Chinese New Year 2015


Chinese New Year 2015

The Chinese Dragon and the Flaming Pearl


Chinese New Year 2015 is 19th February and this year is the Year of the Sheep. However, the most enduring image of Chinese New Year Festivals is that of the writhing dragon with a huge pearl under his chin. This image of the dragon chasing a pearl surrounded by flames is also commonly seen in embroideries and in paintings.

So, what does it mean? In Western literature and mythology, the dragon is a frightening creature to whom hapless young women are sacrificed but in Chinese tradition this apparently fearsome beast is benign and is a symbol of good fortune. What about the pearl? The dragon seems to be forever chasing it but never catching it! This elusive pearl is a symbol of wisdom and truth after which all people seek but seldom find as wisdom and truth often escape us and disappear behind clouds of doubt and ignorance! The pearl is also symbolic of perfection and spiritual enlightenment, so in Buddhism, the “jewel in the lotus” is a pearl that grants all wishes.

The lotus flower grows out of dark and muddy water but, enclosed within the bud, protected by layers of petals, is the heart of the flower. So, the mythology says that the lotus is like the human being – born from darkness but developing through life with petals unfolding, gaining greater wisdom until, with effort, we discover our soul – enlightenment - which is like the pearl in the centre of the flower. The Buddhist chant :”Om mani padme hum” means “Praise to the jewel in the lotus”.

I never thought, when I began to look into the story of the pearl, that a simple thing formed by a lowly mollusc from the secretions of its mantle, could mean so many things to so many people!

There is another Chinese legend of a boy and a pearl. The boy, whose name was Nie Lang, lived in Szechuan with his mother. One day he found a dragon’s pearl in the grass and took it home, putting it in a rice jar for safety. The next morning the rice jar, which had been empty, was overflowing with rice. The same thing happened wherever the pearl was stored – empty food vessels were full the next morning. Nie Lang and his mother shared their good luck with their neighbours, giving food wherever it was wanted and nobody went hungry again, but the fame of the miraculous pearl spread like wildfire rousing jealousy amongst the greedy. An attempt was made to steal the pearl from Nie Lang (some said it was Lord Zhou, Nie Lang’s master), but Nie Lang swallowed the pearl and was turned into a dragon, who, to this day, is the guardian of the pearl.

So, happy Chinese New Year to all. Wear pearls and may they bring you wisdom, joy and prosperity!

Posted On: 23/02/2015

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