Monday 23 January 2012

marco polo or year of the water-dragon

Today marks the first day of festivities for the Lunar-Solar Spring Celebration, more popularly rendered as Chinese New Year. Though there is a lot of regional variations and private, family traditions, this time for reunion and renewal is an affair spanning several days to nearly a full two weeks, with different auspices and ritual attached to each day of the festival. There seem to be a lot of birthdays observed in this period, too—the second day, according to some traditions, is the birthday of all dogs, for instance, and the ninth day is the birthday of the Jade Emperor of Heaven. I can't say for certain there are Western analogues and I would like a better cultural understanding the significance and symbolism. Understanding is not only in what's parallel at first glance and sometimes seeking the familiar carries with it the risk for over-simplification. The Chinese calendar, whose years are reckoned from the reign of the legendary Yellow Emperor, cycle through more than just a mythological menagerie and the ruling animal is also paired an element, making for a sixty-year series. Asian astrology is more akin to Western Numerology and the animal year of one's birth only determines one’s outward projection, while inner perceptions are flavoured by months, days--true animals, and even by hours, secret animals. On the most basic level, water dragon is "hidden dragon" and most have an optimistic outlook for the coming months. Another event coinciding with Chinese New Year is Croatia’s plebiscite for European Union membership. The Croatian island of Korฤula, a thalassocracy in its own right, along with the Most Serene Republics of Venice and Genoa, claims Marco Polo among their native sons--sort of like the competing Belgian, German and French claims for Charlemagne. It was through the travels and writing of Marco Polo that Europeans were first exposed to the lands of the Orient, and his reconnaissance and engagement helped inspire the golden age of exploration. Although I guess no one knows when or where Polo was born but I do wonder what the secret animals of his hours said of his character and ambition and what the timing of this decision has in store for Croatia.