Dragon stamp 'doesn't send wrong message'
The designer of the mainland's Year of the Dragon postage stamp has defended what some have described as a sinister-looking beast, saying it will help exorcise evil spirits and represents a confident China.
The latest Lunar New Year stamp, designed by Shenzhen-based Chen Shaohua, was released by China Post yesterday with a face value of 1.20 yuan (HK$1.47).
Tens of thousands of mainlanders joined overnight queues across the country to purchase the new stamp as a souvenir or investment, but many internet users say the dragon looks too ferocious and might send a signal to the world of an imperious China.
But Chen said the dragon would help counteract the evil spirits of 2012, with an ancient Mayan calendar cycle believed by some to foretell the end of the world in December. The symbol would also protect China's economy at a time of global uncertainty, Chen said.
'As a legendary creature in Chinese mythology, dragons have always had a dignified and awe-inspiring image,' he said.
Chen has previously designed postage stamps for the years of the monkey, pig and ox - the animals all depicted as genial.
Chen said on his microblog that the officials who approved the stamp had asked him to adjust his design and make the dragon 'kinder and more modern', but they later accepted his justifications.
Contrary to Chinese perceptions that the dragon symbolises potent and auspicious powers, many Westerners consider it evil and some critics are worried outsiders could misread the design as representing an aggressive China eager to dominate the world stage.
Chinese emperors used the dragon as a symbol of their imperial power for thousands of years.
'I haven't thought about foreigners' perceptions of a ferocious dragon and whether it represents a rising China,' Chen said, adding that he believed a rising country would exert a greater cultural influence globally, although China had not reached that stage yet.
Mainland writer Zhang Yiyi criticised Chen's design as being too self-centred and lacking in international sensitivity because the image could lead to different interpretations in Western countries.
'[The designer] obviously doesn't understand China's national strategies [on foreign policies],' Zhang said, suggesting that China Post should redesign it for better international recognition.
For several thousands of years, the traditional lunar calendar has used 12 animals to represent each year in a 12-year cycle. The Year of the Dragon will start on January 23.
This year's dragon stamp, the third of its kind issued by China Post since the founding of the People's Republic in 1949, was inspired by China's first stamp, issued by the Qing dynasty in 1878.
A creative director from China Post said the postage stamp was also inspired by the famous Nine Dragon Screen built in the Forbidden City in 1773.