The festive season might seem long gone and the next opportunity for some sort of celebration is for many still weeks – Carnival- if not months away. Yet use a different calendar and it’s a time to be merry all over again. Today marks the start of the Chinese New Year and it promises to be a year of mythical proportion as this, good people, is the year of the dragon.
Although the Chinese have been using the western Gregorian calendar for everyday business dealings since 1912, the Chinese calendar is still used to mark traditional Chinese and other East Asian holidays. This system of reckoning time is lunisolar, which means it incorporates both elements of a lunar calendar – the Islamic year for example is lunar- and a solar calendar, like the western Gregorian calendar. Earliest evidence of the Chinese calendar have been found on bones used for divination during the late Shang Dynasty (1200- 1046 BCE). During the Era of the Warring States from ca 450- 260 BCE one started to use a more precisely calculated system due to the advancements made in astronomy and mathematics. During the rule of the seventh emperor of the Han Dynasty Emperor Wu, known for overseeing great territorial expansion and the organisation of a strong centralised Confucian state, several reforms where introduced to the system that are still part of the Chinese calendar as it is used today.
Unlike western astrology that does have a popular following, but is also often being scorned as silly superstition and pseudoscience, Chinese astrology is linked to Chinese philosophy and is of far greater significance in everyday life and culture for people in China and the wider region. The twelve animal signs of the Chinese zodiac have long been the subject of folktales and the personality traits linked to these animals are common knowledge. Many in the region build relationships and make important life decisions based on the zodiac. According to the teachings of Chinese astrology after the year of the rabbit, follows the year of the dragon, which is to herald a period of prosperity. In Western culture dragons are often associated with evil and the devil taking the shape of a seven-headed dragon in its battle against Archangel Michael in the Book of Revelations is not doing the creature’s reputation any favours. In the East however, dragons are considered to be mythical and divine creatures with superior powers, which are to bring us good fortune. So let the year of the dragon coincide with our year of fabulousness. Here is to the free spirit, the big ideas, the even bigger execution, the prosperity and the divine energies of Dragon that dwell within all of us.