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2012: The Year of the Dragon

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DINNER IN HONOR OF WU TING-FAN, HIS IMPERIAL CHINESE MAJESTY'S ENVOY EXTRAORDINARY AND MINISTER PLENIPOTENTIARY TO THE UNITED STATES, SPAIN AND PERU [held by] LOTOS CLUB [at] "LOTOS CLUB, NEW YORK, NY" (OTHER (CLUB);), Digital ID 476289, New York Public Library

According to the Chinese Lunar Calendar, 2012 is the Year of the Dragon. In the Chinese zodiac, the dragon is equivalent to the Aries in Western tradition.

January 23, 2012 to February 9, 2013 will mark the Year of the Dragon. According to tradition, the dragon is the fifth animal in the Chinese zodiac and symbolizes loyalty — it is noble, gentle, and intelligent, but also tactless, stubborn, and dogmatic. Those born on 2012, 2000, 1988 or any 12-year multiple are born into the Year of the Dragon and may share these personality traits. Interestingly, the dragon as a legendary creature also appears in many Western folk traditions.    

Ancient Chinese. [Maneuvering the dragon(description of card No. 18)]. , Digital ID 1254038, New York Public LibraryAncient Chinese Maneuvering the Dragon

Ancient Chinese. [The Imperial dragon, with five claws]., Digital ID 410907, New York Public LibraryThe Imperial Dragon, with Five ClawsSome people may host special dinners on the eve of January 22, 2012 to mark a new year of happiness and prosperity. From America to Australia, Chinese New Year is widely celebrated and has a history that can be traced back to Ancient China.  

This is an exciting moment for family, friends, and the community — reunions, gatherings, greetings, and feasts abound. In major cities with large Chinese communities, the streets are often filled with parades of firecrackersdancing, and singing, and are illuminated by the color red, which represents fortune in Chinese culture.

Depending on the parents/caregivers, children may be given an unofficial day off from school. Many will also receive a lucky red envelope, known as hóngbāo, which contains cash to ensure prosperity for the receiver and the giver (a family member or family friend who is married). Both will greet each other with this phrase, gōngxǐ fā cái (恭喜發財in Mandarin-Chinese which translates as congratulations and be prosperous).

Hóngbāo (Red Envelop in Chinese)Hóngbāo (Red Envelop in Chinese)

According to an Ancient Chinese Mythology, the animals were competing to meet the Jade Emperor; the years of the calendar would be named after them and the order of their arrival to the banquet. In the mythology, it states that the "cat" overslept and did not make it to the party and hence not listed in the calendar. Here is a list of the order of animals:

  • Rat: 2008, 2020, 2032 ...
  • Ox: 2009, 2021, 2033 ...
  • Tiger: 2010, 2022, 2034 ...
  • Rabbit: 2011, 2023, 2035 ...
  • Dragon: 2012, 2024, 2036 ...
  • Snake: 2013, 2025, 2037 ...
  • Horse: 2014, 2026, 2038 ...
  • Ram: 2015, 2027, 2039 ...
  • Monkey: 2016, 2028, 2040 ...
  • Rooster: 2017, 2029, 2041 ...
  • Dog: 2018, 2030, 2042 ...
  • Pig: 2019, 2031, 2043 ...

Dragon Character in Chinese (Lóng)Dragon Character in Chinese (Lóng)

At NYPL, to express our enthusiasm for the Chinese New Year traditions, we've highlighted some resources relating to the Chinese New Year and to dragons in general!

As they say in Mandarin Chinese, xin nian kuai le! (shin nee-ahn kwai la) 新年快樂! — Happy New Year!

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Dragons

The Dragon was the symbol of the Ming Dynesty in China. It is supposed to bring good luck. Besides luck the dragon also symbolizes: power, prosperity and love.

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