Although it’s old news at this point, through the fine mechanism of RSS I stumbled upon a story in the China Daily about China’s long association with the dragon. Apparently a Chinese university professor is upset because Westerners have a different image of the dragon than the traditional Chinese one.
"I saw some Western media used the word ‘dragon’ to describe terrorists. Also, in the Harry Potter films, dragons represent evil ogres," Huang Ji, a professor at East China Normal University, said in a phone interview.
Professor Huang has setup a website, where he is promoting the use of the non-word "loong" instead of "dragon" in English, based on the Chinese 龙 (long). On the site, he helpfully points out: "It is a loong, not a dragon".
Perhaps the best wisdom to be found here is related in the reader comments, where one "weiwei" had this to say:
Why you care so much for whatever Westerners may think of China? What about other Asians? Arabs? Hindus? Africans? You are Chinese and that should be enough for the rest of the world.
Right on! Professor Huang argues that China did not choose the dragon (or the loong) to be its Olympic Mascot, even though it is a well-recognized symbol for China, because it "didn’t want people to associate the event with a fire-breathing monster". Fair enough, but I believe that if they had gone with the dragon, it could have provided Professor Huang and others with the platform to explain that in China, the dragon is a mythical creature that represents harmony (as it is formed of the composite parts of other animals), brings good luck, and is benevolent and kind. And really, let’s face it: anything would have been better than the five cuddly cartoon characters they decided on, which represent confusion and decision by committee.