2012 is the Chinese Year of the Dragon.
In Chinese mythology, dragons ( long ) are the largest supernatural creatures, embodying strength and authority. It is said that Chinese dragons are comprised of the features of other creatures: head of an ox; eyes of a prawn; ears of the elephant; mouth of the donkey; horns of a deer; whiskers of man; body of the snake; skin of a fish; feet of the Phoenix bird.
In the West the dragon is considered evil and dangerous, a malevolent being that must be slain. In the East the dragon is seen as a benevolent creature, and one that is revered as a magnificent and powerful protector of all beings.
Chinese dragons perform beneficial acts for mankind, such as generating clouds and rain which replenishes the earth and brings forth vegetables, grains…. and tea. But an angry dragon can bring on storms and water related disasters so it is best not to cross them.
The mysterious dragon can wish himself visible or not, large or small, slender or stocky. Dragon are usually depicted carrying a pearl in their mouth or under their chin, or with a pearl hovering just out of their reach. Scholars debate the meaning of the pearl, and some believe that it represents the wisdom imparted by the Sakyamuni Buddha to the Naga King (a serpentine, cobra-like creature with a human head), the first creature to receive Buddha’s teachings. When Buddhism became rooted in China, the Dragon replaced the Naga in texts and imagery.
Dragons are beloved symbols in China, and dragons images are depicted at all levels of high art such as jade carvings and scroll paintings. Chinese emperors chose to align themselves with the power of the dragon and chose the symbol of the dragon to imply their supreme authority.
In Chinese astrology, dragon years promise success, high achievement, good fortune and prosperity.