What Does a New Dragon Stamp Say About China?
Many Chinese lined up on Thursday to buy a stamp commemorating China Year of the Dragon, which begins Jan. 23. But the image of the only fictional Chinese Zodiac animal has caused controversy and criticism online for appearing evil and ferocious.
For many, the image of a fang-baring, paw-brandishing dragon is too belligerent. In response, stamp designer Chen Shaohua said that the authoritative and powerful image of the dragon was meant to demonstrate a confident and rising China.
On his personal blog , he compared his design to the previous two dragon stamps. He said the one for 1988 was a traditional Chinese paper-cut dragon because China was in a difficult time of reform then, and the design intentionally played down the dragon stateliness. In 2000, the last Year of the Dragon, the government was promoting a policy of keeping a low international profile, so the design depicted an elegant and sagacious dragon.
For the year of 2012, he wrote, "As one of the most influential major states in the world, China is rebuilding its national confidence."
But many disagree. On his microblogging Sina Weibo account, Wang Ran, chief executive of boutique investment bank China eCapital Corp., compared the dragon to China notorious city inspectors, who are sometimes caught on camera beating up street vendors. "City inspectors are now on a stamp," he tweeted.
Writer Zhang Yihe wrote on her weibo she was "scared to death" by the stamp. Scholar Wu Jiaxiang uses the Chinese expression , which literally means "baring fangs and brandish paws," to describe the image. He says animals make those gestures when they are scared or startled. In a separate post, he used to stamp image to accompany his tweet about Chinese President Hu Jintao newly published essay that urges the country to defend against the West assault on the country culture and ideology.
Yet writer Xiong Peiyun says the image can be interpreted in other ways, "One is locking the ruler in a cage, and the other is keeping the power outside."