Officially beginning with the Chinese Lunar New Year on 10th February, 2024 is the year of the dragon.
Unlike in the West, where stories typically feature terrifying monsters who eat children, terrorise villages and have to be destroyed by chivalrous knights, in Asian folklore dragons are usually honoured and respected for their strength and courage.
Writing for The Japan Times recently, Kathryn Wortley noted that the year of the dragon is particularly considered special as it is the only mythical — and the most powerful — creature of the 12-animal Chinese zodiac.
She writes, “The legendary magical beast is symbolic of authority, honour and dignity, particularly in China, where it has represented imperial power since ancient times.” Historically in China, it was only emperors who were allowed to wear dragon designs on their robes, perhaps because it is said that the emperors were reincarnations of dragons themselves. The use of this creature has continued until today, perhaps most strikingly seen in dragon dances that are often performed at festival celebrations – including new year of course, when people hope it will bring good fortune and protection for the coming year.
This reverence of the dragon has influenced other cultures across Asia, which have adopted and adapted the symbolism for themselves.
In my old home of Japan – particularly Ishikawa prefecture where I lived for three years – the year of the dragon did not start well at all. But it is early days. Many will be hoping for a turnaround for the rest of 2024. According to the zodiac traditions, the dragon is adventurous, ambitious, self-confident and determined.
More specifically, 2024 is the year of the wood dragon, associated with trees, forests and greenery, and considered the most creative and visionary of the dragons, meaning that 2024 will be a year full of possibilities and opportunities.
One website I came across while writing this blog went so far as to suggest specific business sectors that would do well this year – fintech, AI, cybersecurity, blockchain, and solar energy apparently being driven by innovation and demand for cutting-edge solutions, fit nicely with the wood dragon characteristics. (Should insurers considering investment in AI take note?!)
But even if you don’t subscribe to this level of detail (and I confess I do not), there is something inspiring about the wood dragon’s symbolism. You may simply hope that the dragon will now roar into action, bringing transformation, growth, adventure and other good things. Or you can choose it proactively for yourself. A dragon is a powerful symbol to adopt for the year. You might want to transform your relationships, health, business – perhaps even your PR strategy? If so, I wish you good fortune and the strength of the dragon!
If you’d like to be inspired by some beautiful artwork, click here to view some stunning dragon themed Japanese new year cards.