Tuesday, 24 January 2012

enter the dragon

If you’ve been following the news, you will be aware that, according to the Chinese calendar, yesterday marked the start of the ‘year of the dragon’. If you’ve been following this blog, you will also be aware that I do not believe that the year you are born, however it is calculated, has any bearing on personality. At least the Chinese system is not easily falsifiable; it is merely irrational, unlike the Western zodiac, which is palpable nonsense (the constellations on which astrology is based are chance line-of-sight effects that will not exist in 10,000 years time). I was asked recently what I thought was the difference between astrology and astronomy. I replied that astronomy can predict the positions of stars and planets thousands of years into the future; astrology cannot.

It often surprises Westerners to learn that dragons, the embodiment of evil in their own cultures, are highly favoured in Chinese mythology. This explains the prediction that the Chinese birthrate is set to rise by 10 percent during this most propitious of years, which strikes me as a very poor reproductive strategy, because children born in such a boom year face stiffer competition within their age cohort. I’d be far more likely to aim to have children in a less favoured year, such as that of the rat, although I’d be even more likely to ignore this tosh altogether.

I’m still seriously incapacitated following my accident, but I couldn’t miss our village’s annual lion dance yesterday to welcome the new year. I know that the firecrackers are meant to scare away demons and other evil spirits, but I think the real reason for their use at this time of year is that the Chinese like making a noise. And we certainly had plenty of noise from the longest string of firecrackers I’ve ever seen. It took more than three minutes for the cacophony to end, which more than made up for the disappointing complete absence of firecrackers last year. Some photos follow, and A New Year provides more pictures and an explanation of some of the rituals associated with the lion dance.

Dotting the eyes with ink brings the lion to life.

Lion and firecrackers.

The all-percussion accompaniment to the dance, which is invariably very loud….

…but the firecrackers are louder….

…especially the ‘big bang’ at the end.

9 comments:

  1. happy dragon year dennis!
    interesting pictures. i actually don't know many chinese people trying to have dragon kids. well, that's what i call an irrational nation, no matter how many math "geniuses" in schools. isn't it interesting that many chinese people are so good at math (or science) but they don't necessarily apply the thinking style in reality.
    take care and get better soon!

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    1. Thanks for the good wishes Yun Yi. Actually, the ‘baby boom’ refers only to China, and perhaps to a lesser extent to Hong Kong. Overseas Chinese are probably more enlightened, although all the overseas Chinese I know still believe in fung shui.

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    2. chinese overseas are better, not much, either believe fung shui, or turn in christian churches, or, within so call "elite" class, "religionize" science, bmo.

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  2. I was born in the year of the dragon (1976) and I haven't grown a tail or started breathing fire yet. That would be pretty awesome if I did, tough. I'd probably get a little more respect at work.

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    1. Bryan, I’m surprised that a sceptic like you knows the animal for his birth year. On the other hand, I know mine too (dog), and I don’t believe any of it.

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    2. It was on the place mat at the Chinese buffet ;)

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  3. where is it part of hk..i live in hongkong island

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    1. Hi Terry. This is Kan Lung Wai, just outside Fanling, in the New Territories. Kan Lung Wai is a walled village, and you can just make out the walls through the smoke in the last photo.

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