lennon, Nicholas Cage, Salvador Dali, Frank Sinatra, and former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping.
The dragon plays an important part in Chinese culture and some believe themselves to be "descendants of the dragon." Indeed, emperors in ancient China placed much importance on this mythical beast and immortalised dragons on beds, ceremonial robes and upon decorative features around their imperial palaces.
Wherever one travels in China there are dragons displayed everywhere; at temples, in parks and even restaurants. In fact many parks and restaurants use the dragon in their name, though the character used is often the traditional version (龍) rather than the simplified character (龙). The reason is mainly due to the aesthetics of the traditional form.
Use in language
There are hundreds of Chinese idioms carrying the 龙 character, the majority of them have to do with the authority, dignity, honour, success, luck, and capacity of this animal sign.
Wàng zǐ chéng lóng (望子成龙, lit. “expect offspring to be dragons”) is used to describe those who have high expectations for their children whether in their study or career.
Interestingly, in Chinese culture, a good son-in-law is also compared to the dragon. Thus is born the phrase dé xù rú lóng (得婿如龙, lit. to have a son-in-law like a dragon) and chéng lóng kuài xù (乘龙快婿) used for a talented and good-looking son-in-law.
Dragons, phoenix and tigers
Many idioms also incorporate the phoenix (fèng 凤) and often infer auspiciousness and excellence. For example Lóng yuè fèng míng (龙跃凤鸣 lit. dragon jump, phoenix sound) is used to describe people who are exceptionally gifted, whilst Lóng fèng chéng xiáng (龙凤呈祥, lit. Dragon & Phoenix presents auspiciousness) is used to described prosperity.
The dragon and phoenix are often used in ancient imperial symbolism, the dragon symbolising male power while the phoenix reflects femininity. In more recent times, however, the two are commonly associated with marriage and are seen on wedding garments, gifts, cards and other items.
Other animals, especially the tiger and the horse, are also used in idioms along with the dragon. Having the spirit of a dragon horse, or lóng mǎ jīng shén (龙马精神), and acting doughty like a dragon and lively like a tiger, shēng lóng huó hǔ (生龙活虎), are used to vividly describe people full of vigour or full of beans.
Meanwhile, lóng zhēng hǔ dòu (龙争虎斗, dragon contest, tiger fight) is often used to describe a fierce struggle between two evenly-matched opponents.
Similarly rén zhōng lóng hǔ (人中龙虎, lit. dragon tiger amongst people) is a phrase used to identify one or more individuals who are exceptionally gifted and stand out from the crowd.
It is believed that a dragon will be given life and bestowed with divinity when its eyes are dotted, a custom often acted out during Chinese new year festivities.
A phrase drawn from this is huà lóng diǎn jīng (画龙点睛, lit. to dot and paint the dragon, but translates as “the finishing touch”) which the Chinese use to describe the few words that summarize an idea or describe something succinctly. The phrase may also be used to refer to the final touches applied to a physical object such as a painting, book or sculpture.
Nowadays there are few people who see the dragon as anything more than a mythical creature, though the worship of the Dragon Kings as rulers of water and weather continues in some areas of China. Nonetheless the dragon, the character and its symbolism is deeply ingrained in many Chinese cultural traditions and especially the Chinese New Year celebrations.
On that note we must leave the dragon. Next time we shall talk about the snake, the next animal sign in the Chinese Zodiac.