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People's Daily Online>>China Society

Much ado about new stamps and dragons

By Fei Erzi (China Daily)

16:41, January 07, 2012

A citizen shows his newly-bought stamps issued to mark the Year of Dragon in Fuzhou, capital of southeast China's Fujian Province, Jan. 5, 2012. (Xinhua/Lin Shanchuan)

BEIJING, Jan. 07 (Xinhuanet) -- A stamp is a stamp. But this is not true of all stamps. For us, the stamp that heralds the beginning of the Chinese lunar new year means a lot, though symbolically.

China Post issues a stamp with one of the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac - the rat comes first, followed by ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog and pig - at the beginning of each lunar year.

The dragon on the stamp issued for the Year of the Dragon, which begins on Jan 23, has upset many people. It looks ferocious with its fierce stare and wide-open mouth, and doesn't appeal to the eye or the mind.

Such an image of the dragon is thought to be frightening and aggressive, not in accord with the perception of a dragon that Chinese people have.

But why are we making a fuss over a legendary creature like a dragon? Simply because the animal is highly respected and revered by Chinese who, be they in or outside China, call themselves the "descendants of the dragon".

Typically, people born in the Year of the Dragon consider themselves lucky. Even those who are born in the Year of the Snake prefer to call themselves "small dragons".

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Tane Haikai at 2012-01-11124.197.12.*
Cultural intelligence among traditional Dao cultures throughout the Asia-Pacific region regard water dragons as the guardians of living water. The deeper meanings of Dao symbology represented by long-long iconography reveal superior understanding of living water and watershed ecosystems. This intelligence is unknown to western science, yet it underpins traditional Dao farming systems in China ~ called terraquaculture ~ farming living water flowing through the landscape.

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