Monday, January 23, 2012

A THING OF BEAUTY


I am sharing this beautiful picture of a dragon underneath the Chinese graph for dragon partly because it was cross-stitched by hand for a friend by his wife and partly because it is Chinese New Year. The biggest celebration for a Chinese family is the dinner on the eve of the New Year. Visits to each other's homes are usually done on the second day. The celebrations climax on the fifteenth day when young girls were allowed out (with chaperons) to cast their eyes on young men. In many cultures that share this lunar New Year, the young maidens were also allowed to cast oranges or orange peel or tennis balls at the object of their sighs.

Together with the twelve animals that make up the cycle of years, there are also the Five Elements--Earth, Water, Wood, Fire and Metal/Gold. This year is the Year of the Water Dragon. The Five Elements are a BIG DEAL in classical Chinese thought but the best analysis I know of this subject, B. Schwartz, The World of Thought in Ancient China, is a very difficult book. I confess I do not understand the many passages that deal with the Five Elements. Combined, the 12 animals and the 5 elements constitute the 60 year cycle, also a BIG DEAL in classical Chinese thinking but often used more popularly. Populist rebellions often talk of a New Cycle beginning, justifying the overthrow of the current kingdom or existing empire. In these cases, the 60 years are not to be taken literally; a long reign of incompetence, oppression, or bad harvests is about to be replace by something better, so the theory goes.

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