In China, one of the world’s oldest and richest civilizations, there are many animals and creatures which have become symbols of great cultural significance, but none as enduring or meaningful as the mythical dragon.
For thousands of years, the dragon has been widely revered in Chinese classic literature and folklore as the symbolic embodiment of dignity, fertility, prosperity, strength, and wisdom. It was foretold that this legendary creature had the ability to control the forces of nature and, throughout history, many Chinese have believed that close association with the dragon – as with those born in the Year of the Dragon in the twelve-year cycle of the Chinese zodiac calendar, for example – would bring a long life of happiness, good health, and success.
Fire, one of the five natural elements (wŭ xíng, 五行) in Chinese philosophy, and its correlating color red, signify warmth, creativity, dynamism, and good fortune. It is no mere coincidence that the annual, festive Chinese lunar new year celebration includes giving red packets filled with gifts of money to friends and family, traditional dragon dances, and a seemingly endless display of fireworks to scare away evil spirits and welcome a rewarding new year. The mythical fire dragon (huŏ lóng, 火龙) is, therefore, an exceptionally auspicious and unique creature indeed.
Today, the Chinese nation and its people play a critical, influential role across all major economic, environmental, military, political, social, and technological issues shaping our world in the twenty-first century. With a massive consumer base spending heavily both at home and abroad, China represents a tremendous opportunity for companies seeking growth. But the path to profits is highly complex, fraught with potential pitfalls that are best avoided.
The specter of the bold, imposing, and powerful fire dragon looms large as a constant, symbolic reminder of the challenges and risks that lie ahead for individuals and enterprises wishing to enter the China market, but if appreciated and adequately addressed will lead to great success in one’s endeavors.