Dragon gets global stamp of approval

Updated: 2012-01-18 08:04

By Zheng Yangpeng (China Daily)

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Dragon gets global stamp of approval

Dragon stamps issued by Canada (top), France (bottom left), and New Zealand (bottom right), to celebrate the upcoming Chinese New Year. [Photos by Xinhua]

Postal authorities around the globe bring out commemorative issues to celebrate Chinese New Year

There are a thousand Hamlets in a thousand people's eyes.

The same can be said about the dragon, an imaginary creature in Chinese and Western culture.

It can be demonstrated no better than in the variety of dragon stamps issued by nearly 20 countries and regions to celebrate the Chinese New Year.

For example, Japan features four cute dragon toys on its stamps. It also featured the Chinese character "dragon" in 10 different calligraphic styles by 10 famous calligraphers.

South Korea's dragon stamps depict a cartoon dragon embedded in snowflakes.

The United States, the first country to issue a dragon stamp in 2012, features a vibrant dragon head wielded in a traditional dragon dance. Combined with the style of Chinese paper-cutting, it is a celebration of Chinese folk culture.

The stamp issued by France features the traditional royal golden dragon and Chinese characters.

All of these were in stark contrast with the image presented by China Post. It looks ferocious with its fierce stare and wide-open mouth, which prompted a heated online debate.

"It is roaring and intimidating," a blog post read.

But experts said it was actually a design that was close to China's first stamp, issued in 1878, during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).

Chen Shaohua, the designer of the new stamp, defended his work, saying the dragon should not be too gentle, otherwise it does not match the dragon in traditional culture that was used to exorcise evil spirits, avoid disasters and bless people.

"The dragon is the deity of the 12 animals in the Chinese zodiac, and you can't modernize it like a cartoon," said Chen.

All the different interpretations are a reflection of different cultures in a globalized world, according to stamp experts.

"With stamps, the first thing I can see is the culture, the design," Canadian philatelist Daniel Wong was quoted by Xinhua as saying. "When you see the stamp you see the history too. There's a lot of information in a stamp."

"A dragon represents something out of medieval times with castles and moats and knights in the Western context," said Wendy Fung, a 25-year-old US citizen who works for a multinational company in Beijing.

"But having lived in China for some time now, I know that it also represents power, authority and divine royalty. So it totally made sense to me when I saw the dragon on China's stamp," she said.

The countries like Singapore, Canada, New Zealand, Slovenia and the United Kingdom also issued or plan to issue their own dragon stamps.

China Daily