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According to the Chinese lunar calendar, every year corresponds to an animal, and there are 12 animals in the Chinese zodiac--rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog and pig. The year 2012 is the year of the dragon (long), the only mythological creature in the zodiac. The legendary image of the Chinese dragon is not unlike that of a chimera; the long has a deer's antlers, a camel's head, a hare's eyes, a snake's neck, a carp's scales, an eagle's claws, a tiger's paws, and an ox's ears.

Entering the Palace Museum, also known as the Forbidden City, one will find that everywhere has decoration of dragons in various shapes. Some coil around pillars, some fly through clouds, and some surf over wavy seas. Dragon statues are made of various materials, including stone, wood, and colored glazes.

Statistics show that the number of decorative dragons has exceeded 12,000 in the Hall of Supreme Harmony alone.

Decorative dragons in the Forbidden City are quite unique in architecture in China. Dragons in the Palace Museum are incarnations of emperors. As a result, dragons on the ceiling of the Hall of Supreme Harmony are quite fierce and dignified with wide open eyes.

Dragons in the palace are also propitious. Chi Wen, one of the nine sons of the legendary celestial dragon, can scale great heights to gaze into the distance, and is considered to be able to ward off fires, along with other dragons on the ridges of roofs and on copper jars on the ground.

Looking at snakes swimming in water and lightning in the sky, ancestors, living in dangerous environment, regarded nature with rapt awe. They originally worshipped the dragon as a totem.

As the dragon symbolizes good fortune in Chinese culture and folklore, one may also see dragons decorating on bronze vessels and porcelain wares of relics. People race dragon boats and perform the fire dragon dance to celebrate holidays even today.

The dragon enjoys the highest position compared with any other creatures in the eyes of Chinese people. It is able to control the forces of nature, fly across the sky and transform into different shapes. Emperors imagined themselves as representatives of the celestial dragon, and the people considered they are descendants of the dragon. According to legend, the celestial dragon has nine sons, each with different manifestations, pictured below.

Dragons are associated with wisdom and longevity. People born under this zodiac sign are considered to be innovative and willing to take risks to achieve success. Dreamers, dragons are ambitious, but prefer to work at their own pace, and are destined to have good fortune before the age of 35, according to Baidu.com.

Happy New Year | The Year of the Tiger | Happy Year of the Rabbit
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