Thursday, December 07, 2006

Debate: Loong or Dragon

top: a China long
bottom: a dragon

A scholar’s proposal of abandoning long, or Chinese dragon, as the symbol image of China triggered a hot public debate about this thousands-of-years-old emblem, particularly its English translation.

Early this month, Prof. Wu Youfu, a top administrator of Shanghai International Studies University, said in a local newspaper story that long is not suitable to be the symbol of China’s national image, because dragon is seen in the western world as “a monster full of arrogance and offensiveness.” He suggested that the symbol should be something resonating China’s peaceful rise strategy and avoiding westerners’ misconceptions about Chinese culture. Prof. Wu is also leading a research project on renovating China’s national image.

Soon after these comments were published, Prof. Huang Ji of East China Normal University, also in Shanghai, criticized Prof. Wu’s proposal as “ridiculous.” Nothing is wrong with long, according to Prof. Huang, and what went wrong is the English translation of long as "dragon."

It is dragon that is seen as “full of arrogance and offensiveness,” not long, and “a lot of Chinese scholars studying the English language have written articles to point that out,” Prof. Huang wrote in his blog on He made a different proposal: not to change long as China’s symbol, but change the translation from dragon to long, or loong. The alternative translations are already in use in some cases.

Dragon, according to English dictionaries, is a mythical monster with wings and claws, which spouts fire and is often associated with evilness or fierceness. In contrast, long in traditional Chinese culture is an auspicious symbol and mostly a positive notion, indicating opulence, happiness and good power. It is translated as dragon probably because the two imaginary creatures both have snake-like bodies, Prof. Huang told
Long is the mark of China’s image, as well as the embodiment of recognition of China and the Chinese civilization for all Chinese people around the world,” Prof. Huang wrote. Abandoning long and using different things as the national symbol, as proposed by Prof. Wu, would “lead to confusion in recognizing the mother land.”

On the Internet, the mast majority of commentators harshly denounced Prof. Wu’s proposal, except for few comments supporting his idea on the basis that long was for a long time only the symbol of China’s ancient emperors.

Many people expressed their anger at Prof. Wu’s idea.

“As the symbol and image of China, long has been connected in flesh and blood with Chinese history and civilization, with every single Chinese people, for a long, long time, without interruption,” one person commented on the Internet. “To get rid of long is to cut the root!”

Some people were particularly angry at the fact that Prof. Wu’s proposal was based on the concern of westerners’ possible “misinterpretation” of the image of long. Some even went so far as to label Prof. Wu as treachery. “I despise people like Wu Fuyou,” one poster wrote. “People like that don’t deserve to be Chinese,” wrote another.

In an online survey on, over 90 percent of the participants supported long as the national symbol, and over 80 percent agreed with changing the translation.

Wedding in Ancient Outfits

A young couple in Fengjie, Chongqing held a wedding on Monday following traditional rituals, and dressed in hanfu, the outfit worn by ancient Chinese. To show case their traditional dresses, the couple strolled around their hometown, attracting thousands of onlookers.

Hanfu, the ancient style outfit, has become increasingly popular among Chinese youth since it was reintroduced into people’s daily life about four years ago. In addition to being attracted by its unique beauty, young people love and wear hanfu in occasions like traditional holidays and weddings to demonstrate their will to retrieve traditional Chinese culture.
Several websites and social groups are also formed to promote hanfu, along with other Chinese cultural heritage and traditional values.
----by Josie Liu


Anonymous said...

Dear Ms. Liu,

this is Xue, an editor from "Chinese World" ( Could you please leave me your email or phone number, I would like to contact you regarding one of your article "Debate:Loong or Dragon". My email address is: "", thank you very much.

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