The year 2012 is also the Year of the Dragon according to the Chinese lunar calendar. The mighty and mythical creature appears in many legends and fairytales around the world. However, different cultures produced various types of dragons with distinctive features. The Chinese dragon is a far different beast from its Western counterparts.
In all the cultures, the dragon combines parts from different animals, such as a snake's body and large, powerful claws. Sometimes, it has features such as a strong body covered with scales, a head with horns or ruffles, sharp teeth and a long tail. Most of the Western dragons have wings and breathe fire.
"Drache" means "dragon" in German. It is derived from "draco" in Latin and "drakon" in Greek, which both mean "snake." In the Western cultures, Dragon is regarded as an evil being, a destroyer and a transmitter of disasters, making it the enemy of everything in the world. The dragons are always killed by brave heroes in Western folktales.
In North European and the Germanic Culture, dragon-slayer Siegfried is such a hero. In "The Song of the Nibelungs," an epic poem in Middle High German, he killed a dragon and then bathed in its blood, which rendered him invulnerable.
However, the Chinese dragon is an auspicious creature. In the ancient times, the dragon was the symbol of imperial power. Even today, as a magical creature beloved by the people, it still represents wealth, wisdom, success, power and good fortune. Chinese people proudly claim that they are the descendants of the dragon. The dragon also often appears in the publications of Western media as the symbol of China.
In fact, dragons have become positive characters in many Western music dramas and children literary works, such as Tabaluga, a cartoon character created by German Rock musician Peter Maffay, and Grisu, a young dragon in an Italian story.
Nowadays, most Europeans understand that dragon is a lucky creature in China, and it is one of the 12 Chinese Zodiac Signs. Chinese dragon is kind, friendly and even humorous, instead of a harbinger of evil and misfortune.
(China.org.cn by Xu Lin February 7, 2012)