The Washington Post

Year of the Dragon: Chinese debate if national stamp sends out wrong message

It’s a perplexing P.R. problem. In Chinese lore, dragons represent good luck, power and royalty. In the West, they are portrayed often as fire-breathing monsters (well, except for Puff the Magic Dragon).

How can China export its idea of the dragon without scaring its neighbors or the West?

A man shows a stamp featuring a dragon for the Chinese New Year. (AP)

Chinese microbloggers are asking themselves that question after a national stamp was issued in honor of the coming Chinese New Year on Jan. 23. That’s the day the Year of the Rabbit will give way to the Year of the Dragon. In commemoration, the stamp bears a looming dragon, mouth agape, claws bared.

Internet users have flooded the Weibo microblog service with criticism using words such as “roaring,” “intimidating” and “ferocious” to describe the image of the dragon. Others, including the stamp’s designer, say it’s time the Chinese embrace their powerful symbol.

The vice foreign minister, Cui Tiankai, was asked about the stamp at a press briefing for foreign reporters Monday. He laughed it off, but also assured reporters, “China has chosen a path of peaceful development.”

Still, the debate caused one newspaper, the China Daily, to wonder if China should consider a rebranding solution. “Because the word “dragon” is associated with the ferocious creature of Western folklore, perhaps a new word is needed, such as “Long,” as the name in Chinese is pronounced.

Will it be a Happy Year of the Long?


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