Did you know that 2024 is the Year Of The Dragon?
The Chinese zodiac, used in many Asian countries including China, Japan, Thailand, and South Korea, ascribes animals to each year on a 12-year cycle. The story of why each animal corresponds to each year and why they’re in the order they’re in goes as follows: Once upon a time, the Jade Emperor, ruler of the gods, invited 12 animals for a race. The years of the calendar would be named after which animal reached him first. Although the dragon, being a dragon, could outspeed absolutely anything, they ended up as the 5th animal in the zodiac because they stopped to do a good deed, and were honored with the high position because of that. What the good deed was varies depending on the version of the story. Some versions include bringing rain to a starving village, putting out a fire, or helping the Rabbit who came before them, who got stuck crossing the river.
If you’re pausing on the idea of a dragon putting out a fire versus starting it, Chinese dragons are associated with water instead of fire like European dragons and often rule over rivers or oceans and are ascribed the power to bring rain. This is why some translations of the Chinese zodiac replace the dragon with a whale or sea serpent. In Buddhist calendars used in countries including Thailand and Sri Lanka, the dragon is replaced by a naga, semi-divine snake-human hybrids from Hindu and Buddhist beliefs. The connection between dragons and snakes doesn’t stop there, either! The snake follows the dragon in the zodiac, and some versions explain this via nepotism: the snake got a high position because they were the dragon’s cousin, nephew, or other relative.
Learn more about dragons with El the Reptile Overlord. Check out El’s courses at Athena’s here: