CM . . . .
Volume VII Number 15 . . . . March 30, 2001
The image of the dragon is made up of the parts of several familiar animals. It is usually shown with a pair of deer antlers, a camel's head, a serpent's neck, a frog's belly, a fish's scales, a tiger's claws, a phantom's eyes, an eagle's nails, and an ox's ears. Perhaps each of these animals was worshiped as a tribal god by different groups of people who lived in the land that is now China.The millennium year 2000 C.E. occurred at the same time as the Chinese Year of the Golden Dragon. This convergence of a millennium year and a year of the Golden Dragon happens only once every three thousand years. Who better to mark this rare event with the creation of a book on the history of dragons than Song Nan Zhang?
Song Nan Zhang immigrated to Canada in 1989 and was followed shortly by his family after the horror of Tiananmen Square. Unable to return, he has recreated the beauty of China for the world in many highly acclaimed picture books, including A Little Tiger in the Chinese Night: An Autobiography in Art, Five Heavenly Emperors, The Children of China and Cowboy on the Steppes. He has co-authored this latest book with his son, Hao Yu Zhang, who graduated from Concordia University with a degree in journalism and who now works in London, England, for the BBC.
The dragon is an important symbol for the Chinese. Unlike the dragon of Western stories, the Chinese dragon stands for friendship and protection. The Chinese divide the calendar into twelve years with each year representing a different animal. The year of the dragon is the only year named after a mythical creature, and those born in the year of the dragon are believed to be very fortunate and gifted leaders. Hao Yu Zhang dedicates the book "To all the babies around the world born in the year 2000 - May the golden dragon bring you into a golden millennium."
A Time of the Golden Dragons begins with a history of the development of the Chinese dragon with illustrations dating from 3600 B.C.E. As the symbol of imperial power, Chinese mythology depicts the earth divided among the five emperors with the Central or Yellow Emperor as the ruling figure and the dragon as the symbol of power. The dragon has also crept into the language through powerful images and names of places, plants, people and even toys. Dragons abound at the yearly festivals on kites, boats and in the dances and parades. The Chinese have even divided each day into the twelve animals, and a chart outlines the qualities associated with each year or each hour.
Song Nan Zhang has once again produced delicate and detailed illustrations that bring to life the richness of the Chinese culture. Reach for this book to supplement a study of Chinese culture and history or mythical creatures. Readers young and not so young will delight as they learn more about the mythical dragon that has invaded so many of their childhood stories. Tundra Books has again created a well-bound, reasonably priced hardcover. A beautiful addition to any library.
Susan Fonseca is a teacher-librarian at Glenwood School in Winnipeg, MB.
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