Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Year of the Dragon

Dragons and dragon motifs are featured in many works of modern literature, particularly within the fantasy and science fiction genres. Prominent works depicting dragons include JRR Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, JK Rowling’s Harry Potter novels, and Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern.

Even the popular role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons makes heavy use of dragons, and has served as inspiration for many other games' dragons. Though dragons usually serve as adversaries, they can be either good or evil.

Since 2012 will be the Year of the Dragon – let me show you dragons that have been featured in movies, paintings, and so on:

Saint George and the Dragon, painted by Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino, or more popularly known as Raphael (1483-1520)

Dragons from "The Nine Dragons" handscroll (九龍圖卷), painted by Chen Rong in 1244

Falkor the luckdragon in the movie The NeverEnding Story (1984)

Draco in the movie DragonHeart (1996)

Mushu in the movie Mulan (1998)

Haku Dragon in the movie Spirited Away (2001)

“Dragon”, the she-dragon in the movie Shrek (2001)

A male dragon in the movie Reign of Fire (2002)

A Hungarian Horntail in the movie Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005)

Saphira in the movie Eragon (2006)

Toothless, the “Night Fury” dragon in the movie How to Train Your Dragon (2010)

Dragon Bridge in Ljubljana, Slovenia
Dragon in Changhua city, Taiwan. Image credit:

The Golden Dragon, listed as the longest in the Malaysia Book of Records, at Lao Zi temple along Jalan Sungei Lembing in Kuantan, Malaysia. Image credit:

Red dragon (Welsh: Y Ddraig Goch) on the flag of Wales

Druk, the Thunder Dragon on the flag of Bhutan

In Chinese culture especially, dragons are highly regarded and even revered. So it is fitting that a set of special edition stamps to celebrate the Lunar New Year went on sale Thursday:

The Year of the Dragon stamps, the third dragon set issued by China Post since 1949, used a design close to China's first stamp, which was issued in 1878 during the Qing Dynasty, when emperors still ruled the country.

The stamp set is drawing ferocious criticisms for its fang-bearing ‘monster’.

"When I saw the design of the dragon stamp in a newspaper, I was almost scared to death," Zhang Yihe, a noted writer said in a microblog post on

Another writer, Tan Xudong, called it an "incomparably ugly dragon-year stamp."

Its designer, Chen Shaohua, said he had received criticism, abuse and support for the stamp, brought out ahead of the Chinese New Year, which is Jan. 23. Chen has defended his design, saying that the dragon should be interpreted as a symbol of China's rising confidence.

According to China’s The Global Times newspaper, Chen said that his design derives from the pattern on "dragon robes" worn by Chinese emperors – whose symbol was the dragon – in the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) and a screen featuring dragons in a Beijing park that was a pleasure ground for the emperor.

A popular myth claims that Chinese people are descended from the dragon, and many believe it's an auspicious symbol.

The controversial dragon stamp is already ushering in good fortune for some. One stamp seller was reportedly selling a set of 20 for 178 yuan ($28) — much higher than the 24 yuan ($4) face value.

I don’t understand this furor. It’s, after all, just a picture on an adhesive paper label.

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